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Working the Future

Our future of work blog 

28/08/2019, 12:01


 As businesses embark on company-wide digital transformation, the sense of urgency grows around how best to identify and develop both the digital and human skills, as well as the culture, that will be required for success in the 21st Century.

Technology is transforming the way wedo business. The commercial race is on to integrate workplace technologies thatimprove efficiency and create greater competitor advantage. As businessesembark on company-wide digital transformation, the sense of urgency growsaround how best to identify and develop both the digital and human skills, as well as the culture,that will be required for success in the 21st Century.  
In parallel, employee behaviour ischanging. As consumers, we’re becoming much more discerning - we expect moretransparency and a higher level of service than we’ve settled for in the past. Theseexpectations spill over into the workplace - after several decades of employer-ledlabour markets, skilled workers increasingly demand work experiences that fulfiltheir career learning and developmental goals. According to Jim Clifton and JimHarter, in their 2019 book, It’s theManager, "Gallup [has] discovered that the No.1 reason people change jobsis ’career growth opportunities’." 

To thrive commercially and sustainably in the 21stCentury, it’s clear the prevailing approach to organisational L&D needs afundamental reboot.   
To help better understand both thechallenge and opportunity for L&D professionals, we chatted with ourassociate Paul Jocelyn. Paul previously headed up global capability andlearning for one of the UK’s largest retailers. He’s worked through both arapid-growth period of globalisation, and a period of significant consolidationand organisational and cultural ’reset’.  

This experience has given Paul some fascinating first-hand insights, and we foundthe exchange with him incredibly pertinent...  

1.    Paul,share with us why - and how - the current mainstream approach to organisationalL&D needs to change.  
I think in many waysthe corporate approach to L&D is a relic from the industrial era of work.   

If we reflect on what used tocreate value and differentiation for a business, it was the efficiency of the’make and sell model’. The aim was standardisation and control - with people asinterchangeable parts of the system. The role of ’training’ was to build theindividual skills required to complete particular tasks ’to spec’, and toensure consistency of application.   

I think this mindset still prevailsfor many leaders, so we see the ongoing focus on ’learning content’,standardised programmes, compliance and competency frameworks.   

The differentiators for a successfuland sustainable business are verydifferent in the digital era, where disruption and speed are the newnormal. This presents a completely new opportunity for corporate L&D - tohelp develop and lead adaptable, connected organisations, that are comfortablewith this complexity. This requires a huge (and exciting!) shift in bothmindset and skill-set.   

2.    Arecent benchmarking report by Towards Maturity cited that "fewer than 20% ofL&D teams are achieving on goals linked to culture and agility". Why do youthink this is?   
I don’t think this is a surprise - asit’s not what L&D have been asked to do by their organisations! Inmany organisations the L&D function remains stuck as an ’order taker’,focused on designing and delivering ’interventions’ to support businessinitiatives.   

Again, this drives an over-focus firstlyon ’content’, secondly on ’content placement’, and thirdly on ’attention-tracking’,in order to demonstrate L&D’s value.   

There’s a tremendous untappedopportunity for L&D to lead inthe areas that are now important and difficult in a modern business - ideaslike ’culture’ and ’agility’ are both excellent examples.  

3.   What,in your opinion, is the primary reason that L&D teams are held back?  
I think the bureaucratic force remainsstrong in many organisations! This culture continues to drive the expectationof ’L&D’ as a ’management control’ function, often just reacting toproblems and projects as requested.   

I also see challenges with thebreakdown of the traditional OD > HR > L&D structure and cycle ofaccountabilities and responsibilities in many organisations. This can leaveL&D unsure of its place in the decision-making process.   

I believe that confidence plays a hugepart - there’s a clear unmet need to redefine the strategic role and priorityof learning with the organisation (beyond ’training’), and this can be complexand nuanced. There are many L&D teams whose current skills are built ontraining ’delivery’ course design, so it’s understandable they may need to lookoutside for help with new questions, including defining strategy and buildingbusiness cases.   

4.   Whatone thing could L&D teams start doing, right now, to shift approach toworkplace learning?   
I’d say ’re-balanceyour approach’ - start somewhere!   

Consider how you might start to put asmall percentage of your time and effort into developing the keycharacteristics of learning organisations,alongside managing and developing learning and training programmes.   

For instance: 
·      Howcan you provide opportunities for people to share and learn from existingexperience and expertise in the organisation? 
·      Howmight you identify solutions and thinking from one area of the organisation,that could be connected to another area or team with similar challenges
·      Whatopportunities could be facilitated for people to gain new experiences - forexample in another team or business area? 
·      Howmight L&D amplify and accelerate communities - that help to solve problemsand / or share good practice?   

Finally, I’d suggest, how might L&Dlead on opportunities to help people and teams to ask new questions and look at newpossibilities - outside of the ’way that we do things around here’ approach?  

Thisis key for me - I believe the future role of L&D is to ensure the wholeorganisation is future-ready. What anincredibly exciting opportunity!

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