Last updated: 23.02.22

L&D teams should aim to strike a better balance between ‘stable’ and ‘dynamic’

A guest blog by Jez Anderson, L&D Consultant

A recent McKinsey paper suggests that the L&D function tends to be too stable to the point of rigidity. They tend not to work collaboratively with their organisations, and, instead, focus on what they believe is the right way to do things. The paper goes on to suggest that the L&D function should seek to better engage more with the targets and goals that are meaningful to the organisation instead of just to them.

This is quite a statement, and probably quite controversial; however, there is a reality to it IF L&D remains fixated on developing, building and delivering ‘programmes of learning’ that tend to rigidly channel learning into pre-defined swim lanes instead of working closely with their organisations to develop and build learning cultures that find a balance between stable and dynamic. But that doesn’t mean organisational training doesn’t need any structure – of course it does – but workplace learning is changing and the expectations of learners is changing with it. Therefore, L&D teams need to find a balance between the learning they own and direct and the learning that individuals own for themselves – it’s striking a balance between ‘tight and loose’, which is a tough thing to do.

Ways to strike a balance

But how can we strike this balance? Firstly, if you want to begin to think differently and be perceived differently, you should consider adopting some new core principles to the learning opportunities you offer, such as encouraging independence, providing reasonable structure, building collaboration and valuing the lived experience.

How can you do that?

Develop an approach and methodology for ‘content curation’

‘Learning in the flow’ of work is here to stay. To support this, you should build the capacity and capability to enable it through both technology delivery platforms and tools (such as Microsoft Viva and AndersPink) and by building your ability to ‘discover – aggregate – organise – share’ digital content with your learners.

Empower social and collaborative-based learning

There are three ways to empower social and collaborative-based learning. First, have a look at the technology you have to support sharing across the organisation, this technology is key to this learning approach. Then, using the technology, help the development of relevant communities that can work together asynchronously to share common problems and find new solutions. You can also create structured opportunities where individuals can come together regularly to share ideas and experiences, problem solve and identify new ways of working.

Structure when and where it serves learning best

People still like ‘to do training’ – be it virtually, in-person, live or in their own time. Providing people with routes to recognised competence is still very important, so continue to apply your knowledge of how to create learning programmes but take a different view of how to deliver them, as that will be where change occurs.

Digitally blended learning has become a very real reality and is one of the new ways of delivering programmes. It takes the best bits from digitally-based learning and combines it with face-to-face group work, coaching and work-based projects to provide very real opportunities to support the contextualisation of learning and help embed it in everyday reality.

Consider the increased value of learning on-the-job in today’s working world

Traditionally, new workers learned from watching the masters, and whilst the setting may have changed and the value of ‘watching’ has diminished, it’s still important to provide individuals with real-time, real-life opportunities to develop their skills, knowledge and behaviours. As time has become such a crucial element of workplace learning, encouraging managers and team leaders to identify and enable their people to take on stretching, challenging projects within their team (or more widely) should not be underestimated as a way to engage and inspire individuals to learn, develop and grow.

If McKinsey’s observations are correct, workplace learning has changed. L&D teams can no longer own and control the learning agenda, as they are not there to direct and manage. Workplace learning has never been more important as it is today, and with the shifts in working behaviours and expectations, organisations cannot rely on the on the tried and trusted routines that have served them well. As the ‘re-skilling and re-training’ remain top strategic agendas, organisations seeking a competitive edge in a challenging recruitment market will require an L&D function that is reflecting the shifts that have taken place in not just how people work but how they learn too.

For more information on how we can help with your L&D challenges and advise on the best solutions, get in touch with us here.