In the spirit of the New Year and all the hoped for changes we have planned in our personal and working lives I thought about how some of our clients might be thinking of transforming their professional endeavours to a whole new level.

If 2013 went by quickly for you then there is little chance 2014 will be any different.  We are living and working in environments that are changing so quickly that often we may not recognise change until it has already occurred.  Organisations are facing challenges dealing with change both within their workforce and outside in the macro environment in which they compete.

I had a discussion with a CEO of a state based Association.  He was lamenting the fall-off in memberships and the struggles they are having finding new ones.  He indicated they are certainly not alone in facing these challenges.  When you begin to analyse the issue you can see some of the reasons they are facing this predicament.

  • The demographics of their membership are changing fast.  The older members are retiring and the younger ones have not ‘grown up’ with a concept of what associations are or what they do.   Similarly in organisations there may not be the loyalty or sense of deep commitment to an organisation ‘out of the box’ with younger workers.
  • The associations are competing against so many other choices for spending time.  It is harder and harder to get a person to come to a face to face sit down meeting after a hard day of work.  Do workers want to take out a half or a full day to sit in a room for training?  If the training is aligned with a personal interest or identified real benefit yes, if it is intangible or unidentified then no.
  • People still want learning and development but they want it delivered more flexibly and not necessarily involving travel away from home.  Most associations offer learning and development as a core service to their members but when was the last time they asked the members what they wanted?  What they are interested in?  Are there some courses of interest that have nothing to do with the association but are still of interest?  The same goes in any organisation.  The courses that fit in the budget are those that are typically aligned with a strategy or initiative or compliance requirement.  Few companies consider other dimensions of their employees’ lives when considering interesting content to offer.

There are a few of these issues that could have at least some part of a resolution using technology.

What does this have to do with Learning and Development?  Everything. The same challenges confronting my friend in his association faces business leaders across the board.  How do you engage effectively with other people in a process of learning, development, collaboration and performance improvement?  I believe this challenge is one that the Learning and Development Professional is ideally suited to address with the right resources.

Whether it is an association seeking members or an organisation seeking to attract and retain great people, these are some ideas I have about transforming L & D from a department to a catalyst for change.

It is one thing to have an LMS, it is altogether another to use the LMS platform to enable personal learning journeys.  You need not cease the compliance management but you can add so much more to enable people to chart their own course to development.   I believe feedback using surveys and personal assessment tools enable greater insight into how people are working together and making decisions.

Collaboration and knowledge sharing platforms can be so powerful to communication vision, ideas and best practices.  Some of the systems I have seen are obviously imbued with fear as they have less than optimum levels of participation and even less honesty.  There is plenty of ‘vanilla communication’ but nothing approaching open and frank sharing of ideas and concerns regardless of title and status.

The catalyst for change can include inviting other persons to contribute and participate from outside your organisation.  The best examples I have seen of this include a focused approach that invites persons who have expertise or experience in topics of interest.  Of course if your collaboration/communication system is healthy you can measure interest in certain topics.

There are business people, entrepreneurs, academics, physical and mental health professionals, and so many others that are out there right now contributing in the ‘social media universe.’  You can provide some amazing learning and networking opportunities for your people by inviting thought leaders into your organisation.   I have seen this work with short webinars, PowerPoint presentations converted to e-learning content,  informal and formal coaching and engaging via the normal platforms such as Google + and LinkedIn.

These are just some ideas I felt I had to write down after conversing with my friend.  I meet so many learning and development professionals who demonstrate thought leadership, proactivity and innovation all the time.  It is the wise CEO and executive team who encourage and promote learning as both a means of attaining competitive advantage and encouraging people to become the best they can be.

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