Lucy’s Kitbag – Episode 5 – Learning and Development in a Complex World

complex world

First of all I apologise, it has been a few weeks since my last blog; I’ve been busy gathering information for all the blogs to come and meeting a whole host of interesting people and trying new things. The L&D business is very busy and I would add that I have never seen it in higher demand than it is today. Why is this you may well ask? In my humble opinion it is because it is rapidly becoming a driving force in business. This is a major shift in the L&D world.  Throughout my career I have worked in many L&D organisations and I have always felt that we have been reactive and not proactive. We have traditionally thought we knew best and created a catalogue of courses, put the wonderful catalogue out there and sat back waiting for the call from our customers demanding our wonderful products. Well I have news for you, or maybe it is news for me, who knows; but the world does not seem to operate like that anymore.

Traditional L&D portfolios still have their place in the world, however the Return on Investment for these ‘business as usual’ courses is not as good as it was 10 years ago. People do not seem to want to come to classrooms anymore and sit though presentations delivered by trainers slide after boring slide without any interaction. Who would have thought it? Yet as an L&D function we continue to produce PowerPoint based sessions. The learning in these sessions is OK at best, but is often quickly forgotten and difficult to apply to the workplace. This is because it preaches a method or golden model and claims that it will revolutionise your workplace. You have a discussion in the classroom or online and wait for the knowledge to be imparted; you go back to your office, hit your first challenge and….have no idea how to use that magnificent learning (if you remember what it was) to do things more effectively.

So what is different today? How can we, as L&D professionals, become more useful to the businesses we support? How can we do things differently? The answer does not necessarily lie in making everything digital and swinging the other way in terms of training delivery methods. Instead it is about being more effective in conducting learning needs assessments, being smarter about how you decide on your method of delivery, and being brave in how you expand the mechanisms to deliver your training.

In my recent sessions with business teams, I have found the following themes: the business work environment is getting more and more complex everyday – how do we help people deal with complexity? Teams are regularly performing badly – how do we generate high performing teams in time-pressed situations? People are stressed in the workplace – how do we help them develop resilience? We need to be more creative and innovative to remain competitive – how do we help people develop this creativity? People hate being on computers at work longer than they have to be – how do we make digital learning engaging? The workforce is aging – how do we help businesses prepare for the demographic time-bomb? Many businesses, in partcicular those in engineering and healthcare, face a future with an aging population who hold the knowledge and have the key skills that make the company competitive and many are due to retire in the coming years. How can L&D help the business with this issue? I will be writing more about this in future blogs.

In addition to Skills Assurance, I will also be looking at better ways to help employees work in complexity. At TLD we are using more innovative training environments such as our ‘Discovery Centre’ to create disruptive learning environments and take people outside the box of traditional ways of learning and thinking in order to unleash creativity. We have adopted a philosophy of ‘Learning by Doing’, in our new training spaces to challenge and guide teams and individuals through complex work related problems. Our expert facilitators apply methods such as Design Thinking and Creative Problem Solving to fuel innovation.  

We also have a watchful eye on developments in the field of digital learning from cyber skills to simulation, learning through social media and gamification and multi-agency exercising and development for high performing and resilient teams. Underpinning our approach we embed coaching, values based leadership, thinking skills, and team and leadership skills for complexity.

L&D has never been more in demand and yet that demand has never been more diverse. We now have many ways to deliver our training and in future blogs I will explore many of these new approaches and share the highs and lows of our experiences with these new and dynamic learning delivery methods. But before that, in my next blog I will explore the critical issue of the ‘Demographic Time-Bomb’; the challenges this is presenting to organisations, and importantly, what we as an L&D business are doing about it.