The Future of L&D According to Leading Practitioners

For our new report “The Future of L&D” about the state and evolutions of corporate learning in 2019, we interviewed leaders of some of the world’s most progressive L&D teams.

Here’s a sneak peek with a selection of our favorite quotes on the topics our report touches on. The full report can be downloaded here.

An era of unlimited, free, and seamless content…

Content and communication have never been so accessible, so abundant, and delivered in so many formats from so many sources. The platform rising to the top for education is YouTube. Historically used as an entertainment platform, the American video hub is now leading the free educational content race.

The explosion of user-generated content — a lot of it impressively slick and produced shrewdly for bite-sized learning — is challenging L&D online programs:

…leading to information overload.

This overabundance of content has on the other hand also created a constant feeling of being overwhelmed, impacting the attitude and behaviors of users when faced with content coming from corporate L&D.

Screen time is increasingly becoming a public health issue as digital connections are proving to have the same addictive symptoms on the brain as smoking, and have been shown to trigger anxiety and depression in some specific populations. Given this context, it’s becoming more difficult to ask workers to spend even more time on screens.

A few years ago, the promise of digital learning was seen as a revolution. Today, however, as people find themselves drowning in a sea of digital content, those e-learning opportunities must be combined with real-life interactions to actually stick.

In light of the time-savers attitude of learners, it is up to the L&D function to guarantee this quality while offering less time-consuming learning formats.

The L&D function takes on the responsibility to determine how to best translate contents into learnings and building an ecosystem in which employees will access it. The challenge lies in differentiating between contents that should be made non-time-consuming, and learning content that requires the employees to take more time to dig deeper.

Ability to Learn is more important than Knowledge

The digitalization of content and opening up of curriculums has redistributed the cards between ‘those who know’ and ‘those who learn.’ Students can suddenly learn without a professor, and professors find themselves with more time to mentor and coach students in their learning development, fundamentally redefining professors’ roles. What does this mean for the L&D role in a company?

Learning & Experience: one & indivisible

Nowadays, it is commonly admitted that learning is not only rational — it is above all experiential.

This focus on experiential is increasingly integrated as a core L&D requirement. Rituals and Experiences are a core of learning communities. Beyond the individual growth provided by L&D programs, the collective dimension of belonging is also crucial and leads to strong professional bonds. The shared experience of learning together after having been selected plays a vital role in the value of the program.

Learning as the organizational glue

Learning Experiences can also create bonds beyond the typical organizational structure. At Belfius, development programs are seen as a great occasion to meet team members they would never have met otherwise. The “Bridge Builder program” comprises two days of residential learning experience with twenty young- and senior collaborators from a wide range of backgrounds.

As employees are seemingly becoming less committed to their employers, L&D programs can positively drive how much of a connection an employee builds with the company. The quality of the professional relationship created will define not only the depth of an employee’s experience with the company during their time there, but also after they leave.

Powering the Learning Organization

The concept of Learning Organization has become quite popular. First coined in the work of systems scientist, Peter Senge, to describe organizations that facilitate the constant learning of their members. Senge highlights five core dimensions of the Learning Organization:

  • systems thinking (considering the organization as bounded objects)
  • personal mastery (individuals’ commitment to the process of learning)
  • mental models (or most specifically, the organization’s ability to challenge assumptions and generalizations)
  • shared vision and team learning (the capacity of the organization’s members to learn from each other)

Our research and conversations with L&D professionals have us convinced: L&D is currently tasked with the responsibility to act upon those five dimensions in order to help build true Learning Organizations.

Most of the L&D leaders that we interviewed mentioned L&D’s responsibility in motivating, engaging and supporting employees in a process of continuous learning and development, in such an integrated way that it becomes a reflex and therefore a mindset. For instance, Learning Expeditions are used by many companies as an opportunity to expose individuals and teams to the most recent trends and contents affecting their business, but also to put them in a habit of exploring and questioning assumptions, a mindset that more and more workers need to develop in their daily job duties.

It becomes L&D’s role and responsibility to educate the organization and its members on the importance of continuous learning.

The Internal Learning Ecosystem

Triggering and sustaining this learning mindset may seem to be the ultimate objective of the L&D function in the organization, but it is in fact only one element of the ecosystem that it must build.

We like to think of this system as a hub that comprises elements that the corporate L&D function can (and should) be acting upon in order to drive the Learning Organization:

We are aware that building a Learning Organization is a mission that goes beyond the sole responsibility of the L&D function, but it can act as the champion of the Learning Organization, ensuring that a shared vision of learning is achieved, maintained and updated across the board.

The shift towards this capacity might be the reason why in many companies, L&D’s is moving within the organization, leaving the HR realm either to live a more central and independent life or sometimes moving closer to the strategy department.

Many professionals have already started to investigate new formats, new models of collaboration with other teams within the organization and with a wider ecosystem. Proposing new formats for learning and development turns the L&D function into a creative agency that can provide other units with fresh ideas and support in their implementation.

Get the full free L&D Report

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