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Kids these days

Posted by Meg Bear on April 8, 2008


There has been a lot of talk in the industry about Millennials and how they impact a talent strategy.  Given the age demographic (newly joining the workforce), it is natural that the segment that has been giving this the most attention is the Recruiting process.    Most recruiters today are actively taking advantage of new technologies and social norms to increase their access to a larger (and hopefully more qualified) candidate pool.  This is all goodness.

Today, I’d like to suggest that there is another, equally important part of the talent “wheel” that really must stand up and take notice.  This is the Learning group.  As some of you probably know, this is a topic near and dear to my heart, but like anything that you are close to, I have also been guilty of wanting the answer to be in providing more methods of delivery vs. really needing to re-think the whole business strategy.  Would that it was as simple as providing a few wikis and making eLearning available as a podcast.   I am now convinced that starting with the “delivery will save us” premise, is a recipe to being totally irrelevant within your HR Business strategy in the next 5-10 years.

Watching this video about university learning, is a good start to understanding what is different today in how people learn.  I personally believe that this is not  just a GenY issue.  Even our news channels, which have an over 30 demographic, feel the need to provide an increasingly large volume of content at a more rapid pace.  The world is expecting information faster.  Sure, younger generations are more quick to adapt to this kind of change, but that does not mean that it is only the under 30 crowd that is expecting more today then they have in the past.

How people “learn” and how they are “trained” are often not well aligned in most organizations today.  I believe this problem is growing and that we need to start to think about this in the context of a “Learning strategy” vs. just a Millennial problem.  To that end, I’ve decided to try and articulate what I think is needed for a impactful learning strategy.  I’m sure I’ve missed some things, so please feel free to sound off in the comments with additional ideas.

Meg’s suggestions for a Next Generation Learning strategy

  • Organizational Development and Training organizations need a tighter alignment then the loose “competency gap” relationship they have today.  Companies need to be able to drive the need for learning to individuals based on a wide-variety of “triggers”.  Competencies are certainly one, but what about things like missed objectives, long term career plans, poor customer satisfaction surveys, or even manager or individual observations?
  • Learning groups need to be comfortable expanding their influence and take an active role in the dreaded worlds of knowledge management, informal land experiential learning.  To do this, we must realize that we need a seamless transition for people between formal and informal learning.  Not everything is going to be managed by the catalog and not everything can have the same level of formal monitoring as compliance training. 
  • Take advantage of “wisdom of the crowds” and avoid the tendency to have everything centrally managed.  Tier your programs so that you can get comfortable with the volume of information that is going to naturally come along with the idea of opening up to the unwashed masses.  Don’t run away from these concepts just because they are complex. 
  • Recognize that key learning today is not just coming from static channels, it is also coming from people.  Having better understanding about what human assets you have that can help your organization learn is key.  Who knows what and who is willing to share what they know is going to be one of the key elements to understand.
  • Begin to think about incentive and tracking programs for learning.  What is mission critical for your business?  What learning is needed to make that happen?  How do you drive that learning to the individuals?   How do you help individuals get real value from your learning programs so that they continue to participate?  Understanding individual incentives is key.
  • Be open to the idea that the learning department will turn into a facilitator of learning vs. the source of learning in the organization. 

It is my prediction that learning departments will either embrace this new world and find their place in it, or they will become a third appendage with only compliance as their real value proposition. 

4 Responses to “Kids these days”

  1. Meg Bear said

    just had it pointed out that I had linked the wrong video — doh! Do-over. – Meg

  2. mike said

    Fabulous stuff. So many thoughts on this it’s hard to know where to start.

    For one, it’s all very pertinent as I don’t see the link between learning management and other talent and business processes becoming much tighter, despite what we are being told. The competency table is still the integration point, and, as important as that is, it just doesn’t get you far enough.

    Other forms of learning that are of ever-increasing importance, particularly collaborative ad-hoc/informal learning, require social networking functionality rooted in much more robust information on individuals and what they know and do, and that just hasn’t lived in the learning management module to date.

    Secondly, to be fair, I don’t believe lecture-based learning will ever go away. It will always make sense as a method for distributing information from the core to the far corners of an organization, including information on key strategic initiatives, new products, etc. But we are already seeing how that form of knowledge distribution is being destroyed by the internet and web 2.0 technologies, so we would be foolish to think that “teaching” will remain the sole or even primary form of learning in our companies, and we need to start preparing for that transition.

    Lastly, if learning and development folks give up control of what is being delivered, how, and to how many people – some of their primary measures of success and progress – they need to have new measures by which to judge themselves. Perhaps those measures should be aligned around whether people are actually applying new skills on the job! In other words, start holding people accountable for learning, empower them to explore different learning options (including, for example, finding and meeting with a SME over lunch or coffee), but then let them figure out how best to acquire the knowledge.

  3. Meg Bear said

    @Mike – Indeed. I personally look forward to the day when
    1) technology for learning and technology for social networking are integrated such that that it is easy as an individual to move between formal and informal learning.
    2) Results of Learning are easily visible to the organization. And I mean results not evidence of spending time on it. This could be achievement of key goals, improvement of key competencies or progress on a personal development plan. I want to see Learning systems become more usful to the learner and thus more useful to the organization.

    synergy… learning… it’s all goodness but it is a LOT of change to prepare for. Good thing we are “learning” people right?😉

  4. Mark Bennett said

    Excellent comments, Mike. I recommend folks check out his blog. You are hitting on a very key point, brought up in Beyond HR by Boudreau and Ramstad and also more recently in The New Human Capital Strategy by Hall, that we need measures to be more around business results and not so much around only activities and programs. As you point out, the latter measures have in effect hindered L&D from making the most out of the new forms becoming available.

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