2020 Vision for L&D

In her article,  3 Traits That Will Make You a Learning and Development Rock Star In 2020, on ATD’s website, Cheryl Lasse provides a compelling picture of what Learning and Development will look like from the perspective of an L&D professional.

I think she’s dead on with what they ideal fully transitioned learning function will look and act like in the future.  It is a vision that draws on marketing principles which I have previously discussed in my Do It As Marketing Does series.

Lasse groups her thoughts under three traits – Be Customer- and Learner-Focused, Be Curious, and Embrace Diversity.  While she doesn’t state it directly, I believe that there is an assumption that there is at least a developing learning culture in the organization.

Be Customer- and Learner-Focused

The learning function in the organization needs to be 100% focused on its customer – the learner.  The learner will have ownership of his/her personal learning plan.  L&D will facilitate learners in their development providing resources – curated or created – that align with the competencies required by the roles employees have and wish to have in the future.  Learners make the choices on how to meet their learning goals in an all pull, no push model.

Lasse says that this customer-focused approach means L&D must understand the expectations the organization has for each role.

The expectations are the tasks the must perform, the behaviors that make the tasks executable, and the required levels of proficiency.  That’s a competency model.

I agree with this idea.  Focusing on the competencies necessary to execute the work required throughout the organization ensures alignment with the business outcomes that should be the focus of everyone in the organization – including L&D.

Be Curious

Under this trait, Lasse charges L&D with exploring the industry, the company, and the audience they serve.  The goal is to become intimately familiar with the needs of its customers (learners) needs.  Our colleagues in marketing live and breathe based on their ability to know the customer as closely as possible.

This familiarity will enable learning professionals to develop a competency-based model of learning in which resources are readily available to meet the changing needs of learners and the organization.

Knowing the employees, how they fit in the organization and it within its industry also means L&D can lessen its learning curve when it in presented with a need for learning.  This should lead to greater efficiency, reducing costs and scrap learning and quicker turn around time from need identification to delivery of the learning experience needed.

Embrace Diversity

While I’m not sure that diversity is the best label for this trait, I agree with Lasse on the components.  What she is talking about is attending to Informal, Social and Formal Learning when creating resources activities and experiences.  The greatest focus should be placed on in-the-job learning.

…an L&D rock star will first ask, “What activity could this person perform to learn this skill?”

Created content will be microlearning, quickly digestible.  Except the most complex, large topics which will continue to require more formal learning.  Lasse suggests that the entire organization will be focused on mentoring and being mentored as a part of its culture.

L&D with be brokers of content and resources that they can provide in a matter of days to meet new needs.

One commenter on this article on td.org raised the legitimate concern that personalized learning plans might be too burdensome on management, pointing to the generally poor execution of performance reviews.  My reply to her comment was two-fold.  1) if we support it right, the employees will have more ownership of their own learning. Making the burden on the manager less of a heavy lift. and 2)  most companies don’t support or provide incentives to managers to build capabilities and schedule time to guide employees in performance development. L&D needs to spend more effort in teaching managers how to teach and less time teaching employees.  Two traits of a good learning culture.

While I really like this vision of L&D’s future, I’ll be curious to see how many can achieve this vision by 2020.

What do you think?  Is this a good vision for L&D’s future?  Is it achievable?  If you disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please us the comment section below to chime in on the conversation.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo courtesy of Unsplash.com

Trust and Social Learning

One of the underlying principles you run across when looking through everything being written and said about social learning in the workplace is the role of trust in the success or failure of an organization to learn and grow.

The fundamental pillars of social learning have always been trust and a willingness to share and cooperate. – Sahana Chattopadhyay

Which sources of information do we trust the most and which ones do we actually use the most? – Julian Stodd

If I’m going to trust my data, I need to trust the systems that make it and manage it – Aaron Silvers

That is, helping them build communities and networks where it’s all about trust, empathy and networks. – Helen Blunden

It makes sense.  If we are going to learn from each other we better trust each other.  According to Paul J. Zak in his article The Neuroscience of Trust in the Harvard Business Review,  he points out that while CEO’s understand that lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth, most aren’t sure where to start to increase trust.

In his article, Zak presents research he and his colleagues have done that provides a neuroscience-based framework of strategies that can measurably increase trust within the organization.  His research linked an increase in the brain chemical oxytocin to an increase in trust and trustworthiness. It also increases a person’s empathy, which increases a person’s trustworthiness.

He outlines eight strategies that increase the production of oxytocin and thus trust among people.  I provide thoughts on how these strategies can be implemented through social learning practice.

Recognize Excellence.  Immediate recognition of a goal being met, from peers and the recognition is tangible, unexpected, personal and public are all factors that increase trust. Trust in the honoree and the organization.  SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION: Leaderboards, badging, and managerial support are examples of howtrust this plays out in social learning.

