OPEN Session Summary – Trends in Learning and Development 2011
At the January 19 OPEN (Organizational and Personal Effectiveness Network) forum to discuss trends in learning and development into 2011, conversation covered a range of topics. What is the current environment for learning and development in organizations? I had expected to hear about trends we’d been observing in 2010 – shorter courses in response to tighter budgets, increased use of e-learning and blended learning or generational appetites for social networking and self-directed internet research using such as TED Talks and You Tube. Instead the conversation revolved around two age old issues in learning and development – senior management support and transfer of learning.
What we heard
Whether establishing organizational learning frameworks, introducing programs that support key initiatives such as casework practice or Lean or using learning tools such as coaching or 3d immersive technology, effective learning is dependent on the organizational culture. Passionate practitioners representing 7 organizations at the OPEN session agreed that senior management support is crucial to create and sustain a learning culture. While grass roots initiatives can work over time, it takes executive buy in to ensure that learning happens and that it is sticky. An executive champion needs to link learning to key organizational objectives. Stories were shared of learning initiatives or tools scuttled because one senior manager didn’t support.
The conversation noted that senior management support needs to be balanced by individual ownership for learning. Participants shared approaches to support ownership of informal and formal learning – clear outcomes meaningful to the participant, specific skills as indicators of mastery and progress, supervisory supports to guide specific conversations about the learning, a safe environment, frameworks for managing knowledge and information without too many rules, as well as hiring practices to identify and recruit ‘lifelong learners’.
OPEN participants seem to agree that learning occurs along a continuum of experience through events. The success of the approach is whether the learning shows up on the job. What did they think contributes to the transfer of learning? Support – follow-up with peers through formal or informal communities of practice, ongoing coaching conversations with the supervisor and tools such as Friday Five supported by the 6D Learning Framework. The benefits and limitations of linking learning to performance planning and evaluation were discussed. The general conclusion was that because there isn’t buy in to performance management processes that the linkage may result in learning being driven by filling out the form, selecting training events vs. learning experiences and limit learning conversations to annual events. A provocative proposition was posed by a participant. What if our jobs and resulting conversations with our bosses were all about our learning?
The spirited OPEN conversations shared many best practices and proposed practices – stories that connect and make learning real, the global classroom, creating critical mass where people develop a shared mental model and language, video games and avatars, less PowerPoint. Discussing the trends and future of our field is important work. The most powerful message that I took away is that these practices and tools need to be supported by a learning culture – the type of environment described by Peter Senge, Margaret Wheatley and Peggy Holman. As passionate leaders of learning and development we are learning facilitators. We help create the environment – influencing at every level to take the risk out of learning, encouraging the freedom to connect at any level and allowing the continuous learner in each of us to engage in the ever important learning journey.
Thank you to the participants of the OPEN breakfast session that contributed to this important conversation.