Ten reasons why learning and development is sleepwalking into extinction

James Poletyllo reveals the 10 danger points that L&D must address if they’re to head redundancy off at the pass.

Reading time: 4 minutes

Organisations are crying out for performance improvement. The shelf-life of skills is now said to be five years and falling. We are told employees want learning in the flow of work. We should be creating cultures of learning.

So, workplace learning must have revolutionised, and our employees are getting exactly what they want, when they want, right? Sadly, this is not true.

For the majority, learning looks very much like it has for years. An annual refresher of tick, tick, tick e-learning and the occasional classroom course. There may be an online library of content that is rarely accessed.

While each organisation will, and should, create a learning culture unique to their needs and environment, there is a commonality to the elements which are part of a successful learning culture.

These include personalised, targeted and relevant learning, which engages learners and allows them to deliver in their roles and reach their objectives.

Collaboration and employees sharing their insights will be key. Learning will be available to everyone.

So why are we not changing?

This article identifies 10 key reasons why learning is not changing which, if not overcome, will lead learning functions to become redundant and their place taken by new business performance functions.

1. Success stories are few and far between

The changes required to create a learning culture can seem daunting and it is human nature for the majority to not change until they really have to.

For those who do wish to change, the success stories are not really there to inspire and learn from. This makes it hard to break organisational inertia and do something new, innovative and risky.

Lifting and shifting SCORM content is tempting but will not change anything

2. HR and learning are rarely at the top table

There has long been a debate about why HR does not have a seat at the top table; in many organisations learning is in the queue behind HR.

Unless learning is integral to a business, it is difficult to influence the changes required to bring about true cultural change and become the go-to function to drive business performance.

3. Companies generally play lip service to learning and take an initiative-based approach

Learning teams often survive by keeping hold of the budget and resources to deliver activity. This could be leadership or succession programmes, or training to tackle a topical issue such as GDPR or unconscious bias.

Linked to the issue of credibility, learning is rarely seen as a key investment to drive business performance. Some will even view creating a learning culture as an initiative with no view on how this grows and is sustainable.

4. The training model is not fit for purpose

The process of running a training needs analysis, prioritising needs, designing and piloting learning and then rolling out a solution is not fit for an agile world. The needs are rarely generic enough for this approach and by the time solutions are developed they are no longer relevant.

5. Failure of previous big HR tech promises

It is likely that any future-based learning culture will be enabled by technology. However, HR tech in many organisations has the same credibility as government-led tech initiatives. There are often inflated promises, delayed implementation and a poor user experience or take-up. This creates an extra hurdle when seeking investment in new technology.

6. A confusing learning tech market

If we agree learning tech is a key enabler to creating a great learning culture, we must also accept that the range of options to choose from can be mind-boggling.

How do you pick and get all of your stakeholders to agree? What is the difference between an LXP, LMS and LRS? Do your IT, procurement and learning teams all have the same objectives? Does this align with what your employees need and want?

7. Requirement to adapt content format

How do you create a content strategy which allows your content to remain up to date, relevant and aligned to your culture? Lifting and shifting SCORM content is tempting but will not change anything, nor will uploading PowerPoint presentations of previous training courses.

How will you approach curation, collation and creation? How will you encourage user-generated content?

8. The learning function needs to evolve its skillset

The learning team of the future will need to be business performance analysts – data-driven, marketeers, adapt at managing audiences, able to create and curate content. This is in addition to more traditional skill bases such as facilitation. Are you and your team willing or able to develop these skills?



9. An industry built on inertia

As with any industry facing disruption there are a huge number of individuals and organisations with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. They will have a personal, financial and emotional investment in current delivery models, platforms or content formats.

10. True success makes you relatively invisible – it does not play to the ego

As classroom training has evolved from lecturing to facilitation, enabling a learning culture moves the learning team into a different role. The team is there to encourage collaboration to make stars of employees. Success is through business and employees reaching their goals. Future roles in learning may appeal to those who have different drivers and motivators.


Creating a learning culture is not easy but it is perfectly achievable and those who have overcome these challenges are seeing the rewards for themselves, their employees and organisations.


About the author

James Poletyllo is director at The Learning Effect


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