Is L&D adapting to the times?

by L&D01 Nov 2016
With employees freer to move around the job market, competition for talent has increased significantly.
However, today’s resources mean that L&D has the expertise to engage people and equip them with the tools for professional growth, Liam Butler, VP EMEA Sales of SumTotal Systems, told The Training Journal.
Butler says investment in the L&D sector – as well as internal recognition of the importance of the HR department – has risen significantly.
What’s more, the commitment to improving performance in the professional development function has driven powerful changes in the way that L&D is provided and regarded. 
Below, Butler outlines some of the key considerations for organisations to consider as they navigate these changes.
L&D is now an employment benefit
The workforce is getting younger. Filled with Millennials and the beginnings of Generation Z, the workforce of today is considerably different to that of their predecessors. Today’s youth values greater flexibility, recognition of achievement and better opportunities for personal and professional development over financial incentives and material benefits. With Millennials now representing the largest demographic within the modern workforce, it’s more important than ever to recognise and cater to the needs of today’s employees. 
Technology enables advanced L&D
While advancements in technology have fuelled the need for continual training across multiple sectors, they have also enhanced the processes and platforms that enable employees to access information and increase their skills and knowledge. With the introduction of big data and advanced analytics processing, HR departments can now automate the process of monitoring learner progress and allocating relevant content to help learners achieve both their personal goals and the objectives set by the business. 
HR is taking a step back
With automation taking over much of the progress tracking, development planning and content allocation, HR is re-evaluating its role in the process of developing talent. It no longer needs to provide the mechanical aspects of L&D, including resource-heavy assessments, number crunching and profile analysis. Instead it can concentrate on providing the human elements of support, including advising candidates on how best to pursue their own goals and ensuring that their wellbeing is maintained. 
Work/life balance is a good thing for business
For many employers, work/life balance remains a difficult issue – not least because most see it as a negative development for the future of their organisation. However, while the primary intention is to provide some relief to employees who feel overworked and overstressed, it also gives them an opportunity to work when they are at their most receptive and productive. Few people are capable of continued concentration over long periods and there have been multiple reports in recent months suggesting that shorter working days would ultimately drive greater productivity.
Business is going mobile
As an extension of the work/life balance conversation, businesses are increasingly going mobile – allowing their employees to access company assets and information via remote connections. This brings many of the same benefits associated with flexible working, but it also enables workers to fit learning into parts of their day which would otherwise be lost, such as when commuting, waiting for appointments and so on. While this has been a positive motivator for businesses to adopt mobile learning platforms, the new driver is the increasing popularity of mobile devices with younger people. 
Personalisation is the key
Another revelation is that personalisation is the key to winning loyalty and establishing more effective engagement to promote better learning. PwC established that Millennial and Gen-Z workers want to follow their own path and they want to be recognised as individuals contributing equally to the overall success of their firm. This is no different in terms of their career progression – they want to choose their development pathways, see their own hard-earned success and, just as importantly, be seen succeeding by their superiors. 
A positive outlook
HR and L&D professionals have their work cut out for them. There are many challenges that lie ahead, not least the continued widening of the skills gap and, in the UK in particular, low productivity and workforce performance. However, the indicators are positive – the L&D sector is championing innovation and starting to harness the true capabilities of technology to bring professional development into the modern age.
Looking ahead, learning professionals will need to keep the learner front of mind. User experience has become the single most important factor in promoting successful apps and technology platforms. With the HR industry consistently looking for better ways to improve engagement and motivation, it will be necessary to continue to analyse and configure solutions to ensure that learners are provided with support, encouragement and relevant rewards throughout each stage of their professional development journey.