Changes to the workplace, the competencies for leadership
development, and technologies will alter the way learning
professionals approach training design and delivery.
Change can be scary. If you agree, then 2010 has been a scary year.
Along with the challenges of the economic recession, social media
tools exploded onto the scene, five generations in the workforce
created a whole new workforce dynamic, and talent retention and
engagement concerns became everyday issues.
Mistrust in our leaders emerged as consumers expressed serious
frustration with corporate America, where CEOs continued to give
themselves big bonuses while laying off workers. The workplace
culture changed, as did the landscape of learning. T+D examines
some of the major issues that affected employees, organizations,
and the world of learning
Whats wrong with leadership?
In 2010, more than one survey surfaced reporting that many
employees have no aspirations to assume a leadership role within
their organizations, and more than one expert writing about
leadership development asked the question: Can ethics be taught?
Consumers had a low perception of leaders and very little trust in
corporate America. The BP oil spill was just the latest catastrophe
that has eroded trust among leaders. This mistrust is forcing
changes in the way leaders are developed and the competencies that
Leaders must be transparent, Steve Arneson, founder of Arneson
Leadership Consulting, said in an interview for ASTD Links Plus.
They must be able to talk about failures and successes. When
Tylenol thought there was tampering, it pulled the product off the
shelves. You have to be honest with your customers.
The recent economic recession is changing the way employees view
employers, work, and relationships, according to Charlene Li,
founder of Altimeter Group and author of Groundswell and Open
Leadership. Empowered customers and employees will not sit by on
the sidelines and accept business as usual, she wrote in her book,
Open Leadership. The recent economic recession has seen a marked
decline in business confidence, causing CEOs to promote greater
transparency in operations and company financials to build customer
and investor trust.
So, what has gone awry in leadership development, and what can
workplace learning and development professionals do to help change
negative perceptions of leaders? The training profession has
traditionally approached leadership from a skills perspective,
emphasizing communications and business skills aimed at producing
better decisions, Doug Harward, president of Training Industry
Inc., told Paul Harris in a March T+D feature article. We havent
done a good job of teaching about ethics or the leadership
Arneson agrees, but questions whether ethics can be taught.
Integrity and honesty are hard things to teach in leadership
development classes. Some people think, You either have it or you
dont. I would tend to agree with that. It is hard to open up
someones head and dump in five pints of integrity.
Lets get social
While most organizations and people are using Twitter, Facebook,
and blogs to deliver critical messages and market products and
services, the critical question surfacing in 2010 asked how
workplace learning fits into this phenomenon. Historically, the
learning community has stayed away from informal learning and
social learning, and that is where most of the learning is taking
place, ASTD CEO Tony Bingham said during an interview promoting his
new book, The New Social Learning, with co-author Marcia Conner. We
now have the tools, and the catalysts, to engage [employees] with
that kind of learning. I think that is going to help the learning
community take it to the next level.
An ASTD and Institute for Corporate Productivity study made a
strong business case for using social media to enhance
productivity. Millennials found social media tools more helpful in
terms of learning and getting work done than Generation X workers
or Baby Boomers. More organizations dabbled in social media during
2010, using shared workspaces, social networks, and wikis to
deliver learning and development.
The next generation of workers coming into organizations will
demand the ability to work in ways theyve already found to enable
success, wrote Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd in a July 2010 T+D
article. If the learning function does not step up to the task,
some other department in the organization will, and the learning
function will become irrelevant.
As Daniel Pink wrote in The New Social Learning foreword, social
learning will not replace training and employee development, but it
can accomplish what traditional approaches often cannot [It] can
supplement instruction with collaboration and co-creation, and in
doing so, blur the boundary between the instructor and the
instructed. It can bring far-flung employees together into new
communities in which they can not only learn from one another, but
also fashion new offerings for customers. In short, social media
can change the way your company works.
Productivity and performance
As organizations met the challenges of this difficult economic
recession, a new buzzword emerged: high-performing. Organizations
had to learn to compete in a completely new workplace with fewer
resources and workers and more expectations. That meant finding
ways to develop and keep top talent and to help employees excel in
more effective and efficient ways.
However, trends emerged showing U.S. job satisfaction at its lowest
point in two decades, making employee engagement and retention of
top performers critical talent management issues in 2010. According
to Jeff Garton, author of ASTDs Career Contentment: Dont Settle for
Anything Less, employers need to stop believing that they can
control how workers think and feel, and therefore how well or
productively they perform.
For performance improvement to be effective, it cant rely on trying
to control how workers think, which is impossible, or making
workers temporarily happy and artificially enthused to fulfill
purposes that are not their own, Garton wrote in a July ASTD Links
article. Instead, it involves capitalizing on a workers
self-motivation, natural engagement, and resilience to perform well
by control of her contentment derived from fulfilling her own
purposes for working.
To leverage an employees performance, workplace learning and
performance professionals should help organizations and especially
middle managers create a culture that allows for innovative ideas
to flourish, provide work that employees deem meaningful to the
organization and their career paths, give workers control over what
they do and how they do it, and recognize and reward employees
decisions to be content.
The new 24/7 world
The greatest technology growth of 2010 came with mobile devices,
and thus, one of the biggest changes in workplace learning came via
smartphones. Mobile phones have become an extension of the
workplace and have made the world of work a 24/7 reality, but how
have they changed learning?
An IBM study, published in the January 2010 issue of T+D,
highlighted two main purposes for mobile phone use: in-field
performance support and access to current, just-in-time information
that is relevant to a specific project or task. But an even more
important reason to venture into the world of mobile learning is
that newer workers in the workforce, the Millennials, are demanding
The need to make social media and mobile learning a part of the
workplace to attract, engage, and retain the younger generations is
forcing learning professionals to explore new and innovative ways
to deliver learning on these inexpensive devices, anytime and
Merrill Lynch and Accenture created mobile learning projects that
saved time and increased productivitytwo valuable commodities in
this new work environment. Job aids, podcasts, and support
materials surfaced as perfect training tools to use in the mobile
world, but as Judy Brown wrote in T+Ds February Technology column,
to begin any conversation on mobile learning, learning
professionals must ask, When is mobile delivery appropriate?
Morgan Stanley estimates that by 2015, more users will connect to
the Internet via mobile devices than by desktop PC. Our world,
Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd wrote in a July T+D article, will
turn into three-minute learning vignettes. GPS sensitivity,
according to Meister and Willyerd, will help new hires find
checkpoints so they can learn the company and its history, and
could alert us when we are near an expert in a topic of our choice.
Perhaps the future role of learning is to find, organize, and
enable the experts, Meister and Willyerd wrote.
Learning is trending toward the user and the moment of need.
Workplace learning and performance professionals need to redefine
the role that mobile learning will play in their learning
initiatives because if they dont, they risk being left behind in
this new workplace paradigm.
Ready or not
This new workplace, and the new competencies and expectations that
are a part of it, will not wait for executives or organizations to
embrace it. This change is happening quickly, whether organizations
are ready for it or not. So it is now time for learning
professionals to adapt to these changes; create new strategies for
learning, employee development, and engagement; and find their
place in this new workplace structure.
Note: This article is excerpted from T+D