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Courses to Resources – A Rename or a Re-think?

Bob Little 

February 19, 2016

A general trend within L&D is the emergence of radical new roles, with professionals becoming curators rather than custodians of learning. Part of this trend is the decline in the importance of “courses.”

To dedicated followers of L&D, courses are now officially “out,” while resources are “in.” Curation is “up,” and prescription in what and how to learn is “down.” Convenience in accessing learning is “commended,” while the costs of learning are kept “keen,” and change is acknowledged as a “constant” in today’s business world.

Dave Buglass, head of organizational capability and development at Tesco Bank, wrote the foreword to the recent 2015/16 Industry Benchmark Report from research company Towards Maturity. He says, “The question is no longer about how should we deliver training more efficiently to a wider audience but how do we, as organizations, improve the experience of our people? How do we make L&D more insignificant and make the colleague more important?”

The report, called “Embracing Change,” gathers data from more than 600 L&D professionals and some 1,600 learners from around the world (approximately 42 percent of respondents work in multinational organizations). Embracing Change concludes that the world’s top performing organizations are translating their people (L&D) strategy into a business strategy, and are using new opportunities to transform the learning experience, rather than merely automating it.

Buglass says, “The Top Deck organizations show us that the most significant question for an HR professional to ask a business leader is, ‘How can I help you to deliver what’s really important to the business?'”

He argues that these priorities lead to more integrated approaches to building performance and staff engagement, and adds, “My role today is no longer purely about learning. It’s also about colleague retention and reward.

“This creates an opportunity to build a seamless experience for colleagues that’s more customer-centric. They care about achieving their potential, overcoming their challenges, and realizing their opportunities.”

He continues, “The role of today’s people professionals is to understand and support our colleagues. It’s about providing positive experiences that help them at their point of need, helping them make better decisions and actively learn through life’s experiences.”

This echoes the sentiments of Mike Collins, head of learning solutions at DPG plc. At the U.K.’s annual Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development conference in November 2015, he called for L&D professionals to move away from being the custodians of learning.

He believes that they should “focus on empowering people to collaborate and share. They should shift towards developing learning communities and facilitating connections between people. In other words, L&D professionals should become community managers and the catalyst for change in their organizations.”

Recent studies by organizations such as PWC, McKinsey and Deloitte seem to support these views on the changing nature of business – and the consequent need for HR and L&D to adapt in order to support it. Moreover, e-learning L&D thought leaders, such as California-based writer and blogger Clark Quinn and UK-based writer and speaker Nigel Paine, are throwing their weight behind this trend of “resources rather than courses.”

Quinn challenges organizations to “align more closely to the way that people really think, learn and work.” Paine interviewed a number of chief learning officers and found that they were “focused, above all, on business impact and [were] willing to be judged on the effectiveness of that impact.” He adds, “Where those CLOs step today, the vast majority will need to follow.”

In her book, “Modern Workplace Learning,” Jane Hart, the founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, discusses how traditional courses – both online and face-to-face – no longer address the way that people learn at work. In the book, she challenges organizations to let go of control, and to deliver a new range of services that do address the way that people learn at work.

Moreover, as readers of this blog will recall, speaker and writer Charles Jennings (Jane Hart’s colleague at the Internet Time Alliance think tank), believes that, “We need 21st century approaches in a 21st century world.

“We keep training people to do jobs that don’t exist. We keep focusing on standardization and best practice – but not everything is standardized anymore. The idea of ‘curriculum’ comes from 18th-century Prussia. It had its merits in an industrialized context but we’re now trying to standardize when it isn’t needed.

“Looking at today’s world of learning is like looking at the stars. Most of what we see is already in the past. We need to approach L&D differently now.”

Yet, while this might be the view of L&D thought leaders and top-level practitioners, the Towards Maturity report, “Embracing Change,” reveals that all these opinions bear little relation to L&D reality.

According to the report, training budgets and team sizes remained static in 2015, with the largest numbers of L&D professionals (some 33 percent) still working in traditional training delivery roles. Only the number of learning administrators has declined – from 16 percent in 2012 to four percent in 2015.

In addition, some six percent of the organizations surveyed predicted that the amount of face-to-face training they will deliver would rise in 2016. However, when respondents were asked, “What will L&D look like in your organization in five years’ time?” the key emerging themes were:

  • Improving business performance.
  • Increased use of technology.
  • Better alignment with business needs.
  • Better integration of learning into the workflow.
  • L&D professionals to be “enablers” rather than “trainers.”

Laura Overton and Dr Genny Dixon, authors of the Towards Maturity report, conclude that this (and other related data in the report) suggests that business leaders need to be clear about which organizational goals are important. They should then engage their “people teams” to help achieve them. They add that those shaping the L&D function should focus on what is critical to their organization’s business and how to achieve it, rather than investing in the latest technology fad.

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One comment on “Courses to Resources – A Rename or a Re-think?”:

  1. nixon wrote:

    Hi Team,

    Kindly send some corporate email samples. Also send some useful formal phrases to be used while sending professional emails. Thank you for your support.