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 Some see an outdated, overblown, superfluous industry that will soon be discarded or replaced.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.
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.
30 years since entering the market Microsoft Excel remains the most widely used software by businesses. Despite its wide use, the full capabilities of Excel are still poorly understood. Of 100,000 workers we tested over the past three years, less than half know what Conditional Formatting - an essential feature - even does.
So what are Excel's essentials? We reviewed articles written by Excel experts and combined this with aggregated data from thousands of our users to compile a list of the 100 most useful Excel functions and features including PivotTables, Absolute References, Conditional Formatting and more.
For all those in need of a quick dose of tips to improve their Excel proficiency check out the top 10 tips below. But do download the full 100 and make your way through it to get the most out of this wonderful guide.
So let's start!
Voice interface will power the next generation of learning apps.
We are entering a new era. An era where we can talk to our computers and they understand not only what we say but what we mean. Consumers are flocking to use these cutting-edge voice interfaces. They are also hungry for new apps that use them. Personal learning and self-development is a huge opportunity that is well placed to flourish in this new era.
“Repetition is the Mother of Learning and the Father of Action, which makes it the architect of Accomplishment” — Zig Ziglar
^ That’s an insightful quote from Ziglar, but what exactly does it mean?
Do you remember forgetting all the content you learnt in a class as soon as you were faced with the exam? Remember meeting someone at a social event who you really seemed to gel with but you simply can’t seem to recollect their name? What about engaging in a work meeting, but being unable to recall the items that were discussed the following week?
Ever Heard of the forgetting curve? Or a guy named Ebbinghaus? Well . . .I’ll tell you what I know.
Have you at any point, been lost in the midst of it all. Education, school, college or university?
Ever felt completely helpless in regards to taking the next step forward?
Not knowing what to do after finishing school was honestly one of the most frustrating phases. There is an overwhelming amount of pressure on young people to go to university these days and I feel as if many individual’s vocation and aspirations become drowned out by this expectation.