Nigel Paine on making sense of learning in 2016

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Read research into business and L&D and it is plain to see that change is all around learning professionals, which is why we are asking industry insiders to make sense of change and frame it in terms of learning.

We start with author, speaker and former chief learning officer Nigel Paine.

What are the challenges for L&D professionals in 2016?
NP: I can answer that really, really simply. Be relevant, be engaged, be part of the shifts and meanders of the workforce and the economy, and the businesses or the organisations you work for. Hang in there as it goes round the corners and up and down the hills.

So what are the shifts then? You describe the ups and downs, so what are those shifts in organisational learning that are impacting on how L&D currently works?
NP: It’s not so much what are the shifts in learning, it’s what are the shifts in business. I think one of the biggest shifts is the realisation that the human beings who work for you are pretty much the company, and if you don’t keep them agile, thinking, sentient human beings you will be competitively disadvantaged in whatever you do and whatever kind of organisation you are. So L&D can either walk centre stage, probably for the first time, or run off and hide. The latter option is pretty much doomed.

How are organisations responding to these kinds of shifts then? It all sounds very simple. They’re sentient human beings, they’ve got to be engaged. How are organisations doing that currently?
NP: Firstly, it’s time to listen to what it’s like working for an organisation or what it’s like to be a customer of a particular operation, and turning that experience into pathways for improvement. Make it better to deal with that organisation if you’re outside it. Make it better to deal with that organisation if you’re inside it, and align those two things. It’s the same old but it’s new in another way too. For the first time this is what we’ve got. There’s not a lot more you can do than create agile, flexible and resilient employees. Non-agile or non-resilient, inflexible employees will bring you down sooner rather than later.

How can L&D grow its impact both at individual and team and business level?
NP: By listening, by intervening and being proactive and not reactive and by thinking strategically. L&D’s job is to use a learning frame to explain and try to solve or contribute to the solution of those business problems. You can sit there mute or you can actively engage using the only frame that no one else really has a share of and that’s the learning frame. The learning frame can offer insight and it can contribute towards solutions and developments.

Are there any exemplars here? Who would you recommend as doing a good job for others to go and search out?
NP: Go talk to Nick Shackleton-Jones at BP. I did an interview with him on Learning Now TV and it’d be well worth searching for that interview and listening to Nick talk about the new role for learning, which is totally different from setting up large courses. It’s much more about finding appropriate resources in an appropriate medium delivered in an appropriate way, and doing it fast, and being judged by the impact and results rather than by the quality of the learning or any other such more frivolous evaluation.

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