Induce “Challenge Stress”.  A difficult, but achievable task assigned to a team will not only increase oxytocin (and trust) but also adrenocorticotropin, which intensifies focus and strengthens social connections.  SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION:  This has been a staple of instructional design for a long time.  But it also relates to the issue of relevance of learning experiences.

Give People Discretion in How They Do Their Work.  The freedom to solve problems in their own way increases trust.  As does post project debriefs where they share what they did and contribute to future successes.  SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION:  This plays out in crafting self-directed learning opportunities and incorporating reflection into the learning culture.

Enable Job Crafting.  When companies trust employees to choose which projects they’ll work on, people focus their energies on what they care about most. SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION:  Promoting career-focused learning, Personal Learning Networks and other self-directed practices will enhance trust.

Share Information Broadly.  Zak reports that only 40% of employees feel well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics.  Not knowing the company’s direction or how it is doing leads to chronic stress, which inhibits the release of oxytocin.  SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION:  This shows the imperative to tie learning experiences to real business goals.  It also argues for greater leadership involvement in participating and endorsing social learning.

Intentionally Build Relationships. The brain network that oxytocin activates is evolutionarily old.  Zak deduces that this means trust and sociality are core to being human.  He says that his experiments show that people who intentionally build social ties at work show improved performance.   SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION: Providing opportunities to learn with and from each other strengthens social ties.  In addition, managers who express real concern for their team members’ success and personal well-being outperform others.  This is support for the belief that managers need to be involved in employees’ individual learning and career planning.

Facilitate Whole-Person Growth. High-trust workplaces help employees grow personally and as well as professionally.  SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION:  Encouraging employees to build their learning networks outside of the organization, providing tuition reimbursement for courses that enhance their career goals, providing time to learn about topics that matter to them all would be trust building learning strategies.

Show Vulnerability.  Leaders in high-trust workplaces ask for help from colleagues instead of just telling them to do things.  This increases oxytocin production.  SOCIAL LEARNING APPLICATION: This supports the ideas of working-out-loud and for leaders to participate in learning experiences.

These eight strategies increase trust throughout an organization.  But what does that mean in real terms, Zak’s research also revealed that when compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives
  • 40% less burnout

For learning professionals, I find these numbers very encouraging.  Any of these are real business objectives that we can impact by successfully implementing social learning.

What do you think?  Do you find this research encouraging?  Or are you skeptical?  Is an increase in the level of trust a legitimate goal for learning experiences?  Please add your thoughts via the comment section below!

WordPress.com for Google Docs

NOTE: There various random elements in this post. They are testing the add-in’s ability to transfer formatting from Google Docs to WordPress. For instance, this note is double spaced to test if the add-in will carry over the spacing to my blog.


Last week WordPress announced the release of the WordPress.com for Google Docs Chrome add-in. Simply, this add-in enables Google Docs to function as a post editor for your WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress.org blogs.

The power of this add-in comes from benefits that are innate to Google Docs:

  1. Collaboration – Co-creation of content is what Google Docs excels at. You and your collaborators create document in Google Docs and then post to the desired blog. Having lead a multi-author blog in the past, I know what a huge effort to create a post collaboratively and then cut-and-paste it to the blog. Only to then have to reformat the formatting that didn’t survive the cut-and-paste.
  2. Richer Editing Environment – WordPress’s editor has a limited set of functionality for formatting a post – in one off situations. (I can change the CSS if I want to change these things universally.) I particularly have wanted to have more control over font, font size, and emphasis. Like strikethrough. I’ve also wanted better control of padding around images and spacing between paragraphs and lines The add-in’s page in the Google webstore says “Your images and most formatting will carry over too. No more copy-and-paste headaches!” I’m using this post as a test of various formatting states, we’ll see how well it ports over to WordPress.

I’ve found that control of images and where they are within the text of a post a bit problematics in the editor in WordPress. Docs does this better so I’m hoping that inserting images that I want in a particular location will work better with this add-in.

And how about my question regarding font size.

This is normal. I assume this will correspond to “paragraph” in WordPress.

This is a bit larger.

This is even larger.

This is a test to see how the inserted polldaddy.com thumbs up/thumbs down rating deals with this add-in

I haven’t tried to arrange a group of photos on my blog yet, but noticed in the comments on the add-in page that several people do this, so i thought I’d play with it here. Just for fun.



After I use the add-in I’ll revise the post to at least add comments as to what came across and what didn’t. I’ve included two images below of the document in Google Docs, so You’ll be able to see for yourselves.

But before that, there are a few issues that have been raised on the add-in’s page in the Google webstore. Some users of WordPress.org sites are having issues authenticating their blogs to the add-in. However, if they turn off all other add-ins, authenticate their wordpress.org sites to the add-in and the turn all other add-ins back on; everything seems to be running correctly.

