This month it was a pleasure to collaborate with Sunder, a member of my own personal learning network. In the spirit of open discussion and shared learning, we wrote about our experience, knowledge and observations of working in large organisational learning teams to write a joint blog post on what we believe we will see the Training or Learning Function evolve to. Are your observations similar to ours?
The role of the Training or Learning and Development function has evolved over the last few years. The hyper-connectedness and changing needs of the business have placed the training function at a pivotal point within the organisation. As learning professionals, we have been reflecting on these changes and how they have impacted us and our teams.
Back in 2011 the focus was on informal learning and asynchronous e-learning programs delivered through Learning Management Systems which were the “game changers”. During this time, organisations transferred their facilitator-led programs to online formats in order to cut costs and emphasise a return on investment and value.
In 2012, we saw the changing landscape of the various roles in learning teams. For example, the Training Manager evolved from being a manager of teams who designed and deployed content on behalf of their internal clients to that of a supply chain manager of knowledge. The focus was on training teams to become internal consultants who partnered with their clients to identify performance gaps and analyse requirements with much of the design and delivery outsourced to vendors through preferred supplier arrangements.
In 2013 we saw social media integration within training, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were considered or used for corporate learning and for staff professional development. Also, gamification of learning journeys or pathways as well as the ‘chunking’ of learning to be delivered anytime, anywhere via Mobile were emerging as key themes.
We believe that 2014 will be a year of leverage and portability for learning professionals. What this means is that we are now in a position to apply the various tools to achieve business outcomes. If Learning and Development continues to accept, learn and engage with these tools, we will be in a position where we can make a broader organisational impact.
What’s in store in 2014?
The demands on the training function will be even greater and new dimensions of engagement will further transform the function. Most training managers who have kept pace with the changing needs will now be called upon to engage their functions for large enterprise wide programs, projects and initiatives. Here are some that we believe will gain prominence:
Training Function as the Change Management Champion
We are seeing the roles merged between training and change management. Given that most organisations are now driving towards collaboration and change, the Training function will be increasingly called upon to champion these efforts. For example, we may work with teams such as Internal Communications or Marketing to design awareness campaigns, design ‘bite size’ or micro learning pieces. These may be delivered as and when required through the campaign to communicate the benefits of the change as well as facilitate employee orientation sessions for change.
Training Function as the Employee Engagement Champion
Most employee engagement surveys identify that learning opportunities are a key driver for engagement within the organization and the training function is best suited to champion this. Rather than just solving a business problem, the Training function will create learning journeys that inspire, engage and reconnect employees with their organisation. Also the training functions contribution to the overall employee value proposition will become more pronounced.
Training Function as the Collaboration Champion
Most organisations are now embracing enterprise social networks to foster collaboration. Given that this requires community management and facilitation skills, the training function is best positioned to support the organisation and its people to develop and use these new social tools as well as role model the online behavior skills. Creating communities of practice, training community managers within the organisation and curating content in these communities are some of the areas where the training function can meaningfully contribute.
Training Function as the Employer Brand Champion
The quality of learning that an organisation offers plays a role in how that employer’s brand is perceived.The training function will need to broaden their scope to external agencies to promote and showcase their innovative practices in learning through social media to attract the best talent. The positioning of being a ‘learning organisation’ will offer a distinct advantage to organisations in the highly competitive talent landscape.
Given the rapid pace of transformation in business, the training function cannot procrastinate anymore. We cannot use the convenient excuses of the lack of learning culture or supportive management as reasons not to change. As training teams are further reduced in size and costs minimized, here is an opportunity to reconnect with our business. It’s time for our teams to use, apply and role model the behaviours of a 21st century digital learner and worker so that our new roles will see us survive beyond 2014.
About Helen Blunden
Helen Blunden, Activate Learning Solutions is an experienced workplace learning and development professional with over 23 years of experience in performance consultancy and organisational learning in public and private sectors in Australia. Her passion is using social networking and collaboration tools for learning and professional development. She is the founder of Third Place, an informal social networking community of Learning Professionals to meet, share and learn from each other.
About Sunder Ramachandran
Sunder Ramachandran is a Senior Training Manager with JLT Group, one of the world’s largest providers of insurance and employee benefits related advice, brokerage and associated services including an office of over 1100 employees in Mumbai, India. He is passionate about social learning and blogs @ learning experiments