These are some thoughts sparked by conversations at the L&D Connect Unconference. They are still forming but I hope they make some sense . . .
At this week’s L&D connect and conference there was a good discussion on the future role of learning and development and in particular whether the aim of learning and development is to make itself redundant – that all colleagues become so good at learning for themselves that L&D is no longer required.
The discussions picked up on performance support as being an important role of the L&D function. Performance support is quite the hot topic for learning and development. You only have to go to a conference or read any contemporary thinking to see that.
But is performance support a zero sum game for learning and development? By this I mean, are the gains made in providing performance support cancelled out by the fact L&D loses out on doing far more significant things for the organisation?
Performance support is an important part of what L&D does But there are limits to what it can achieve for the function. Technology is transforming the way business operates and this will see more admin-focused roles become automated. Technology will also improve the ability of workers to find out what they need to do their jobs and find people to help them do their jobs.
Technology will provide much of the performance support required by workers and will make many admin-focused roles redundant. Too much emphasis on performance might put whole L&D teams out of work.
It might be more useful to think of performance support as ‘job UX’ or job user experience. User experience in the digital world is all about making web sites, apps and services as easy and as intuitive as possible to use. It is about removing the friction from using a site.
Good ‘job UX’ will help workers to know where to look for information to help do their job and know who to talk to should they need help doing their job. This would be baked into roles and tasks via technology.
This is an important role for L&D but it is just one part of what L&D brings to the organisation. Think of this as the foundation, great job UX ensures people are able to get up to speed in their jobs with as little friction as possible.
With the foundations in place, L&D can focus on innovation, creativity, health, wellbeing, lifelong learning – all the elements that are fundamental to people doing great work and helping organisations do great things.
Performance support has its place – it is there to provide a good ‘job UX’ – it is the foundation. And depressingly, it has taken organisations a long time to wake up to this fact.
However, in itself it is not the future for L&D and should not be seem as such. The real prize is to focus on the growth of people, their aspirations and the aspirations of those who employ them.