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The changing landscape of learning

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Like the rest of HR, the L&D function is rapidly evolving. Shalini Bhateja, director of talent management at Schneider Electric APAC and Middle East, shares advice on riding this wave of change.

Singapore – The learning landscape in organisations is shifting and a new era is being created in the development industry. This change, which has its roots in digitisation, social platforms and search engines, is not brought in by the needs of the learner, but by the change in technology that is transforming every aspect of our lives.

New technology can be disruptive, but the pace of this change and speed of its adoption, especially with Gen Y, can drive the shift of the learning landscape.

In the past, the learning and development industry started out with training – and it was all about training programmes.

The focus then shifted to development, which led to designing programmes that were structured and had some continuity. Thereafter, the focus shifted to a more holistic development, which revolved not just around education, but around the other 2E’s – experience and exposure.

This marked the beginning of the convergence between the L&D functions and talent management functions. It was where both of the teams started working together to find ways to develop people with trainings, cross-functional projects, different experiences and mobility. Now we need to move one step ahead with the changing technology.

In March 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica announced a move to cease the printing of its books, while changing its business model. This change for the company was brought about by technology – the same kind of change impacting the learning industry.

However, this doesn’t mean training and existing development models will cease to exist. Instead, it means there will be a shift in the proportion of learning and e-learning.

In the past decade, e-learning has changed in many ways; it has changed the learning experience and learning management systems, and it has also revolutionised the way we manage trainings and other development interventions.

With the existence of search engines, one may ask what else can change.

The learning model is becoming more autonomous, shifting from a model in which training organisations define the learning experience to one where the user defines the training.

There are also new expectations to deliver learning in a variety of modalities such as laptops, mobile devices and videos.

This means functional and leadership learning can be done through different ways in this byte-size autonomous learning model, where the user can choose how they may prefer to learn.

The other major shift revolves around creating a social learning environment and learning through creating communities of practice. Even though these are informal ways of learning, they also need facilitation and structure.

It is a common myth social learning is an open, free-for-all world where learners go online, communicate with peers and comment about what they have learned. In principle this is true, however, there will only be effective learning if they are structured and facilitated.

Many tools targeted towards this kind of learning exist in the market today and users are already using them proactively.

While organisations recognise the power of social learning, knowing how to effectively use these tools is the challenge – because in principle, what is self-directed learning is not actually self-directed.

This is where the role of L&D professionals comes into the picture because they play their part in directing or orchestrating such self-directing learning by animating discussions and giving them some structure.

Note that this way of learning not only develops, but also transforms the way we exchange information and the way we do business. The whole approach of creating communities though sharing can be transformational to an organisation and drive a whole new level of efficiency.

This brings in another paradigm shift in the L&D landscape. When the 3E’s were first introduced into development, L&D ceased to be just a training organisation, but contributed to the holistic development, and hence started working in synergy with the talent management function.

Now with this transformational evolution, L&D will start to work in the organisation development space, where it will move from individual learning to organisational learning in the future.



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