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The Future of Learning - The Skills You Need

Learning teams have been in a constant state of flux and change over the past few years. Whether this is changes resulting for the pandemic and change of working styles or the need to develop people more quickly as skill and talent shortages and the changing requirements for skills bite. The latest challenge is the long predicted emergence of Generative AI as headlined by ChatGPT.

With all these things challenges facing your learning team the composition of your learning teams will invariably need to change. These will be in areas of culture, budget, resources, systems and skills.

Thinking about the more fundamental changes you should make to the way you develop your people, will provide additional insight into the skills you have today and those you need tomorrow.

In recent years a number of new roles have begun to emergence such as Performance Architect, UX designer, data analyst, cohort managers, organisational facilitator and content curators. This are likely to be joined or replaced by other roles yes to come. Teams will soon have roles dedicated to harnessing the power of generative AI.

Given these challenges below is some guidance to help you think about how to approach the reshaping of your learning function.

Skills not Roles

Whilst it is tempting to talk about roles, it is probably more pertinent to look at skills and capabilities which you need in order to support your organisation and your people. Looking beyond roles allows you to think about resources in a more agile way. For each skill you should consider the extent to which you will need that skill. You can then decide how best to acquire the skills. A useful model to use is Buy, Build, Borrow or Bot.

Buy – Do you need to hire in the skill to your team

Build – Do you need to develop this skill within your existing team

Borrow – Do you occasionally need this skill and therefore access this skill for relevant periods either from another internal function or external from freelancers, consultants or partners

Bot – Can you use technology to deliver this aspect of your delivery through automation, machine learning etc

Which Skills?

To a greater or lesser extent the skills below are those which are needed within a future focussed learning function. If you were a one-person L&D team you would find yourself doing all of the below to a greater or lesser level of depth. In a large multinational business some capabilities may be across the team whilst others may be unique to a role or outsourced. A basic knowledge of how these components work and interconnect is a requirement for all learning roles. You will notice one clear omission is that of Subject Matter Experts. Being a subject matter expert should not be a requirement of being part of a learning team or being a learning professional. Learning teams ensure that information is shared, understood and available when it is needed. Accessing and collaborating with Subject Matter Experts is key, being a Subject Matter Expert is not.

Consultancy Skills – Being able identify where you can add most value to your business is the most critical capability within a learning team. For a learning team to move forward it needs to be driven by the fact that learning is not an outcome but business performance is. Having this mindset and the associated consultancy skills will allow teams work with stakeholders to refine requests and ensure that impact is maximised

Content Identification – A modern learning professional needs to be able to identify those interventions which will help support the relevant business performance challenge. This may be learning content, job aids, tools, information forums etc. Skills needed to achieve this include: Interviewing, Storyboarding, Research and the ability to encourage User Generated Content.

Content Creation – Identifying what content is needed is closely aligned to deciding how this content should be formatted and shared. Being able to quickly and inexpensively produce content is critical. Evergreen pieces of content should be supplemented with topical or timebound content. Development times should be short with content being able to be digested and accessed in bite sized chunks or as part of structured learning paths if appropriate. Quality and impact should lead rather than branding and design. Your content creation strategy should align with your content creation strategy. Skills you should have or have access to include: Animation, Videography, Audio, Written, Design. Procuring or developing long scorm based e-learning courses if used at all should be a very limited part of your strategy.

Content Curation – Sourcing and surfacing content form external sources if a key component in an agile content strategy. With pace of change ever increasing, the time to reinvent the wheel and reproduce content in a highly bespoke way is rarely worth the time effort of money. A good generic piece of content together with an infographic, short video etc to provide context is often a far better way of meeting the need. Curating from external sources can either be paid or from free to the world sources. Beware that putting in a paid external source with no real purpose is a really easy way to waste budget. Linking in loads of external content with no real purpose (content blasting) is a really easy way to disengage and confuse your people. Curation and sharing should be encouraged and be carried out by people across your organisation. These are great skills to help shape your learning culture.

Rapid Authoring – The ability to produce content quickly is key. How do you change up and update guidance on the go? Over time putting together a PowerPoint presentation has become a core skill for most Learning and Development professionals. In the same way producing a bite sized video, infographic, short animation, podcast etc should all be core skills of learning and development going forward and should not be only available through outsourced partners.

Experience and Service Design ­ - Learning teams are providing a service to their organisations and it’s people. Elements and service design and user experience design should be understood by all. Employees are expecting consumer grade experiences in all parts of their life. Processes should be intuitive easy to use, content should be succinct and to the point, personalisation should drive experience rather than generic sheep dipping

Service Delivery – As providers of a service the way this service is delivered should be managed, reviewed and enhanced with similar approaches as those taken to your organisation’s customers. It is possible for the very best designed services to fall down at the point of execution.

Project Management – As organisations become ever more connected it is critical that relevant parts of organisations work in sync to design your products, services and ways of working and ensure that your people have the skills and abilities to deliver these within your culture. Effective project management skills enable you to deliver complex projects with multiple dependencies and stakeholders

Data Analysis - Data is the key to you understanding your business, its performance and your impact. Data should be approached objectively. Differing types of data should be sought and used to understand issues and the impact of solutions. A test and learn approach should be taken with curiosity applied to date rather than data used to prove or disprove a position or view.

Organisational Facilitation – Learning and development used to happen through one to one or one to many delivery, or self-study This may have been expert to learner or peer to peer learning. In essence this has not changed, but we now have a vast array of tools in which these activities now operate. The approaches are similar but you may need to apply your existing skills differently. How do you run and host and webinar? How do you encourage user generated content? How do you keep an online community alive, relevant and useful?

Written by James Poletyllo, Founding Director of the Learning Effect

The Learning Effect exists to help businesses enhance their performance through their approach to learning. Our wealth of in-house experience combined with our knowledge of the learning tech market and results driven approach make us your go to partner if you are looking to review and change your approach to your learning strategy, the structure and skills of your learning team or your learning technology get in touch.

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