Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lessons for L&D professionals - Learning Cafe Unconference 2013

In my endeavour to broaden my network with like-minded L&D peeps, I registered for this year's Learning Cafe Unconference with little trepidation. I was bursting out of my skin to 'get out there' more often now that Archie had turned one, so doing something in February was going to give my 2013 networking goals a good start!

I would like to share some notes from the day, which I found extremely worthwhile, educational and promising for our line of work. It also made me feel proud to be among peers who had the same purpose as me - to help other people grow and learn, to transform their lives and those around them. I was also stoked to make some new friends and contacts, who I found very inspiring in sharing their stories and lessons learned with me.

The theme of this year's Unconference was 'At Crossroads'. Are we still the leaders in learning? People are looking elsewhere for their knowledge and the learning function is no longer seen as the place to gain your knowledge. We are being evermore challenged to do more with less, and training budgets and personnel continue to be questioned on their value.

So, what are we going to do about it? We need to focus our efforts on 4 focus areas: Effective Learning (adding to the bottom line), Performance Support (really supporting performance), Technology (leveraging this for our learners and Developing our Profession (what does our future look like?).

My lessons, in no particular order:
a.       L&D doesn’t have a right to exist if we can’t have a conversation around performance.
b.      We need to change. We need to move from reductive, reactive, knowledge rich classroom lessons, to experiential, scenario-based learning whilst at the same time, encouraging and cultivated personal/self-directed/curiosity-driven/self-managed learning.
c.       We need to move from the ‘teacher’ model (a hangover from the industrial revolution if you’ve ever seen that poignant Ted talk by Sir KenRobinson) where we tell them what to do, to savvy facilitators who have conversations, who help build capabilities, not knowledge.
d.      We need to provide different methods or avenues for learning in order to arrive at the same spot, or indeed, at a complete new spot we, or the learner, didn’t foresee.
e.       We don’t need to measure L&D, because if we’re supporting Performance properly, the performance of the individual speaks for itself. The business knows when it has been improved.
f.        Educate people on what learning is and is not. Ie is not classroom, is coaching and on-the-job. Learning is not an event; it is a lifelong experience. Focus on personal learning.
g.       L&D needs to plug the business acumen gap. We are still a way from having the necessary commercial acumen required to be effective at the table.  Learn how to read financial statements, go to AGMs, read the annual report, work within the business, know the assumed knowledge areas.
h.      If we don’t take a systematic approach or system thinking, L&D won’t work. In 08/09 our paradigms were challenged, post this was interconnectedness everywhere. L&D is part of an overall system or talent, performance etc, and we need to work together to impact strategy.
i.        Make sure we engage our business partners so that we can talk about what they want before they know what they want. The business won’t ask us to the table, we have to keep pushing. We can’t focus on the one area any more, we can’t just specialise in L&D. We can’t keep doing what we’ve always done.

Liz Griffin, Director, Global People Team for Ernst & Young, also talked about 'Leadership - Sacred Cow' - the state of Leadership Development in Australia. I will write about this in a separate post, as this ubiquitous L&D topic needs to have space of its own. 

Thanks to all the folks who put the conference together, and to each of the stream leads who facilitated the break-out sessions.