In the T+D article Learning Gets Social, Tony Bingham paraphrases something I said:
In the May issue of T+D, Tony Karrer, an e-learning technologist and CEO of TechEmpower, encouraged companies to start adapting to the current trend in informal learning because otherwise, they will find themselves marginalized in the business.
I thought it would be good for me to put some context around what I meant by this. Especially given that there's been some push-back on the term "marginalized."
In the Business of Learning, I pointed out that there were some pretty significant questions facing the training industry. Budgets have been hammered this year, and there's a question as to what spending levels will look like going forward. During the Free Online Conference – Future of Learning we heard different perspectives.
- Skill Building Still in Demand. There was definitely the belief that there are continued need for skills development. If anything, there is increased need.
- Catalogs / Courses Commoditization. At the same time, the business of selling a catalog of courses is seen as being tough going forward. Unless you do something to differentiate yourself in a real way, you will be more and more of a commodity.
- Many Ways to Differentiate. We heard several people talking about focus on performance. We heard about use of assessments. There was discussion about a lot of the things that need to happen outside the training event.
While there are great content vendors out there, I really didn't hear anyone who was claiming that being a content vendor was a great business right now. Instead, they talked about other kinds of things that would differentiate them in the marketplace.
I believe the same thing is true for internal learning and development organizations. If you are seen as being the place you go for training / content production, there will still be need for your work, but it will be under greater pressure, just like external training suppliers.
There are some other big picture trends going on that have impact on this:
- Faster pace
- Greater focus and value on high end concept work
- Job fragmentation – fewer people in any single job role
- Shorter job tenure
These pressures suggest that there are greatly increased learning needs within organizations. However, less of these learning needs will be successfully met by traditional methods. If you look at what makes a good situation for formal learning:
- Large Audience
- Similar Level / Needs
- Known, Stable Content
- Few Out of Bounds Cases
Of course, these are almost the opposite of the trends I mentioned. So, while formal learning solutions will make a portion of how learning will occur, the increased demand for learning will be met through other forms.
This leaves us with the questions:
- What the role of learning and development relative to all of this?
- If L&D leadership chooses to focus primarily on traditional methods and less so on informal learning opportunities, will they be marginalized in the business.