'Learners are becoming more sophisticated'

by L&D11 Aug 2016
In part two of our interview with Andrew Fletcher, head of learning at Mercer, we discuss key lessons learnt, big data and encouraging creative thinking.
LDP: What are some significant lessons you have learnt as an L&D practitioner?
AF: Learners are becoming more sophisticated and can detect the slightest hint of something that’s not authentic. Ensuring learning is a genuine experience in which the learner’s time is paramount and the most precious resource means avoiding contrived situations completely
Developing a cultural environment that truly embraces challenges and being aware of their outcomes is very important. Leadership takes experience, courage, time and genuine participation from all involved, particularly in management of relationships.
My Mercer colleagues and team have built an especially collegial and inclusive culture that encourages creative thinking and challenges the status quo in a constructive and respectful way. It allows you to develop your own thinking and testing in a meaningful fashion.
Natural curiosity has aided me to ensure I attempt to ask questions around an issue. I am encouraged that learning is a constant in an evolving world around us, as it is part of human nature. Consequently, L&D will always have its place.
LDP: What are some of the greatest challenges you are facing in L&D?
AF: Given 52% of organisations on the Fortune 500 list from 15 years ago no longer exist, it could be expected there will be more challenges as a result of organisations adapting to being combined and replaced.  
Generally these organisational changes are creating a major shift in the nature of our work with flatter structures and an emphasis on collaboration, creativity and the quality of our decision making. The challenge is to develop a learning culture that is embedding education to meet these organisational adaptations happening around us.
The importance of applying critical thinking to remain relevant and competitive is increasing. Creating and maintaining skills that are relevant to staff, clients and markets will mean engraining learning within us and aligning our own expectations (of significant challenge impacts) as we evolve in a society that feels time poor.
We need to acknowledge that L&D is isolated and transforming on its own isn’t effective. Transformation requires an element of process, information and tools but to drive real change this has to be an enterprise commitment, including sponsorship from the top.
Many challenges revolve around the pressure to perform as organisations at the same time we are expected to become leaner and to do more with less. So understanding how to communicate to stakeholders is essential in overcoming the inevitable roadblocks
LDP: Where do you see your L&D going in the future?
AF: Big data will continue to increase its role in and the effect it has on HR & L&D programs. At this point, I believe big data has the potential to evolve our collective skills into better understanding how to harness its potential power by asking the right questions and gaining skills to better explore linkages with our organisations.
Developments in neuroscience are advancing rapidly and helping us to understand changes with our brain functioning. Understanding how our brain thinks and stores memories is critical for our learning.
Just this month, it was reported by the National Institutes of Health that nearly 100 previously unreported regions of the brain were discovered. I find this an amazing body of work and an opportunity to develop more ways to deliver L&D.

To read part one of this interview, click here.
Mercer will be featuring at the Learning & Development Masterclass in Auckland. It takes place on 24 August 2016.