The other issue that has been raised is that some people who are adding images via URLs. It seems here that most have used URLs they believed to be public but they weren’t.

Finally, one functionality that others have brought up that I agree would be awesome if it were available is that updating the Google document does not update the blog post. A revised version of a post would effectively be a new post. Since most blogs don’t allow backdating, you’d be publishing the revision today and then the question would be, do you delete the original post – which is problematic if there are comments and or trackbacks to it.

This add-on is definitely a 1,0 and the plan from Automattic, WordPress’s parent company, is that new features should be expected as the add-in usage builds.

OK, time to upload my page and see how it comes out. Here is what it looks like in Google Docs



So the results.  This is actually the second time I tried importing from Google Docs.  The first time only the text came through.  I reported it to WordPress and they said they were fixing a few things and to try again.

The second time through, it seems to be working as expected.   Here is a marked up image of what it was supposed to look like, had everything I put in the document come through:

wordpress google editor test

The X’s represent formatting that didn’t come through.  The Double spacing of the “Note” at the beginning.  The horizontal line, the image of the WordPress editor (because it was make using the drawing tool in Google Docs), the stair step font sizes and then the collage of pictures (again created with the drawing tool).  My direct images (the two icons one right and one left) came through, but a little out of place.  The strikethrough text and the polldaddy thumbs up thumbs down poll.  So 4 of 8 came through.  According to WordPress, the formatting that didn’t come through can’t be supported in the import.

So all and all, kudos to WordPress and Google.  This is a nice add-in to Chrome.

Challenges of the Social Age

I am participating in Julian Stodd’s Foundations of the Social Age MOOC (It’s not too late to join if you’re interested).   One of the first questions he asks is:

I find that the mind shift required is incredibly exhausting and time-consuming.  As I’ve been curating content in areas that I’m most interested (my xAPI Resource Center being the first product of this effort) I’ve found myself working late into the night.  With the perfectionist streak I have, I find myself feeling a need to read everything and then struggle to write about it because it “has to be right.”

On the other hand, it’s wonderfully liberating and fun.  I’m learning that putting my ideas out there by working out loud is ok and helps make connections.  And it involves getting to know people that I may never have gotten to know in the old hierarchical paradigm.

That said, my challenges to adapt to the new Social Age include:

Time Management – I can be consumed with the Seeking stage of Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Mastery.  The value is really in the Sense and Sharing stages.

Building my Personal Learning Network – I’m still developing my network of people and resources that I can go to when I need to learn something, test a hypothesis, get honest feedback, and collaboratively build knowledge.  Helen Blunden provides a set of guidelines for creating a PLN.

Participation in Multiple Venues – Having a social presence involves participation in multiple venues on a continuous basis.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MOOCs, internal networks, work teams, professional organizations, blogging, SnapChat, Periscope, and many more all offer opportunities to connect with others and share, connect, collaborate and learn.  But it can be dizzying trying to keep up.

How are you coping with the shift to the Social Age?  How do you manage staying up-to-date?  What are you tips for dealing with all the information and activity?  Please share your thoughts in the comment area below.

Bots, Bots, Everywhere Bots

John Bruner, O’Reilly Media, does a nice job in his article Bots: What you need to know of providing a real beginner’s look at what bots are, how they are being deployed, and what role they will play in the near future

Much like Robot from Lost in Space, these bots are ready and able to have conversations with us, answer customer service questions, look up information based on our location, and other AI enabled feats of magic.  But unlike Robot, they don’t have tractor treads for getting around and a glass dome with whirling thingamabobs for a brain.

No, these bots are invisible, but ever-present in tools we are already using.  Slack and What’s App have a veritable army of bots to meet various needs.  Siri and Cortana are super bots.

Bots use artificial intelligence to converse in human terms, usually through a lightweight messaging interface like Slack or Facebook Messenger, or a voice interface like Amazon Echo or Google Assistant.

Bruner points to three use cases that bots may have a significant impact on: Customer Relationship Management, Productivity, and Publishing and Entertainment.

To those, I would add workplace learning (well any learning, I blog about workplace).  A bot could be created to help employees find the right resource in a curated library.  Another could be programmed to understand the process and activities of an onboarding program to help keep new employees on track and help them find important resources and people.

There are numerous tools designed to make building bots easy.

Microsoft’s Clippy was born in 2003.

Bots can be the ultimate guide on the side.  Always waiting for that moment to cheerfully chime in.  Hard to believe that the natural language conversational bots of today owe their heritage to Microsoft’s Clippy.

Hopefully, none of today’s bots will be as annoying as Clippy was!

What do you think?  Are Learning Bots part of our future?  Where would you deploy bots in your learning ecosystems?  What potential efficiencies do imagine they could drive?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.  And don’t forget to share this post, if you found it helpful.