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earning is dynamic by nature and professional development has seen


turbulent change throughout history. As soon as a solution appears to fit the shifting needs of the workforce, a new challenge emerges from the ashes and it is necessary to look further for more complex answers to overcome bigger obstacles. Te journey of modern learning and development has been an exciting one, underpinned by a commitment to positive change and expansion to new horizons. Looking back, the traditional


approach to learning at work was on the job, directly from experienced mentors. Employees tended to stay loyal to one employer to advance their own career. Today’s world, however, is a starkly different environment. Lower unemployment and an increase in available jobs have reversed the power dynamic almost entirely and the job seekers are in full control, demanding faster advancement and more fulfilling experiences at work.1 With employees freer to move


around the job market, competition for talent has increased significantly. In combination with a decrease in job security, businesses have suddenly found themselves in the middle of a gig economy – where freelancing is increasingly popular and employees are only looking for short-term contracts or ‘gigs’ to maintain a stable income. Te situation has not been helped by organisations’ over reliance upon buying talent, however, the spiralling cost of this practice has led to businesses looking at how to develop and nurture talent internally. Additionally, the rapid evolution


of technology has brought endless innovation into the workplace, which has severely shortened the useful life- time of newly learnt skills. As a direct result of these pressures upon business leaders, L&D has been elevated to one of the most important considerations for the continued success of a company. Investment in the sector, as well as internal recognition of the importance of the HR department, has risen significantly and the commitment to improving performance in the professional development function has driven powerful changes in the way that L&D is provided and regarded.


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L&D is now an employment benefit


Te workforce is getting younger. Filled with Millennials and the beginnings of Generation Z, the workforce of today is considerably different to that of their predecessors. Today’s youth values greater flexibility, recognition of achievement and better opportunities for personal and pro- fessional development over financial incentives and material benefits. With Millennials now representing the largest demographic within the modern workforce, it’s more important than ever to recognise and cater to the needs of today’s employees. However, businesses are still not


effectively addressing this issue, as highlighted by Deloitte’s 2016 Millen- nial Survey,2


which revealed that this


demographic largely feels underutilised and undervalued, particularly when it comes to being developed into leaders. In order to attract younger workers and ensure that they remain motivated and productive, more businesses will need to integrate professional development opportunities into their benefits pack- ages. Tis also offers multiple benefits to the employer, including benefiting from greater employee productivity and better retention rates, while being able to establish talent pipelines to prepare the leaders of tomorrow.


Technology enables advanced L&D


While advancements in technology have fuelled the need for continual training across multiple sectors, they have also enhanced the processes and platforms that enable employees to access information and increase their skills and knowledge. With the introduction of big data and advanced analytics processing, HR departments can now automate the process of monitoring learner progress and allo- cating relevant content to help learners achieve both their personal goals and the objectives set by the business. For the first time, employees can


take some level of control over their own career development as their feedback can be used to shape their advancement in line with their capabil- ities and the available succession routes within the business. It also represents a step forward for HR professionals, saving them time and even enhancing their capabilities in terms of identifying


complex patterns which can indicate the most suitable candidates for future leadership. Cited as the most important function of modern HR technology, automation is the key to both streamlining and improving the development of promising employees.


HR is taking a step back


With automation taking over much of the progress tracking, development planning and content allocation, HR is re-evaluating its role in the process of developing talent. It no longer needs to provide the mechanical aspects of L&D, including resource-heavy assessments, number crunching and profile analysis. Instead it can concentrate on providing the human elements of support, including advising candidates on how best to pursue their own goals and ensuring that their wellbeing is maintained.


To attract younger workers and ensure that they remain motivated and productive, more businesses will need to integrate professional development





opportunities into their benefits packages


Tis doesn’t come without


risks, however, as a recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD)3


suggests


that the visibility of HR departments within their own organisations has suffered as a result of reduced contact with employees. Where interaction between workers and HR has decreased, many employees have lose sight of the department’s significance in their development journey. In order to maintain a stable and mutually beneficial relationship with the workforce, HR professionals will need to ensure that they are available for face-to-face consultations and support sessions, thereby ensuring that they remain relevant in the eyes of the employees in their care.


 | june 2016 | 33


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