The Top Three Things Everyone In L&D Must Do To ‘Future-Proof’ Their Thinking

8 May 2018 | Josie Hopper | About a 6 minute read
Tags: CIPD, Development, L&D, Learning, Learning and development, martha fox

Here at AND, our award-winning Learning & Development (L&D) function – our Academy – is continuously trying to adapt fast to a continually changing digital skills landscape. The world of technology and digital is changing rapidly, with no signs of slowing down, so how can L&D keep up?


Here is my take on the three things everyone in L&D must do to ‘future-proof’ their thinking and my most impactful learnings that have driven these insights.


Be the best and learn from the best

Listening to Baroness Martha Fox‘s ‘keynote’ speech at the CIPD conference last November stressed to me the importance of listening to UK digital ’thought leaders’ and learning how best to implement new ideas into our own strategies. Her inspirational talk covered how the pace of change in technology, and the importance of embracing digital processes will really define future society. Her three fundamental points, over an impressive career as a serial entrepreneur, fit perfectly with AND Digital’s Academy strategy.

We must be able to constantly keep learning – we will never know everything. In the age of automation, maintaining technical fluency across roles will be critical, but the pace of change is fuelling demand for adaptable, critical thinkers, communicators, and leaders – also echoed in the recent LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report. L&D functions should be growing and developing resilience, entrepreneurship and intellectual curiosity in our people first to truly build a learning culture.

– We must always be in sales mode – by this we mean always having to convince people of the future. The LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report states – ‘as the shelf life of skills shrinks, we need to shift our focus from training for today’s skill demands; to preventing tomorrow’s skill gaps.’ Martha used a good analogy of this when she talked about how black taxis across London are focusing on the issues Uber bring to ordering taxis. However, they should be focusing on things like autonomous vehicles and thinking bigger on how the world of driving is changing.

– We must always have the best talent in our company – simple = attracting, developing and keeping it. L&D plays one of the most critical roles in the career growth of people today, yet according to the GetAbstract review of ‘70:20:10 Towards 100% Performance’, more than three-quarters of leaders don’t believe that L&D matters to business success.


Use curiosity and new ideas to push our boundaries

I went to a London Business Forum talk by Rod Judkins in February on Creativity. Rod quoted examples from his book Ideas are the Only Currency’ that reminded me how intellectual curiosity and an entrepreneurial spirit are two key factors in being able to push conventional thinking. He illustrated how Apple, Dyson and Tesla had not rested on their laurels, but kept pushing new ideas on top of existing ones.


Rod echoed Martha in that we need to prepare for a world that is fluid, global and interdisciplinary. Distinctions between specialities will blur and overlap; computers, the internet and technology reorder the world with alarming frequency. Innovative and creative thinkers, those who create products and services, now drive economies.


It should be no surprise for L&D professionals that a skill becomes redundant as it’s being learnt. Rod suggested we no longer only need to be skilled, brilliant and talented to be at the heart of the future world; but we also need to be ideas people – adaptable, open-minded, adept at problem-solving, communicators and inventors.


At AND Digital, we are already starting to foster an ‘ideas people’ mindset within our learning culture by asking intelligent, provocative and innovative questions to our business and our clients.


Embrace new technology throughout the learning processes

Recently I completed our AND Digital Towards Maturity Index which highlighted how well we have implemented learning technologies across six work streams of good practice (defining need, understanding learners, work context, building capability, ensuring engagement and demonstrating value). In the useful GetAbstract summary Unlocking Potential Releasing the Potential of the Business and its People Through Learning, Towards Maturity share the main research themes around what organisations are doing in terms of making learning more innovative. I took away some practical tips from paying particular attention to what the top 10% of L&D organisations are doing.

– Improve learning efficiency – the strongest tactics for improving learning efficiency include being sure you offer “appropriate and timely content” that uses the right technology and regularly review its success. At AND, we are striving to develop and deliver educational experiences that don’t “start and end in the course,” because learning should occur everywhere, all the time.

– Fine-tune learning processes – analyse the business and individual need before recommending solutions and work with a steering group of stakeholders.

– Boost business productivity – integrate job-learning aids into the workflow, leverage mobile learning and fit learning materials to corporate goals. We need to utilise “digitally enabled infrastructure” to maximise performance.

– Increase agilitydevelop “social and collaborative techniques” to improve communication, build communities of practice, collaborate and leverage “skills diagnostics.” As circumstances change, your employees will know what they need better than anyone.

– Influence culture – the tools that L&D professionals can deploy to shape culture company-wide include “user-generated content, podcasting, feeds” and “social bookmarking”. We also need to put a focus on “helping people to learn how to learn” so they can successfully adapt, make mistakes, keep a flexible mind and consider all possibilities.


Finally, having spent a number of rainy weekends watching the Netflix series Black Mirror, it made me think that the possibilities for Technology it suggests, are not as crazy as they sound. The series looks into modern society, particularly where humanity’s greatest innovations collide with the unanticipated consequences (often dark ones) of these technologies. We are already seeing signs of these concepts being brought to life, such as, virtual characters, rating people, recording memories, smart houses and even self driving pizza vans.


And, if this is the case, my final thought would be how L&D functions could produce a Black Mirror style idea? How could these collisions in Technology & Humanity affect the world of learning?


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