Friday, 21 November 2008

Day 2 - the future of learning

The Future of learning

The opening session for day 2 was a panel discussion on “The future of Learning”. This featured Bob Mosher, Jackie Lawlor of Royal Mail, David Clutterbuck, Clive Shepherd and Hugh Evans from Henley Business School.

Rory Cellan-Jones opened the session and shared his reflections on yesterdays sessions, he said that he had found exhibitors were offering everything from learning to cook, to driving a racing car and supporting Manchester United football club as part of his development. Rory as a non L&D professional, I found his view an interesting take on how some of our interventions could be seen from those "not in the know".

With these activities described in what could be seen as a frivolous manner, is it time for the profession to look at not only the underlying learning, but the face validity of the intervention – much like the changes in the psychometric industry in the 1990s.

How is L&D different from five years ago?
The them for the session was “how is L&D different from five years ago?"

Mosher started with the belief that we are more consultative that we once were. He said that in the US they are now starting to see what they call CLOs or Chief Learning Officers, individuals very senior in the organisation with responsibility for learning and development. This raising of the status is a strong indicator that many organisations are taking the development of people much more seriously and that it is a key business driver.

Jackie Lawlor noted the changes to the changes in delivery methodology, with a shift to taking the learning to the learner, rather then the previous model of the learning going to the learning.
Clutterbuck stated that in research his company had completed they were seeing an increased confidence in organisations using internal resources rather than bringing in external resources. For learning and development functions to be more effective Clutterbuck said that we need to look at the culture of the organisation as well as the operational processes and systems, rather than just the skills and behaviours of individuals. This will be a real challenge for many in the profession. We have in the passed focused on learning systems and programmes and now we need to concentrate on the quality and frequency of “informal conversations”

Clive Shepherd boldly stated that it was in fact the L&D profession itself which has been the most reluctant to change, and that if we don’t we could well be a dying breed. He said that we need to understand the needs of operational functions in our businesses and to change what we do and how we do it for both the survival of the L&D profession as well as the survival of our organisation in this challenging time.

Hugh Evans from Henley Business School highlighted that increasingly leaders of our businesses do not have the answers to the issues being faced and this opportunity for L&D to facilitate learning (not to provide solutions) is a significant opportunity for us. Learning he said is the key to survival using both formal and informal strategies.

Many managers do not have time or people they can talk to so that they often lack the ability to reflect on what is happening to make informed decisions – this is an interesting opportunity for us to grasp.

An unscientific straw poll
In an unscientific poll Rory asked the audience “How do you feel about the next six months for L&D?” the audience were:
  • 90% optimistic and
  • 10% realist (pessimistic).

Clutterbuck added that in a recent piece of research 66% of HR directors said that budgets were likely to increase in the future.

The discussion started to explore the value of SMART goals and the extent to which the range of these was changing from long term to short term tactical. The panel we not in agreement as to which was right in the current climate.

Overall a stimulating session, great for reflectors… not so good for the pragmatists.

Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. He has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via

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