Learning and Development (L&D) Must Adopt a New Technology Mindset

The role of L&D is changing to meet the new needs of digital employees, and technology is an essential component of this journey. Technology professionals play an important role in providing the technology expertise and assistance to help L&D make this change. This new L&D mindset is crucial to keeping learning relevant and ongoing. James Mitchell, vice president, global talent management at Rackspace University said at a recent conference that L&D needs to “switch the mindset from ‘I’m a learning professional’ to ‘I’m a business person with learning expertise.’”[i]

Expect L&D staff to become known as performance consultants and, with assistance of technology colleagues, choose instructional design models with a focus on practical applications for online and blended learning. As Amy Rouse, a former AT&T learning leader states, “L&D needs to develop its own skills. Holding on dearly to authoring tools and LMS won’t work. After all, the ultimate goal of learning in the context of the workplace is to improve productivity and increase performance.”

As learning and work become more closely linked, the L&D department takes on a new set of roles. It must begin to transform itself from a developer and distributor of course content listed in the LMS catalog to a department that is flexible and able to suggest diverse and long-term technology-related learning options. Charles Jennings, co-founder of 70:20:10 describes the new L&D role well: "We will act as performance architects (rather than learning architects) to develop solutions and engage colleagues across our marketing, corporate communications departments, and IT to help embed the solutions in the culture of our organizations."[ii]

This learning change means that L&D staff must become:

  • Partners with business and technology roles. Before any content creation, the L&D staff must determine the top priority learning needs of the lines of business. They must work with technology professionals to determine existing technologies and how these technologies can be used in pursuit of business goals, and ask these tech professionals to evaluate new technologies based on future business learning requirements. L&D must also help determine the expected outcomes from learning in measurable terms, and the existing gaps in employees’ skills and knowledge.

  • Facilitators of access to information. L&D must help equip employees with easy access to the learning channels – all mobile-enabled – that they can leverage quickly to increase their skillset and understanding. For example, L&D staff must work with IT to assure that employees get just-in-time mobile access to appropriate learning; have robust search available to find specific content tagged in videos, social forums, and documents; and have social access to knowledgeable colleagues and peer-to-peer interactions. Grovo is an example of a new vendor that develops one-minute videos with quizzes that learners can use separately or for incremental learning. Lynda, now part of LinkedIn, features their videos as LinkedIn Learning.

  • Curators of content. Chris Smart, Head of Global Learning Development for Metropolitan Life, notes “With all the content available to us today, the future is not about content creation, it's about curation - curating learning for an employee’s specific needs.” Degreed and EdCast are pioneer vendors in this curation space. They identify many Web-based sources that can be used for corporate learning – webinars, intranet locations, off-the-shelf content providers, blogs, written documents, videos, eLearning courses, and consumer content like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), TedTalks, and YouTube videos - and assemble them into learning pathways. Pathgather also plays in this space and unifies external and internal content into a single search platform. David Kelly of The eLearning Guild talks about curation: “Digital curation is a growing need for anyone who routinely uses the Internet, and is especially important for workplace learning professionals, since our job is to help people work better. Part of that task is finding the best resources available that workers can use to support learning and bringing those resources to their attention.”[iii]

  • Coaches who give context to the content. Learning content, unless it is organization- specific content, is typically produced for the masses. L&D staff must work to make this off-the-shelf content more personalized. Steeped in coach training, L&D takes the role of a coach – even a virtual coach – to help employees, after they have completed the module, to process the content in relationship to the organization, making it more meaningful to them. Technology professionals assists in selecting the best online mentoring technology for the company in collaboration with L&D.

  • Purveyors of new approaches to corporate learning. L&D staff must be familiar with the channels for learning such as video, eLearning, social forums, as well as the variety of media available for content development. A blend of learning approaches continues to be most effective. For example, on learning about new software, L&D may provide curated content, a webinar, an eLearning experience, a social forum with searchable Q&A, or microlearning content as a quick refresher.

[i] James Mitchell's Linkedin profile https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamitchell1971/ 

[ii] 70/20/10 is an approach to learning in which 70% of learning comes from doing work, 20% comes from interactions with colleagues and experts, and 10% comes from formal learning courses. Charles Jennings is co-author of a book on this approach called “70/20/10 towards 100% Performance,” Subtler Media, 2016. https://www.getabstract.com/en/summary/human-resources/702010/27389 

[iii] “Selecting A Digital Creation Tool,” by David Kelly, The eLearning Guild https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1071/selecting-a-digital-curation-tool?_ga=1.119368585.1204725512.1487924430

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