New Disciplines of the Modern Training Organization

This month we are launching The High Impact Learning Organization®, a research study which has been more than three years in development.  During this time we have interviewed hundreds of corporate HR and training leaders and reviewed in-depth trends of more than 780 global organizations. 

Listen Audio Overview of this research:  click here.

As I have been discussing this research with our research members, I realize that one of the most profound changes that is taking place in corporate learning and development is the need for a new set of disciplines, a new set of skills and competencies.  The traditional “instructional design, development, and delivery” skills, while still important, are fading into the background.

New Skills and Disciplines

  • Facilitating learning, not Delivering learning.  In today’s networked organizations, informal or collaborative learning is now critical.  Rather than creating a learning program and delivering it to an audience, today’s high-impact learning organizations create learning opportunities – by creating communities of practice, social networking experiences, and subject-matter expert-led experiences.  NetworkAppliance, Cisco, Dell, Pfizer, IBM, and many of our other research members have transformed their learning organizations by providing tools and opportunities for experts to teach and share information. Such tools and systems include blogs, wikis, video studios, rapid e-learning tools, RSS feeds, and even “twitter” and other social networking tools. 
  • Information Architecture, not just Web Design.  In today’s corporate learning environment, it is not enough to build “compelling courseware” or an “easy to use LMS.”   We have too much information available to our employees and customers:  product documentation, job aids, online courses, how-to guides, videos, and more.  The critical skills needed are the ability to create an online experience which is relevant and usable for the employee at their time of need — and this requires a focus on information architecture, not just “ease of use.”  (For more information on “information architecture” please read our research.)
  • A Learning Architecture, not just Blended Learning.  The concepts of blended learning, which I first wrote about in 2003 and 2004, have not gone away.  In fact they are more important than ever.  But now you have so many choices of media, collaborative tools, simulations, and other forms of content that you must ration and simplify your choices.  The answer is what we call a “corporate learning architecture,” which describes the tools, approaches, and processes you will support in your organization.  It gives program managers and learning executives a recipe of what to do when.  Again, we discuss this in detail in our research.
  • Competency-Based, Role-Based, and Function-Based Learning, not just Learning Paths.  In today’s “content-rich” organizations, our job is now to create “relevance and context” not just “content.”  This means that when we create a learning program and some online experience to supplement it, we must consider how the learner will locate, use, and apply the content.  If the program is a career or leadership development program, it must be competency based.  If it is a performance-driven learning program, it may need to be role-based (e.g. defined and customized for a certain job role) or function based (e.g. defined and customized for certain job functions which may cross roles).  Each of these models requires a slightly different way of thinking about and developing content.

    A perfect example is sales training for a new product rollout.  Do you want to develop skills in product usage and demonstration?  Do you want to develop skills in sales objection handling?  Or do you want to build solution-selling skills?  Each possible training strategy will required content in different forms for different uses – and in most major product rollouts you need all elements!  Read our Learning Leaders® report on how Symantec solved this problem in their massive new security product rollout.
  • Integration with Talent Management, not just Driving Organizational Competencies.  Finally, one more “new discipline” which we must all address is the need to work closely with our talent management brethren.  In today’s talent-constrained organizations, the L&D organization must understand the needs for new career development programs and portals, integrated performance and development planning processes, competency-based assessment and recruiting, and onboarding.  These processes are not new to L&D professionals, but they take a different level of rigor and approach to the traditional “performance-driven” training programs.  They are more complex, take longer to implement, and require a deeper level of organizational commitment and change.

The Traditional Skills and Disciplines

 Many things in organizational learning have not changed.  You must still understand the principles of performance consulting, needs analysis, instructional design, and assessment.  Learning organizations must still partner closely with line managers and business executives to understand the skills needed to meet urgent new business priorities.  And they must continue to hold themselves accountable for measuring the adoption, alignment, efficiency, and impact of the L&D investment.

But while these disciplines remain, our research clearly shows that the “high-impact” organizations are focusing more and more on developing the new skills above.  Read more about the Top 18 High-Impact Best-Practices of High-Impact Learning Organizations in our research.

As always, I welcome your comments.  

(To get a copy of The High Impact Learning Organization® research report, click here.)