For a while now, I’ve been thinking that teams in corporate Australia Learning and Development need to get their groove back. And in a big way. So much so, something needs to happen to get a massive dose of inspiration and excitement back into this area because the more I’m working and talking with other businesses, professions, and industries outside L&D, it’s becoming painfully obvious that we are falling behind.
This is something that I don’t want to see happen especially when we can use this time to our special advantage and show our value to our internal business teams. But in order to do so, we need to change our mindset first.
For the last two years being outside the corporate world, I have had an opportunity to visit conferences, workshops, and events in other areas as well as speak to numerous people in the fields of accounting, auditing, engineering, health and medical, start-ups, arts, small business and social media marketing.
I have deliberately gone outside the field of my own people because it pains for me to say it but I’m simply not learning anything new in Learning and Development anymore.
By learning something new I mean by Australian teams or individuals who are making great inroads with their own companies to work closely with business, marketing, and change teams to inspire and lead new workplace learning skills and who are role models, influencers, connectors and networked extensively themselves.
I know that there are some out there (the L&D ‘intrapreneurs’) who are already doing this in their own quiet and unassuming manner facing immense hurdles and obstacles to balance the needs of operational requirements of their business in the short term, versus putting in place a strategy to build up capability of their employees to deal with modern workplace challenges.
These intrapreneurs are likely to feel frustrated at the slow pace of change in their organisations or unable to share their knowledge and experiences in public social networks due to privacy or confidentiality. They stand up to senior leaders and managers, they stick consistently to message of the critical need to change the way we do business, they guide and inspire others to change behaviours to help them work smarter. Most of all, they role model these new working behaviours such as working out loud, building their personal learning networks, continually learning themselves and being open to using social media and social networks. This post is not about these intrapreneurial L&D individuals – these people must be supported, encouraged and their voice made even louder.
Instead, what I’m still seeing and hearing is the same old and tired discussion on courseware development and design; circular arguments around the validity of the 70-20-10 numbers (frankly, who really cares?!); general fear of the use of social media; a disdain for Enterprise Social Networks such as Yammer (even though they have never used it themselves) and this mistaken belief that the LMS implementation will solve the organisation’s woes as to why their people aren’t collaborating with each other. (I hate to break it to you but just because your LMS has a discussion forum, it doesn’t necessarily mean your people will use it).
Last week I attended the Learning and Development Unconference in Melbourne. I wanted to go along to listen to some case studies of what organisations were doing to challenge the status quo in their companies when it comes to workplace learning. Although it was a wonderful networking opportunity to meet some new faces, there was relatively little by way of sharing some examples of what organisations and associations were doing and then coming up with plans of actions to overcome issues or problems. I felt as a group we focussed more on expressing our own disappointment with our businesses rather than looking to inwards to ourselves and asking ourselves, “How are WE part of the problem?”
I think the time has come to take a good long hard look at ourselves.
Why do I say this?
For the last two years, I’ve been at the receiving end of constant project scope changes, clients who are made redundant half way through my work with them, clients unable to pay for work completed and situations where their own internal business units TAKE BACK control of the learning program implementation from their own Learning and Development teams because they don’t have the trust in them to deliver it (this is happening more frequently). Added to that, Learning and Development teams have little to no budget or resources to support their organisation.
In most cases, my discussion with them will invariably require them to put in a submission to their senior leaders for further budget and they avoid this because of the effort required. It’s simply too hard.
It’s easier to do the things you know how to do and what you can control and wait for that redundancy or retirement package so you don’t have to deal with it anymore but what you’re doing in the meantime is making yourself and your team irrelevant.
So what can Learning and Development do?
First is to accept that we need to change ourselves. If you’re really not interested and simply going through the motions, that’s okay (trust me, I’ve been there) but stand aside.
We know and can see that you really don’t want to be there but don’t make things difficult for others who do. Make it known to others that your heart is not in it. That you’re tired. We get that.
Instead, tell us what you prefer to be doing and where your talents and skills lie. Truth be told, we will not think badly of you. Instead, we will admire your courage for expressing your true feelings openly and who knows, maybe there’ll be a job, task or role that is a great fit for what you want to do inside the company.
However, if you don’t want that either, then let the others who DO want to make a difference take over.
That means, standing aside to let the younger generation, the inexperienced, the people new to your team and the ones who sit outside your clique lunch group to take more responsibilities. You know who they are. They’re the ones with the ideas, exuberance and the passion for doing things differently. They’re the ones you smile at and make some comments like, “you’re still young, cynicism hasn’t set in yet!” or “your ideas are great but they won’t work here,” or “that’s not how we do things around here!”
I believe that one way to get the L&D groove back is to set aside our pride and egos. Admit that we got ourselves to this position with our businesses where we have lost our value and relevancy and accept that the time to change is now – and to start with ourselves first.
Here is the Snapstory from the Melbourne Learning and Development Unconference (sorry for the sound on the first slide, I was experimenting with my new RODE iPhone 6 mic).