Learning Practitioners: You Are The Change

Your Organization Needs You More Than Ever Before

On Twitter recently, the Association for Talent Development (@ATD) asked a question: "What’s your biggest piece of advice for #talentdevelopment professionals right now?" A valid question. My reply (@bizlearningdude) was simple, direct, and obvious, "Don't be the change...you ARE the change, so act like it. Your organizations need you more now than ever before." Now, why would I be so brave to make this bold statement? It results from years of interactions with learning practitioners about how they feel undervalued or even irrelevant. As an active and engaged participant in the Learning and Development space, I find it fascinating (that no matter the circumstances) how many practitioners complain, in good times and in bad, how stakeholders don't value their efforts.

The reality is that this is so far from the truth and so far from reality, it's not funny. In survey after survey of organizational leaders, fostering of knowledge and development of people are often in their top 5 forward looking priorities. The LinkedIn Learning 3rd annual 2019 Workplace Learning Report states, "Increased budgets and executive support are paving the way for talent developers to play a more strategic role."

Additionally, albeit anecdotally, learning practitioners are often first and loudest to state how they are the ones to champion change and bearers to improving performance. And they are right; they are the ones to lead this charge. The question then is why are they not taking charge and answering their stakeholders Call-To-Action?

Opportunity Is Knocking...Loudly!

Change is something that happens constantly and quickly. For that reason alone, learning should be at the forefront since "change" consequently leads to learning. The issue is that "change" is constant and learning often gets lost in the noise and trying to focus on what's relevant becomes a challenge; that's because everyone has an opinion as to what is the most important issue.

But it's 2020 and that's pretty much self-explanatory. But if you remain unclear, a rare catastrophic pandemic is upon us and people are looking for guidance in an uncertain and unpredictable changing environment. This is why this unique event makes learning more relevant than ever and should be providing stakeholders with a common focus and purpose. Regretfully, the tragedy of the pandemic is simply a golden opportunity for learning practitioners.

We Have The Technology...We Can Fix This

Complacency is the enemy of progress. The good news is that global societal events, like this pandemic, shake out the cobwebs of complacency. They force us to develop solutions to unforeseen problems we would otherwise ignore. It really doesn't matter whether you agree, a collective new reality in the way we do everything, especially how and where we work and learn, will probably change permanently and hopefully for the better.

Once this is over, whenever that occurs, learning will be a silent hero. But until that happens will learning practitioners step up? In the long term, the answer is yes; in the short term, the answer is we'll have to wait and see. It's not skepticism or pessimism, it's more about how will learning step up to the plate. One thing is for sure, the learning skills and technology are available for practitioners to help us transition to the new world.

The first step is for practitioners to stop begging for leadership acceptance and start doing what they do best, designing and delivering learning through innovative and effective means. We have the means but do we have the collective will?

It's more than simply transitioning all learning into eLearning deliverables. Technologies are only a means to an end and not the solution itself; however, in a COVID world, eLearning technologies are an exceptionally relevant means.

Stakeholders expect you to step up and share your subject expertise to make this work. Please don't simply jump to an implicit solution or conclusion. Rather, they're expecting you to investigate what's required to facilitate this significant shift, assess the learning requirements, and ensure everyone is appropriately skilled and supported to take on the new world challenges.

Time To Shine

If you're seeking a quick answer on how to handle this situation so you come out smelling "rosie," you won't find it here. One thing I know for sure is that it's every learning practitioners' time to shine since this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

There are very few who are able to step up to make the world a better place in times of strife. Naturally, the first heroes in any pandemic are always the front-line healthcare workers and we should thank them for their courage and sacrifice. Those in learning, while they lay hidden and out of public view, are also heroes ensuring people seamlessly adapt to the new reality and are able to cope with unforeseen changes.

Don't be the change, help those around you embrace the change. Stop undervaluing your role and efforts; your stakeholders are expecting everything from you so make it happen. You are the change so start acting like it.

Living In A New World

We're all living in this time of crisis. Learning is central to awareness; take pride in what you do. You're essential to helping people get through tough situations and helping them solve problems. Realize your value isn't only in the learning you produce but in how you're able to deploy it effectively to everyone, especially in times like these.

I want to extend my knowledge and expertise to anyone who requires it without obligation. Should you require support, guidance, counsel, or simply just want someone to lend an ear, please don't hesitate to contact me through Twitter. My handle is BizLearningDude.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We’d enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbelearning!

Please be safe and please stay healthy.