Is Learning and Development Really Dying?

This keeps the debate going and gives an excellent insight from and experienced L&D professional in Australia.

Activate Learning Solutions

I’ve been reading many articles and blog posts that have an urgency about them regarding the impending death of Learning and Development function in corporate organisations.

Admittedly when I read these, my heart races a little faster.  I have this anxiety to catch up with the latest theories and tools in the field so that my survival in the job market in competition with all Gen Ys is secured. With 15 or so years to go until I retire (the golf course awaits), massive and continual restructuring, reorganisation, reduction and redundancy in our field I don’t want to compete for fewer jobs and contracts in an uncertain but ever-changing marketplace.

But I needn’t worry.

I don’t think things will change that quickly in Australia. If I was the betting type, I’d be willing to bet that we’ll be going around in circles for a little while because in order for things…

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“Thinking Aloud”- What significant benefits would L&D professionals obtain through a postgraduate qualification?

‘Thinking Aloud’

This is my first official blog outside the confines of the University system and has been some weeks in gestation, for various reasons. The theme of the Blog is prompted by a series of tweets, blogs and comments, during and after CIPD HRD13, from connections in my twitter network.

A post by @mervyndinnen piqued my interest with his article questioning whether many in the L&D industry had a real ‘passion for learning‘. Mervyn’s view was that people had a poor view of attending programmes and that L&D conferences followed a well trodden path in terms of what was presented and by whom. The next post came from guest blogger for CIPD @sukhpabial who was clearly underwhelmed by what he had heard at the same event asking the question, Has L&D stalled? I responded by saying that, in my experience, the Google example is not the norm by any stretch of the imagination ergo it is innovative and different. As for in company programmes, I have reviewed over 30 in recent years and whilst the quality is often sound there is very little to distinguish between them in their use and critique of theories. If I had a pound for each of the organisation’s that use Honey and Mumford learning styles, Blanchard’s situational leadership and/or Whitmore’s GROW model, actually I would have about £40 but my point stands. I don’t have a problem with people using the models per se, I DO, however,  have an issue when they are used incorrectly, definitively and without critical evaluation of said theories.

A recent example of groupthink, bad theory and pure rubbish is the endless reports on Generation Y, they range from how to manage, train, communicate bore bore bore…… The topic has particularly vexed @mervyndinnen, @hr_gem and @perrytimms, to name but a few. I loved their Blogs on the subject because they demonstrated through superb deconstruction and critical evaluation that it was all utter rubbish, therefore they debunked the theory and refused to countenance such sweeping generalisations. All of this led me to ask the question below.

Do L&D Professionals need a specific postgraduate qualification?

I have no idea whether the people mentioned above have a Masters qualification or not, they certainly demonstrate the knowledge and skills required at such a level, however (might be controversial for an academic to say this) learning at higher level doesn’t just happen in the walls of a University and I expect they are well-educated (formally and informally) and extremely experienced.

There are a multitude of HR  and OD qualifications offered by professionals bodies, Universities and private providers at various levels (Level 2-Level 8 i.e. NVQ through to Doctoral study), however there is a paucity of specific qualifications for L&D professionals and few that I can find a postgraduate level (Level 7 or M level).

I will leave the architecture, content and mode of study for further posts (hopefully crowd sourced by fellow enthusiasts) and attempt to outline the generic skills, regardless of subject, M-level study (postgraduate study) would provide.

The Generic Skills at Masters Level Study

There is a robust process for developing and maintaining University standards through the use of University benchmark statements, which enable us to develop qualifications; in contemplating the question posed above I thought that it would be worthwhile sharing the generic key skills a learner on a Business and Management qualification should have upon completion. In the current system HR, Organisational Development and Business etc come under the Business and Management Benchmarks (download here, if suffering from insomnia).

I have selected a few of the skills that successful candidates need to demonstrate, which I believe would help address some of the issues outlined by Mervyn, Perry , Gemma and Sukhvinder. On completion we would expect that learners have:

  • a critical awareness of current issues in business and management which is informed by leading edge research and practice in the field
  • creativity in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to develop and interpret knowledge in business and management
  • conceptual understanding that enables the student to:
  • evaluate the rigour and validity of published research and assess its relevance to new situations
  • extrapolate from existing research and scholarship to identify new or revised approaches to practice

In essence the above knowledge and skills would allow our L&D colleagues to become lifelong, independent learners with a passion for personal and professional development. They would be able to read an academic article, a Blog or a piece of research and evaluate the veracity, validity and applicability of the topic to their workplace. They wouldn’t accept lazy theories or sweeping generalisations, instead they would take the best from a variety of resources and creatively apply the newly gained knowledge to their problem or issue at work.

My utopian view of a potential programme

I imagine it being very flexible in design, delivery and construction, it would have standard outcomes but the route to achieving the outcomes would be personalised and flexible with recognition of prior experience. Social and informal learning would be widely used to source, curate, assimilate and evaluate the latest thinking and to HACK dated and stale management theories.

Modules might include:-

  • Slaying the Generation Y myth
  • How to train your dragon (I mean a leader)

I could go on but feel this is probably already too long (and boring?) for a first Blog. I would love comments from the ‘L&D community of passion’ on the post and your views on the question posed as I passionately believe the L&D community could develop new skills which would help to dramatically improve the way we do what we do and regain credibility and relevance.

I look forward to your comments!

What significant benefits would L&D  professionals obtain through a postgraduate qualification?

PS I’m not saying everyone should do an Masters but would love people to have the skills outlined above.