A changing role for Learning & Development: ‘curating learning ecosystems?’
To deliver the needs for a broader, fast-changing curriculum, there has been much comment recently that the future of L&D will be about ‘curating not creating’ learning for professionals and creating ‘personalised learning clouds.’
In other words, as career paths become more varied, and new roles – each with different skill requirements – are invented more regularly by organisations employing professionals, L&D functions will never be able to build (and re-build) sufficiently quickly all the programmes which their professionals need as they move through their increasingly individualised ‘career lattice.’
The role of the L&D function will therefore need to be more about ‘curating’ a rich set of flexible learning resources from both outside and inside the organisation, and less about creating internal content which often fails to demonstrate a sufficient return on investment.
Our research indicates that part of this ‘curation’ will be an increasing focus on blended learning and the use of digital resources to offer choice in how people access learning on an informal and ongoing basis, and this is an area where L&D itself needs to be ready to make a significant shift. As Jane Daly, Chief Insight Officer of benchmarking organisation Towards Maturity comments:
'Our 2019 Towards Maturity survey of L&D in the finance and insurance professions highlighted a massive leap in the use of learning technology, with 33% of firms now integrating digital learning, up from 7% in 2017. It’s interesting, though, that what we also found was that there is still an overall emphasis on formal learning programmes, and L&D teams self-assessed that they need to significantly develop their own capabilities to manage the change to a more self-directed and informal style of technology-enabled, ongoing learning. Part of their challenge is that L&D often operate in an environment where such approaches are not common: our 2019 data reports that self-directed learning is common practice in only 28% of organisations in these sectors, compared with 64% of organizations which rank highly for learning across business more broadly. So it is going to be about changing the habits of the learners too.'
Some large firms have already begun a shift to support this need for more digitally-enabled, personalised and ongoing learning, and have focused also on adding certifications or ‘badges’ to allow their team members to credentialise their new capabilities, accessed as micro-qualifications for their next role and career phase.
EY, for example, launched its own ‘EY Badges’ programme in 2017 with external partner Udemy, conscious that its own team members were already seeking out such courses themselves.
Another reason that ‘curating’ content available from a range of resources could be a useful approach for future ongoing education for professionals is that otherwise, organisations will need an extremely high level of investment to ‘build’ internally all the programmes they are likely to require with such a diverse learning agenda.
L&D budgets in professional firms have been increasingly stretched over the past decade, with one study showing the budgets for L&D in law firms fell by more than 50% as a proportion of firm turnover between 2005 and 2018, with the annual learning budget per fee earner falling from £933 to £480 in the same period.
At the same time, perhaps not surprisingly given our summary above of the shift in capabilities which firms have identified in this period, the proportion of L&D budget spent on skills training increased significantly from 38% to 91% of the L&D budget in the same firms.