Moving learning back to the business
Learning has become too far detached from the business side of companies. In the days of medieval guilds, you would complete your entire education while working and learning the trade and skills alongside a master craftsman. However, times have changed and we’ve moved learning to schools and universities. At work, corporate HR/learning professionals are responsible for employees’ learning and development.
I believe this is wrong for many reasons. We need to move learning back to the business. In this blog post, I address a couple of problems I see stemming from the disconnect between learning and the business and discuss some positive trends for the future.
Cost and speed
The development process for learning content is complex, slow and expensive because the people who have the knowledge (subject matter experts/SMEs on the business side) aren’t the ones creating the content. Companies hire learning specialists and instructional designers to create the training courses. This means knowledge has to be transferred from the business to the learning and development (L&D) department. All the content has to be checked and doublechecked before a course is ready to go live.
Learning specialists are normally responsible for maintaining the published content, but they don’t work on the business side. That means they are unaware of real-time changes affecting the business. As a result, courses often remain outdated. What does this really mean? Organizations end up spending time and money equipping their employees with irrelevant/outdated knowledge and skills.
Disconnect from the business
The root cause of these problems is the fact that L&D is detached from the business. It’s as if there’s a wall between the L&D professionals and the SMEs who are working on the business side. This slows down the process of creating learning content and makes it expensive and impossible to maintain. I believe we must make the business side responsible for content creation and maintenance so that learning is fully aligned with and integrated into the business.
To counteract these problems, I see multiple trends in corporate learning, all of which point learning in the same direction: toward the business
Informal learning and workplace support
It’s clear that informal learning and workplace support are becoming more important. Trends or hypes like 70:20:10, five moments of learning need, and many others all point in that direction. This shows that learning content is becoming less didactical and more supportive in nature. We’re moving from courses to resources. The added value of staffing learning specialists is declining, and real-life knowledge on the business side is becoming more important than ever.
Self-directed learning: The learner takes responsibility
One very promising development is that the learners are now increasingly taking responsibility for their own learning. In the past, your company could tell you which courses to take or which certifications you needed for your next promotion, but those days are over. People are no longer staying with the same employer for 40 years and that makes them responsible for their own learning and development by default. Still, many L&D departments are stuck in old habits. They still “push” learning content to the business. For a small number of topics (like compliance and security), this continues to be necessary. But 95% of the learning is not about compliance or security and is the responsibility of the learner. The L&D department can only facilitate this, and the best way to do that is to be as close to the business as you can, preferably integrated.
Peer-to-peer learning is growing fast. Also known as knowledge sharing, it’s an everyday part of the workforce already. In peer-to-peer learning, L&D’s only role is to facilitate knowledge sharing among coworkers.
From LMS to LXP
The learning buzzword of 2018 is LXP, which is short for learning experience systems. LXPs are replacing the traditional LMS in part. The difference between the two is captured in two words: management versus experience. A learning management system is created as a tool for the L&D department. It allows them to push courses top-down to the employees and control the whole learning flow from beginning to end. A learner experience system is much more focused on helping learners acquire skills and identify knowledge gaps so they can pull the necessary learning content from a social environment. In other words, it’s management versus experience and push versus pull. I believe this is a crucial change and that L&D departments are finally moving into the facilitating role they should have been playing all along. This pull-based learning is another powerful sign of how bottom-up learning strategies that are integrated into the business are gaining momentum. Learning is already moving back to the business and this trend will continue to accelerate in 2019.