January. Time for L&D authors to proclaim how this year will be different. How this technology or that tactic will change learning. How this is the time for L&D to take its rightful place at the metaphorical table. Well … learning will not change in 2019. It didn’t change last year. Or the year before. And it won’t change this year, either.
That’s because learning is a process. Sure, it’s something we can support, but it’s not something we can change. Learning is learning. We don’t have control over it, no matter how much stuff we make or how much technology we use. The individual owns his or her ability and desire to learn, not L&D. That will not change.
This may just sound like semantics, but it’s an important point that gets lost in the L&D conversation. Learning and training are not the same thing. Learning is a human process. Training is the activity we undertake to help people perform better in their jobs. The more we call everything “learning,” the more this distinction gets lost and the more unfocused the L&D conversation becomes.
If learning won’t change in 2019, what about training? Well, that’s up to you.
In real life, most L&D teams will do the same things this year that they did last year—with maybe a few small tweaks. Sure, the industry conversation will continue to move forward with topics like AR, AI, data, and personalization. But “thought leadership” moves a lot faster than corporate reality. Rapid development eLearning and classroom sessions are still L&D mainstays, and that won’t change anytime soon.
So what will change? Or is this column a big pile of L&D doom and gloom?
While most L&D teams will be stuck in a pseudo status quo, a small group will take meaningful steps forward towards delivering real, quantifiable value to their organizations. But this group won’t base their changes on L&D trends. Rather, they’re paying attention to the real changes taking place around them, and proactively adjusting their practices. They’ll take advantage of both new and established L&D tactics and technologies, but only when they are the right fit based on the evolving needs of their workplaces.
To make 2019 a year of meaningful change for your L&D function, start a conversation with your team about how you can better align your strategy with the changes already taking place within your company.
L&D exists to help the organization achieve its goals through its people. That is our purpose. We should use every tactic we have at our disposal to help the company hit its goals. And, due to the disruptive nature of modern business, we must build an agile strategy that can flex (but not break) with the needs of the organization as management rapidly changes our targets.
As business goals evolve, so do employee expectations. Retail employees are expected to be more knowledgeable of the company’s omnichannel offerings. Salespeople are expected to build stronger relationships and sell across product lines. Call center agents are expected to handle any and all issues in the first contact. L&D must provide a continuous support experience that helps employees rapidly evolve their knowledge and skills to meet these changing expectations.
How work gets done
The tools employees use in the workplace are changing. The way organizations collect and analyze data is changing. How information moves through an organization is changing. L&D must proactively adapt alongside these changes or risk becoming an antiquated nuisance in the modern workplace. After all, if employees can use mobile devices to quickly complete their job tasks, does it feel right to send them to a computer lab to complete an hour of click-through eLearning?
To quote The eLearning Guild’s David Kelly: “I always say that if you want to see how technology is going to change the way we learn, you have to look at the way it’s changing how we live.” This statement includes behaviors, such as how people access information and how we solve problems. L&D pros should relate common changes in everyday behavior to the workplace experience to determine how they can best be leveraged. It’s rarely a direct lift (otherwise Facebook-like social tools would have revolutionized knowledge sharing on the job), but living and working should not be completely different experiences when it comes to how people get help.
Learning will be the same this year as it was last year. If you want to know more about how it works, dig into content from Patti Shank, Clark Quinn, Will Thalheimer, and Julie Dirksen. But the workplace will change. Therefore, training and support should adapt to suit. Rather than starting with L&D “thought leadership,” look inside your own organization to determine how you must evolve your strategy to help your organization meet its (current) goals. Then, apply only right-fit solutions—regardless of how they relate to the latest trends. That’s how you stay relevant and build your value as a critical part of your company’s success, regardless of the time of year.