Getting people to be proactive about their own learning in an organisation is not easy. It takes time, commitment and leadership buy-in to really work, but it is possible. The issue with any task that looks insurmountable is where to start. What ripples are required to make the tidal wave of change you need?
Least important --- Most important
Where would you place learning on this spectrum for your company?
I’ve been talking to a lot of financial companies recently about the L&D market. Opinions are polarised. Some see an outdated, overblown, superfluous industry that will soon be discarded or replaced. Some see a massive and growing market, ripe for another wave of disruption. Who’s right? Neither, entirely. Here’s why.
In a constantly-evolving global economy, learning must be the main long-term business priority. Learning is a clear - and possibly unique - theme running through the megatrends of our time: artificial intelligence, digitization, extended careers, flexible working and individualism. These trends mean changes for businesses (eg digital transformation) which require a frequent reskilling of their workforces. Ray Stata, former CEO of Analog Devices, puts this well:
“The rate at which organizations and individuals learn may well become the only sustainable competitive advantage. Products can be copied. Services can be copied. Even processes can be copied. Things like Six Sigma are available on the open market. But if you’re learning more rapidly than the competition, you can get ahead and stay ahead.”
Learning is much more important than recruitment. Recruitment, the never-ending war for talent, is a zero-sum game. If company A gets the star, company B doesn’t. Learning is different; a rising tide that lifts all boats. Perhaps leaders should take a less tribal, more progressive and holistic view of human capability and how best to nurture it.
Many of the world’s most successful, long-termist leaders are emphatic about the importance of learning. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, emphasised this in an interview with Business Insider, “Going back to business: If that applies to boys and girls at school, I think it also applies to CEOs, like me, and entire organizations, like Microsoft. We want to be not a “know-it-all” but “learn-it-all” organization.” Jeff Bezos in his last annual letter to shareholders underlined the importance of high standards and teachable skills. Mark Zuckerberg started a book clubfollowed by millions of followers. In his final letter to shareholders, then CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, described the company as a ‘Global Learning Organization’ - the fourth page in particular is worth reading in full.
Learning is a large part of what makes us human. We are a rare breed of mammal which happens to be neotenic, ie we retain many juvenile (physical and cognitive) features. We therefore learn all the way through our lives and are blessed with a deep, nagging curiosity about a very wide range of matters.
Finally, learning is good for us. It’s linked to higher levels of happiness, income and social success.
L&D has a tarnished reputation. Corporate learning content is often considered to be copious, uninspiring, or low quality. As a result it is used little and therefore vulnerable to budget cuts. The predominant technology underpinning L&D - the Learning Management System - is built on antiquated technologies, light years from the addictive, consumer grade experiences we enjoy away from work today. Compliance hasn’t helped. That for a decade compliance drills have fallen at the feet of L&D is a shame for everyone. The work of training and learning teams has been stained by that association. And so it is that CLOs rarely have a seat at the boardroom and the voice of L&D is muffled.
How to unpick this paradox?
I think we can unpick it by separating L&D supply from demand. Demand is massive and growing:
An evolving knowledge economy of a quarter of a billion knowledge workers who are re-skilling at shorter and shorter intervals but over longer and longer careers practically guarantees the shape of this chart, perhaps permanently.
But the supply side has historically disappointed and in many cases, continues to do so. We’ve been slow on the take-up of new technologies and content is mostly pretty dry and sometimes obsolete. Couple this with the fact that the benefits of learning - though axiomatic - are enormously difficult to measure. We have the perfect storm for a paradox: learning is both the most and least important thing we do at work. Break it down to unpick the paradox: supply looks bad; demand looks good.
But notice that the apparent paradox is starting to unwind anyway as consumer-grade influences, AI and other digital breakthroughs finally start to touch on this thing of ours.
Is any of the above of any use to you?
Perhaps you can use some of it to get your CEO to play ball. Try to persuade her or him to issue a statement about the importance of investing in the workforce of the firm (and feel free to repurpose any of the arguments presented here). The case will be even stronger - as we have been overjoyed and slightly surprised to see with certain global clients - if your CEO commits to and shares some learning activities her/himself. This will make all your L&D battles easier, from getting sign off from budget holders, to getting learners, to learn to proving ROI. There are gains to be had by all stakeholders: employee engagement, external PR, financial return.
And in this way, you may shift the importance needle to the right.
Since the financial crisis, there has been a steady drip of gloomy news on UK labour productivity. Most recently an encouraging rise was overshadowed by better performance in the Eurozone, US and Japan. But why should we care? The national debate concentrates on national actions: improving transport links, extending mobile coverage, or changes to regulation to increase access to capital or foster competition. These are not levers most of us can pull in our jobs and our organisations.
Over the past 10 years, motion has become an essential layer of interface design. It is often the difference between a good and great User Interface (UI). Its rise in importance can be attributed to the dawn of the smartphone, touch-screen era. The direct success to this idea is that it offers a way to manipulate content and brings a physicality to design. Interact with a website that doesn’t meet our understanding of how it should work, and it breaks a users flow. This is why it is important to bring consistency to an interface.
For this reas
We all think we’re good at our jobs... But how do we quantify and share our knowledge in a way that provides useful and actionable insight?
We’ve been working a lot with clients to successfully launch globalfilter in their organisations. One practical way we've been able to deliver meaningful advice is through our own experience rolling the platform out in-house. Below are 6 actionable tips that we have learnt, the challenges we’ve encountered and how we are maintaining engagement and usage. I'll be sharing our learnings (for better or for worse) fortnightly via LinkedIn and would love to hear your thoughts/ queries/ questions.
We think a lot about how to measure how good a recommendation is at Filtered. While there is no one ‘right’ way to assess this, having metrics that attempt to quantify how well our algorithms are performing helps us make progress. They let us build a sense of what works well, what doesn’t, and whether changes we make are improvements or otherwise.
Kindness is at the heart of the recommendation. It’s one person saying to another, I see your situation and I think this thing can help you. That gets lost in an era of mass, computerised (and often low-quality) recommendations. But I’m talking about why, really, recommendations (and the members of the genus: suggestions, tips, hacks, help, advice, counsel) are offered in the first place. We’re able to make a good recommendation when:
When you are launching a new learning initiative at your organisation there are loads of things to consider. Like any big project, knowing where to start is half the problem.
Share. Relax, be open. Advance the world, not just us.
That’s one of the official behaviours we encourage here. And it’s one of the reasons we launched globalfilter for L&D professionals in September last year, to advance the understanding of learning issues amongst learning professionals. That went well: 2,000 learning professionals have already signed up for the free service. So today we’re augmenting that with a dedicated Slack instance.