As the modern workforce moves increasingly towards an “anytime, anywhere” approach due to the rapid development of technology and rise of globalisation, organisations have had to adjust working practices.
Capita’s 2016 research, 'L&D: Agent of change for the ‘anytime, anywhere’ workforce', revealed that 70% of respondents (made up of senior HR and L&D managers) believe their organisations are not doing enough to tackle learning challenges brought on by these changes.
The battle for time
Traditionally, learning and development teams dictated what learning was undertaken, how it was delivered, where it would take place, and base timings on when a trainer was available.
You’d often hear comments along the lines of “if only I’d done this course six months ago!” and find out you were too late, or train to the lowest common denominator, forced to choose between staff members who are already beyond that training being bored and wasting time, or the less able learners not taking anything in as it was too hard for them to understand, or not making sense.
Nowadays learners don’t have the time to wait for training sessions to be arranged. They are busy and time-poor, often doing three people’s jobs in one. They are keen to do the best job they can for themselves, professionally, so feel like they can’t afford the time to wait to learn, or be taken out of the business for training on a particularly busy week.
Learners can also use tools like Google to fact check information at the same time they are given it, and utilise other free learning sources – but this is without the blessing of L&D. It is driven by frustration and anxiety of these learners who need to learn but are not being provided for properly.
Instead, what needs to happen is L&D embracing the staff’s desire to learn.
If someone wants to learn, find them the entry point that is right for them. Work with companies that give a “filtered” self-assessment for the learner – these can help by recognising what topics the learner struggled on and guiding them back towards those topics to help. Find and seek learning and development for the next level.
The days of waiting for a course trainer to become available are gone.
Self-aware learners may recognise the potential for their roles to change, or be planning on stepping up to a new role, and therefore want the learning that will enable them to manage those changes effectively. If they come to you having sourced some learning that they think will be valuable, telling you how much it is, how it will benefit them and the business, and you agree, let them continue with it.
It requires levels of high trust, but this is better than having no trust and an ineffective, “sheep dipping” learning culture in the organisation. But the training must be appropriate and at the right time. The days of waiting for a course trainer to become available are gone.
The next phase
Learning departments used to be made up of trainers, and sometimes course designers. There is still room for that, but HR and L&D leaders need to start building agile learning functions to successfully meet the demand of changes in the workforce. To do this, we need people with knowledge of sourcing content and curating it, and facilitators of training, rather than trainers.
It requires understanding of learning and a look at overall development, which isn’t always about training in a classroom. Move away from traditional, clumsy, cumbersome training and get the right training to the right people in the right roles.
There used to be a culture of putting aside a set amount of days for training. Businesses should still be willing to give this time, but must be prepared to be trusting and flexible with it. If learners have input into when and how, such as choosing to learn from home or in a quiet environment away from interruptions, they will absorb the training much easier.
We need people with knowledge of sourcing content and curating it, and facilitators of training, rather than trainers.
Providers need to understand that learning for the sake of learning will not work. The activities must be for the benefit of the business. A bloated curriculum is not helpful – those developing it must understand the pains and pressures of the business, both internal and external, and align learning with the direction of the business. At any time the company may face challenges like new competitors, or financial difficulties. L&D need to be proactive and not just wait to be asked.
The dictatorship of L&D is over – but this new era is an opportunity for businesses with agile and proactive learning departments, aligned to the business’ needs and facilitating rather than dictating the training, to outperform the competition in the “anytime, anywhere” workplace.