Right now the learning and development industry is changing. The speed of change transforming work is rapid, and it demands new and different skills to get the work done.
That change leads to questions about the traditional learning and development model. Is it working now? Will it work moving forward?
“We could white board it out and write an academic paper and when it’s done well, it can work,” said Darren Shimkus, vice president and general manager of the online education marketplace Udemy for Business. “But we’re now in this situation where the world’s changing so fast, the strategic plan that you and I draw up — in six months or 12 months — it might be completely different from what we can actually do.”
Numbered may be the days when learning leaders could sit down with business unit partners and work in advance to align a learning strategy with business goals. The notion that organizations can predict the skills people will need one, two or three years out seems futile in the face of constant and rapid market change.
This doesn’t mean learning teams can’t do anything proactive, Shimkus said. It just means they need to work with what it’s in their control, informed by at least a few key realities. For instance, the pace of change is increasing and changing the way people do their jobs. Add to that, people don’t feel so wedded to following a linear career path. Further, millennials, a key workforce demographic, are clamoring for learning and development.
Taken together, these trends represent changes in the way learning leaders need to do their jobs, Shimkus said.
Learning leaders have to shift to being curators from exclusively being learning content creators. Assembling or providing employees with access to a broad range of resources gives them greater control over their development and their ability to learn in ways that will support future career goals. These goals might lie outside traditional career paths, but this approach factors that into account. It makes sense because the market demands rapidly changing and varying needs for skills that might not exist today but could be necessary tomorrow.
Shimkus said he sees the value for learning leaders partnering with content creators in two ways.
Cost: It’s not cost-effective for learning leaders to recreate the wheel. If there are common topics that don’t typically change often — the process of building a pivot table doesn’t really vary much across industries, Shimkus said as an example — creating needed yet generic resources might be suitable coming from a vendor. Then the learning function can focus on creating the products tailored to an organization’s unique needs.
Time to availability: Shimkus said sometimes even venture capitalist predictions about the future fail; learning leaders should consider how little they can really forecast and adjust accordingly. They should consider working with partners who possess a large breadth of content — “who might know or might have content [leaders] don’t even know they need yet, but when the world changes, I’m right there with that content.”
It’s a different mindset and a marked shift from tradition, and Shimkus said he’s seeing some of the best companies adopt it. “To a certain extent, it’s scary to L&D, but to a certain extent, it’s liberating,” he said. “It frees them up to focus on — if I’m a retailer and I really believe that what we do best is managing supply and really, really good design, let me train on that and leave the Java development, manager training and the rest to content partners who can deliver that in a modern, meaningful way.”