Retooling for the Future

Connie Malamed does a nice job of defending we Learning and Development professionals in her blog post, Retooling Instructional Design: 7 Ways Learning Professionals are Preparing for the Future. There has been a massive wave of change that has often left us subject to criticism that we’ve fallen behind or obsolete. Connie points out that many of us have been working at changing our methods, approaches and tools in order to prepare for new ways of doing what we do.

She provides a list of 7 ways learning professionals have been working to meet the demands of the modern workplace that is evolving quickly.

  1. Acceptance of Evidence-based Strategies
  2. Focus on Human-centered Design
  3. Adopting UX Techniques
  4. Use of Agile Models
  5. Creating Learning Journeys
  6. Applying Learning Analytics
  7. Designing for Newer Technologies

I wholehearted agree with Connie on these 7 trends that are at the core of what learning professionals will be doing now and in the future. I do feel she slightly missed the mark on #6 and #7. And I would add a #8 to the list.

Applying Learning Analytics

While she does indicated we are making more data driven decisions, she only mentions “the value of learning analytics for continuous improvement.” While this is true, it’s not a huge change from what we’ve always done in evaluating the effectiveness programs. Big data is enabling faster, more responsive analysis, but it’s not the game changer when it comes to Learning Analytics.

The real power of Learning Analytics comes in our ability to use data to:

  • make predictions of what is needed and what will work,
  • we can combine learning data with business data to determine true business value from learning activities, and
  • we can use data in real-time to provide truly personalized learning experiences in the flow of work.

These are the game-changing promises of Learning Analytics that will enable us to get in-sync with our business unit colleagues and finally demonstrate our real value to the organization.

Designing for Newer Technologies

Here I feel like Connie over simplified by limiting her discussion to the impact that virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and conversational interfaces (I’m guessing she is referring to Chatbots and other tools that take advantage of voice recognition and Natural Language Analysis) are having on.

She is right that learning professionals are leveraging the latest technologies. I’d even argue that this is a trend we’ve been at the forefront of for decades dating back to pre-internet days.

She correctly points out that we have an awareness that “a new tool will not magically solve a performance problem.” Yet we fall for the bright shiny new toy as quickly as others. There are all kinds of new technologies emerging (artificial intelligence, machine learning, xAPI, geo-presence, sensors and other internet of things devices, image recognition, pattern recognition, robotics, and more) and the “old” technologies are still viable (ink on paper remains a great, cost effective delivery mechanism for learning) depending on the solution needed.

Designing for Newer Technologies really points to the necessity to determine which technology:

  • resonates with our learners (irregardless of whether it is a “learning” technology or not),
  • can deliver the best learning experience for the given need, and
  • does so in a cost effective manner.

Be Marketers of Learning

Connie does touch on a bit of this trend when she discusses using personas and conducting learning campaigns. But I believe it should be called out separately. One, because there are numerous learning professionals and organizations who are starting to do this and, two, I believe it is vital to our successful transition into our future state.

We need to be champions of individual and organizational learning. The evangelists of a new learner centered, lifelong culture of learning that is supported by senior leadership and frontline managers. The learning journeys that Connie discusses need to supported with well articulated marketing campaigns.

Like our Marketing colleagues, we need to have an intimate knowledge of who our audience is. Who are the thought leaders? Who are the saboteurs? Who are the influencers? Who are the campaigns of change? What social networks already exist? Can we leverage them to help or will they resist?

Finally, we need to target managers and provide them with the meta-learning tools and the evidence that they are working that will lead to a conversion experience about learning.


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Do as Marketing Does – Part 1 Motivation

It is very clear that the changes that will impact learning and development in 2017 and beyond will require very different skills than what we depended upon in the past.   We need to look to other fields for practices we can borrow.  Learning from our colleagues will not only accelerate our abilities to serve our learners and organizations better, but the collaboration will enhance our efforts to integrate with the businesses we serve.

In 6 Things That Learning Professionals Can Learn from Marketers, Todd Kasenberg provides ideas that we can learn from our colleagues in Marketing.  I think he’s dead on with these suggestions.  The 6 things are:

  1. Address learner motivations to get engagement
  2. Be relevant
  3. Get your channels right
  4. Manage cognitive load
  5. Get then trying out (“trialling”) behaviors quickly
  6. Anticipate and handle the objections

Over the next six days, I’m going to flesh out each of these topics and how they  fit into the work we do in Learning and Development.

Address learner motivations to get engagement

Marketers, of course, spend much of their time working towards provoking the emotional response, knowing that about 75% of any “buying” decision (read “learning” decision and you’ll get the drift…) is dependent on emotional response.

I have spent much of my career in customer facing, sales positions.  In sales, you quickly learn that the customer makes buying decisions for a myriad of reasons.  They also make decisions to not buy ruthlessly – and often for non-rational reasons.  In reality, the quality of a product is usually well down the list of buying/non-buying decision factors.  Convenience, price, what my friends will think of me, will I look smart/dumb, will I be happier if I buy this are more powerful than quality.

Adult learners are motivated by intrinsic factors (increased job satisfaction, self-esteem, quality of life, and the opportunity to self-actualize) to a far greater extent than extrinsic factors (job promotion, compensation, threat of negative consequences, required events).

Do we consider talking about the consequences of not knowing what needs to be learned in safety or compliance courses?  Do we share real success stories as part of leadership training?  or do we jump right into learning objectives and how they are met?

Do we understand our learner’s worries, fears, ambitions, and desires?  Do we know why they have chosen the work they are doing?  What makes them want to get up in the morning, commute, and deal with the challenges their work presents them with?

Another factor in any buying decision is the reputation of the seller among the buyer and those she trusts.  What this means is what people think of Learning and Development matters in the effectiveness of learning.  Yes, this means L&D should drive a learning culture and building learning campaigns that promote continuous learning.  But is also means attending to some tougher questions:

  • Does senior management trust that the L&D leaders understand the strategic and operational needs of the organization?
  • Do learning interventions interrupt the workflow or enhance it?
  • Are managers bought into the learning strategy or do they portray L&D as a necessary evil?

Let’s face it.  Learning is hard work.  In the end,  training may be mandatory, but learning is a choice.  When we ask employees to learn something and to change their behavior because of it, we are asking a great deal from them.  So the motivation needs to be powerful.  Emotion and aspiration are the most powerful motivators.

Next: Do as Marketing Does – Part 2 Relevance

What do you think?

  • What do you do to help you learners to buy-in to learning?
  • Do you market learning to your organization?  How?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.