Learning and Development 4.0

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Midge Streeter

Let’s step back for a minute and review the journey that brought us to this point in time which I call Learning and Development 4.0.

As we reflect on the journey and the future practices of L & D, it is imperative that we are talking the same language. As Robin Williams once reminded us, “No matter what people tell you, words matter and ideas can change the world."

Digitization vs. Digitalization vs. Digital Transformation

Digitization of information, or digitizing, is technically explained as the representation of signals, images, sounds, and objects by generating a series of numbers, expressed as a discrete value, and represented by binary numbers. That is straight forward.

Digitalization of industries and organizations is the organizational process or business process of the technologically induced change within industries, organizations, markets and branches.

Digitalizing of manufacturing industries has enabled new production processes and much of the phenomena today known as the Internet of Things, Industrial Internet, Industry 4.0, machine communication and learning. At this point, the journey becomes more complex.

Digital transformation (DX) is described as the total and overall societal effect of digitalization which resulted in opportunities to transform and change existing business models, consumption patterns, socio-economic structures, legal and policy measures and cultural barriers.

Just know this: DX is future-focused, and actions are intended to alter the current state to something that is very different, not just improved.

Bottom line–DX is a total culture transformation that is only successful when stakeholders realize culture change is about changing the hearts and minds of every employee, not about implementing new technology.

The mindset of innovation and creativity must be replicated by the role of Learning and Development. Seventy-five percent of all DX initiatives fail because yesterday’s leaders allow technology to be the tail that wags the dog!

The Future is Now!

Thanks to Digital Transformation, 2019 is proving to be the breakout year for L & D professionals delivering Leadership Development, Organizational Development, Learning and Development, and Talent Development solutions, as predicted by many experts, surveys and white papers.

We are in the enviable or scary position, depending on one’s aversion to risk, of making real contributions to our employers, colleagues, communities and our country at a time when we can use some uplifting collaboration and connection.

The DI driven Talent Developers are in the enviable position to:

  • Influence strategy and budgets without having to beg for participation
  • Lead companies in closing skill gaps and upskilling, which has the potential to reduce the burden of technological unemployment on workers and the economy
  • Innovate like marketers to satisfy the demands of employees who desire hitting the send button on their devices to acquire the knowledge and skills at the point of need
  • Create learning opportunities for modern employees, especially those entering the workforce who graduated owning over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt.
  • Drive organizational performance through improved learning ecosystems and services and provide learning data analytics directly correlated to existing business data.
  • Change the hearts and minds of employees and prepare them for their new world of work

Skills Revolution

Gone are the days when formal education was the only education anyone needed. The old approach to learning and working basically consisted of a high school diploma, bachelor's or master’s degrees and all were taught top-down, through rote or memorization because the information required to learn, work, retire and die was finite!

The new approach to learning and work is driven by longevity and a blinding rate of change. Now we must learn to learn, unlearn and re-learn.

The work life span of an employee will reach 75 or 80 years of age which is why we will work, learn, change, work, learn, change and repeat. Being a lifelong learner is no longer a choice. Lifelong learning is an absolute necessity to be productive over the course of a longer career span.

This brings us to the skills revolution. (Finally, you say.) These are the skills to focus on. Critical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, deep listening, agile learning and resilience will drive our individual and collective production. The real key skills are collaboration and connection because information is infinite.

The Role of L&D

The opportunities for impacting the greater good are immense. Giving employees the choice, confidence, opportunity and capability to earn a meaningful living through the period of disruption is crucial to retaining talent during a very low unemployment climate.

Recognize the increasing difficulty for some people who aren’t comfortable or capable of learning new things quickly and interacting with other people who are embracing change. Keep all employees informed in a transparent and easy to understand way just what the future holds for them. Finally, prepare employees to adapt through opportunities for upskilling.

First, we need to prepare ourselves and our teams to make the adjustments necessary to meet new expectations. Where to start? Be a curator of information. Collect all the data, white papers, research you can on the new L & D roles and job descriptions. The job titles have changed greatly.

For example, we now need L & D software programmers to program all the connectors (xAPI) between multiple sources of learning that reside outside the LMS or Learning Record Store (LRS) and the Learning Management Content System.

Other new job titles include Learning Enablement Analytics, L & D Data Analyst, Ecosystem Developer, Instructional Architect, Employee Experience Advisor, Learning & Performance Experience Designer, Culture Consultant, etc.

Start with YOU

Stop. Consider what is best for you. What do you want to do and how do you want to contribute to this crazy, exciting new world? What new concepts and technology do you want/need to learn and own?

Take time to become focused and reflect. As you read, save and curate information, set up a system to manage all the incoming information.

Here are potential categories and topics you need to know:

  • Digital Transformation and Learning 4.0 – be able to talk the talk and walk the talk
  • Industry knowledge – What are the competitors in your industry doing?
  • Skills Revolution – What skills will companies need to compete?
  • Learner Insight – How does the modern learner want to learn?
  • Learning Technology – What are the technology disrupters bringing to market that improve the performance and output of the L & D team? What is a learning ecosystem?
  • Analytics – Did you know Kirkpatrick’s 4 Levels of measurement no longer apply to the new world of L & D. We need to be focused on improving performance, not measuring learning.
  • L & D job titles/roles – This is a whole new world waiting for you to explore.

Here are a few suggestions that will jump-start planning for your new world of work:

  • Reserve time for introspection
  • Check your current mindset. Are you a Resister, Explorer, Player, Transformer, or a Disruptor?
  • Take emotional intelligence, change acceptance, and career assessments to achieve greater self-awareness during blindingly rapid periods of change.
  • Create a career plan by assessing current and future skills, setting goals, building a list of action items with milestones.
  • Use SMART goal methodology to hold yourself accountable. Most importantly, carve out dedicated self-learning time at work and at home weekly.

Endings Are New Beginnings

This is an exciting time to be an L & D professional. We will all grow exponentially which will force us to abandon old ways and embrace a new mindset. Just remember, once you become fearless, your career becomes limitless!