Constant change and workforce reskilling are the new norms in the workplace. But how is L&D responding to these new challenges to deliver learning that’s faster, better, and smarter?
L&D is shedding its boundaries and marrying itself more closely with the business–and becoming “invisible.” Workplace learning is going beyond the L&D function by ingraining itself into all parts of the business–so learning is everywhere.
Bersin by Deloitte’s High-Impact Learning Organization research reveals that “successful learning organizations have moved beyond L&D and training; instead, they are developing their entire organization to fully integrate learning within the flow of work and at the point of need.”
By closely aligning L&D with the business, everyone throughout the organization plays a role (not just L&D) in driving learning–from executives and team managers to employees themselves. By moving learning from events to infrastructure-based, learning is no longer a one-time workshop but instead a continuous learning “infrastructure” that includes opportunities for on-demand online learning or social learning.
While becoming “invisible” worries many L&D leaders, the reality is by spreading itself throughout the organization–L&D can have a bigger impact than as a separate function.
But how can L&D mesh itself more closely with the business and become “invisible”?
Here are 7 ways L&D can redefine itself and become one with the business.
For years, L&D has focused on creating one-time training events or workshops. But it’s time to move away from events and “build L&D into everywhere employees go and everything they do,” recommends Bersin by Deloitte. This means building the right infrastructure to support a learning culture whether it’s on-demand online learning platforms, personalized learning through AI, social communication channels, or peer course creation tools. Beyond technology tools, it’s also about creating the right supportive environment and incentive structure for learning like regularly-scheduled “learning hours,” so employees carve out time to learn or highlighting your top learners at company All-Hands meetings.
A true learning organization leans on team managers throughout the learning process. Managers’ close relationship with their team members puts them in a better position to identify the skill gaps and career goals of their employees–setting the stage for a more personalized learning journey. Team managers play an important role as development coaches, making sure learning is applied on the job and that ultimately, employee performance improves. Managers can recommend specific courses to their direct reports and track learning progress. For example, on the Udemy for Business learning platform, our new “Group Admin” role allows L&D leaders to designate managers or team leads as Group Admins–enabling managers to select specific courses for their team to learn. Given the close relationship between managers and direct reports, individuals are more likely to listen and follow their manager’s guidance–key to boosting learning engagement across the organization. See 6 Ways Managers Can Help Drive Learning.
L&D research demonstrates effective training is highly iterative and involves everything leading up to and after the training event. For example, an L&D program that trains managers to give feedback might begin with on-demand online courses that employees can watch on how to give feedback and then follow the video-based learning activity with role-playing feedback sessions in a classroom. But it shouldn’t end there. Everyone in the organization can play a role in the learning process from executives to peers.
Managers could be assigned to practice their newly-learned feedback skills through exercises and live practice on the job. Company executives can act as mentors to help managers hone this new skill by reminding managers to practice the new skill with their direct reports. Peers can also continuously share curated videos, articles, and other tips on social channels to help remind each other to apply their newly-learned skill and change their behavior. See 5 Ways to Change Behavior: The L&D Behavior Change Toolkit.
Creating a seamless user experience for the learner is what matters in the new invisible L&D organization. Rather than creating content, L&D’s job is to curate content and find ways to surface this to learners in the moment of need through social media, AI, or internal websites. Moreover, L&D should share the role of curator with employees–encouraging them to share relevant videos, blogs, and podcasts with their peers to promote continuous learning.
Finally, an invisible L&D passes the torch to employees themselves by nurturing self-directed learning throughout the organization. Self-directed learning is a process in which individuals take the initiative in diagnosing their learning needs, creating goals, identifying resources, and implementing their own learning. Organizations can help build self-directed learners by communicating a shared vision to employees, fostering collaboration and teamwork to encourage peer-to-peer learning, providing opportunities for on-demand continuous learning, and empowering employees through participatory work processes. See 5 Ways to Build Self-Directed Learning.
As L&D becomes more integrated with the business, learning should be measured using performance-based business metrics rather than learning activities (e.g. training completions, employee satisfaction). These performance and talent metrics are the kinds of indicators the whole organization cares about like retention, engagement, cost savings, and revenue growth. In tracking performance that matters to the business, the new invisible L&D will result in increased impact.
As L&D moves behind the scenes, L&D teams will need a different skill-set. There will be less of a need for instructional designers and facilitators, and more of a need for learning technology managers who can manage the learning tech stack to provide the right infrastructure for your organization. Content curators who create amazing user experiences and surface relevant content to employees at the right time are also key in the new invisible L&D organization. Data analytics skills to track performance outcomes and community managers to manage and encourage employees to teach each other via social media or on peer-sharing platforms will also be important.
Becoming an invisible L&D organization is a big transformation for learning & development teams. CLOs will play an important role in leading the charge as catalysts for change and paving the way for L&D to become more integrated with all parts of the business.
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