Meeting the future in L&D

Companies are currently looking at ways of reforming the way they do learning and development (L&D) and they are doing this for two reasons.

The first is because they recognise the return on investment – training increases both knowledge and productivity, makes people happy at work, and as a direct result, keeps them ahead of their competitors.

The second reason is purely cultural. Organisations want people to want to work for them. They want their staff to enjoy going to work. Some even want to be seen as an ‘Employer of Choice’.

But what they are all trying to figure out is this:

How do they do this? How do they find the right balance of spend on L&D / Professional Development and Capability Development to maximise the return on investment? How do they make people want to work for them?

The problem is that they are trying to become part of the future, by doing what they did in the past. They run Learning and Development in a ‘traditional sense’. They run it in a way that either allows them to tick the boxes when it comes to auditing – ie, ‘Do you offer PD for your staff?’ Tick. ‘Do you invest in your staff and their future?’ Tick. But the truth is, most companies only offer Professional Development ‘on paper’ to make them look like they are meeting the needs of their staff.

Here are two very clear examples of this:

The lie

Let’s face it – most of us have been told ‘the lie’ right from when we were at school – the lie that takes us right into our careers and looks a lot like this:

“If you study hard, you’ll get a job. You’ll get promoted. You’ll do well in your career.” But we don’t believe that anymore. We want to believe it, but we don’t. And then we work for organisations that on the surface try to tell us this lie again – they tell us that if we maintain our Professional Development, if we continue to learn and grow, we will become better employees, better people, we will be happier. We may even get promoted.

We want to believe this lie and we may even get temporarily excited. But built into this model there are many assumptions about limiting structures and the capacity for learning, that look a lot like these obstacles:

Approval from Manager

Many companies put out a Professional Development calendar every year with options for dozens of courses and workshops – both face-to-face and online. 

That’s a great start. This clearly demonstrates that an organisation is willing to invest in their staff in an effort to meet the future. 

But then they take away any level of responsibility by making staff ask their manager for approval, and to top it off, they often need to provide a case for why they want / need to attend the training / workshop / course. Why are we still working with this very out dated model? Why do we continue to ask our people to do a trick before they can get the treat?

Here are two very simple suggestions that will empower employees and actually allow and encourage organisations to become part of the future, while allowing their people to really grow, and be treated like the adults that they are:

  • When it comes to internal training, delivered by internal resources, (or internal training that has been organised by external parties at one cost), or internal online training, staff must be allowed to make the decision for themselves if they want to attend, and then only as a matter of courtesy, let their manager know that they are unavailable for those hours. End of story. They should not, under any circumstances, be ‘asking’ for permission to attend a professional development workshop or course and then justifying why they should attend. They are adults. They can manage their own time. Empower staff within your organisation to make decisions for themselves and watch the culture within your organisation change almost instantly
  • Determine the budget your organisation can spend externally per employee on their professional development (remembering there is a high ROI if you invest in your staff) and allow staff to book themselves into external training up to that value (or they can top it up if it is a course they really want to complete). Within these metrics, you could also determine the time allocation your company can afford for each employee (for example it could be as simple as $200 per year and half a day off work to complete the training. If an employee wants to do a one-day workshop that costs $500 they can make up the difference of $300 and take the other half-day as holiday leave)

Again, the key here is that staff should not be asking for permission, but instead they should feel empowered to be able to make the decision based on their own time management skills and with the knowledge that they will not be leaving their team to fend for themselves if they do book training / PD away from the office.

The way in which L&D is run

The second example of organisations doing L&D in the traditional sense is the ‘way in which they run Learning & Development / Capability Development / Professional Development’. Some companies offer an entire suite of online learning and assume their staff will want to complete these courses, or even worse, assume that they WILL complete these courses.

Others offer workshops and courses that are traditional, expected and sometimes just plain boring – ie Communication Skills, Time Management, Managing Staff etc…

How to meet the future

Organisations need to offer fresh, new, innovative options for Professional Development. This includes interactive and influential ways of delivering sessions. Sessions that encourage deep immersion and full participation. Organisations that want to encourage and create meaningful working environments – those that really want to challenge an atmosphere of desire for learning, will be willing to look at alternatives beyond the traditional way of doing L&D.

When an organisation leverages professional development by providing a positive cultural environment, and when they recognise that organisations are simply relationships between teams, people and customers, they will have found a new way of doing L&D and will be well on their way to meeting the future in Professional Development.