What is Enterprise Learning For?
The purpose of enterprise learning or learning and development is just that: the learning and development of employees at work. But if that is truly its sole purpose, then unfortunately many companies are missing the mark. In our most recent study, our respondents gave their L&D solutions an average of -25 (on a scale of -100 to 100). That’s a big, all caps, YIKES.
Why are modern L&D strategies, which may be thoughtfully curated and executed, receiving low scores? In many cases, the answer is outdated course materials, mandatory classroom sessions, restricted access to resources, and a lack of adequate guidance. This sounds a lot like the problems with the American public school system that Seth Godin highlights in his legendary TED Talk, Stop Stealing Dreams.
Let’s start where Seth started in his solution. We must ask the simple question, what is enterprise learning for?
Traditionally, enterprise learning was enterprise training — strictly about compliance. It was more of a legal box-tick than anything else. Times have changed and employees are now hired based on their existing skills and ability to learn, not simply their capacity to follow instructions. This means enterprise learning is no longer all about training , the focus has instead shifted to developing the skill sets of employees. But have learning strategies and platforms shifted to mirror this modernized goal?
“Universal public education’s [original] intent was to train people to behave, to comply, to fit in.” — Seth Godin
So if the goal of enterprise learning has shifted from training workers to developing them, then we need to examine some of the techniques that L&D employs to achieve that mandate.
Stop Stealing Careers
Learning is a tool to empower people’s careers. A few years of college can lead to massive opportunities for those lucky enough to have access as well as the determination to push through. However, after entering the workforce, it becomes almost impossible to pursue further education without leaving the workforce. Why?
Work always seems to get in the way. Not many organizations genuinely encourage employees to develop their careers via learning and skill-building. They may create learning and development programs but a lot of these initiatives are antiquated:
-An LMS with thousands of courses (that nobody wants or knows how to use).
-A great manager program (that only certain employees can access).
The net effect is that employees — especially younger ones — find themselves stuck in jobs when what they really want are careers. Their L&D departments have fallen short in terms of support and reaffirm the idea that they need to fit in a box pass the quiz. Perhaps we should start with a similar solution to Seth Godin’s and stop stealing careers.
Employees Are Your Customers, Too
With exponential technical advancements, constant development in the workforce is already the new normal — it’s just not recognized. On the job, employees use YouTube to figure out new tools and Slack to share knowledge. On weekends, they’re taking online classes. The resources are there and motivated employees are taking advantage, but employers largely aren’t participating. Instead, employers focus their attention on delivering specialized job training that ensures employees are compliant with the standards they’ve established.
Here’s something to think about : Wouldn’t you prefer to have motivated employees working for you? Given the choice, wouldn’t you prefer a self-starter who knows how to leverage YouTube for professional development and wants to pursue Coursera courses on project management? How do you think those employees react when their managers tell them to focus on their work instead of offering time to learn new skills? First, they disengage, then they leave.
Training and development is the most valued benefit for the millennial generation. It’s worth your while to listen to the interests of these young professionals, as they are the largest faction of the workforce. Think of employees like customers and balance their needs against those of the business. If you consider how much employee turnover costs, this comparison begins to make more sense.
So how do you know if your L&D efforts are doing enough to help your employees? As you review your learning strategy or upskilling project, ask yourself, “what’s the benefit to the employee?” Here are four questions to help you determine if your efforts are proving impactful within your organization:
- Lasting Proof : can the employee walk away from your company with evidence that they’ve learned?
- Recognition : will the employee be formally recognized?
- Advancement : can the employee use this learning towards a promotion?
- Mobility : will this increase the employee’s ability to transition to a new role?
If your answer is “no” to more than two of these questions, that’s a good indication that you could make improvements.
The Role Of L&D Has Changed
Sure, traditional L&D started in regard to compliance. However, the modern employee has changed and L&D leaders are beginning to change with them. With updated L&D tools and impactful employee-centered efforts, the business can then turn to L&D to:
- Attract top talent by providing evidence of development opportunities.
- Retain top talent by ensuring employees are given those opportunities.
- Identify candidates for promotions and career changes within the organization.
- Connect candidates with new roles by working with internal recruiters.
It’s time to set higher goals for enterprise learning. Stop stealing careers away from your employees; instead, start investing in them. Offer career development programs that make continuous development accessible to everyone. Make it easy for them to take advantage of the best education available, regardless of how or where it’s offered, and reward them for their efforts with opportunities for advancement and internal mobility. Encourage them to share their learning with each other and recognize them for doing so. If you create a culture of learning within your organization that encourages employees to take control of their own careers, you’ll be rewarded with employees who do exactly that.