Friday, 1 April 2011

l&D: Your Guide-on-The-Side

J.K. Galbraith, the well-known economist said, “There are those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know,” commenting on people who try to predict the future. I would not like to fall into the second category by trying to predict the future of learning and development, but it will possibly be worth exploring the macro-factors that will significantly impact learning and development in the times to come.

That technological advancement is and will be a change enabler is a fact of life today; the other factors that I believe would change the landscape of L&D are the changing demographic profile of our working population and the shift of economic power from the west to the east. Global connectivity and a diverse multi-location workforce have already moved a large percentage of L&D activities from the physical to the virtual space. Technology has enabled on-demand learning; social networks and learning environments have enhanced the informal learning phenomenon in workplaces; and these have augmented formal learning and development initiatives. L&D professionals believe that in the near future 80 per cent of learning will be on-demand and informal while 20 per cent would be formal. With telecommuting catching up, we might soon see a day where teams will come together only on days of team-building and learning initiatives.

The change in the demographic profile and the abundance of accessible information have also changed the equation between the trainer and those being trained. Access to information which was earlier available only to experts, has empowered individuals to challenge experts and authority, and the role of the trainer has changed from that of a “sage-on-the-stage” to a “guide-on-the-side”. L&D professionals are chagning and will have to change the way they deliver training and create new interactive content which will better suit this new reality. With growth in the number of employees who come from rural and semi-urban areas, it has also become imperative that vernacular e-learning content be developed, and indeed we have seen a number of content developers explore this space.

With the growing might of the Asian economies, specifically that of China and India, L&D will need to rethink and redesign programmes, that today are fundamentally western in context, to programmes that take into consideration the cultural as well as the ground realities of the eastern economies. Working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, as well as working in geographies with a culture that is different, require certain skills as well as some specific knowledge, and L&D will play a vital role in this area.

With the growing importance of L&D in the business context, forward-looking organisations have started leveraging the function as a vehicle for change, innovation, and strategic growth. In this issue you will find perspectives from practitioners and businesses that are trying to build resources and stay ahead of the curve through innovative L&D practices. The challenges that lie ahead for the L&D community are complex, but the opportunities are enormous. It is time for the community to grab this opportunity and shape its own destiny, because the only way to predict the future is to invent it.

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