Should there be a growing sense of urgency in L&D?


Is L&D behind the times? Does it need to rethink how it does what it does? Two L&D heavyweights think so.

Nick Shackleton- Jones, director, online and informal learning at BP has published a post titled the Tragedy of L&D in which he says L&D must stop ‘dumping content’ on learners. He says that L&D routinely focuses on ‘doing the wrong things in the wrong way’.

Jones’s thesis is that 90% of learning happens when people are responding to challenges. This obviously sits badly with perceived ideas around the need to create content for learners.

He goes on to say that dumping content on learners is not the way to help colleagues learn new things.

If you really wanted someone to care about something – and I accept that this is a noble aspiration – you wouldn’t do it by dumping content on them. To give an example: if employees really cared about data security, they could learn everything they needed to know very easily, on the web. But instead of thinking of ways to instill concern, the tradition of content fly-tipping continues. Because learning is not understood; because it is thought of as ‘knowledge-transfer’.

Jones is concerned – he has been saying this for years. Is it time for L&D to sit up and listen and act?

It is, according to Donald Taylor, chairman of the Learning and Performance Institute. Taylor talks about the ‘training ghetto‘, a place where L&D gets stuck due to its inability to move with the times.

Most L&D departments that I’ve talked to, however, rightly fear being in the  . . . Training Ghetto. Here, we are unable to service the needs of a rapidly changing organisation. The result: it’s the business, not L&D, that adopts today’s innovative approaches to learning and information sharing.

Evidence from the Learning and Performance Institute’s Capability Map supports the concerns of both Jones and Taylor. Skills such as collaborative learning are lacking in L&D. As Taylor says:

 L&D cannot be the bottle-neck in this crucial process of sharing. Rather it must be the enabler, which means both increasing engagement with the rest of the business and stepping back from being mainly the producer of information/ content/courses and focusing in addition on systems and processes that encourage employees to learn from each other.

So, what do you think? Does L&D need a sense of urgency and a new direction in terms of its role within the business?


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