Executives of the Future: How to Become the L&D Expert of Tomorrow

The disruptive impact of technologies and AI, a predominance of millennials in the US labor force, a tight labor market, a booming gig economy, the influence of Generation Z on the workplace—it seems like nowadays change is accelerating.

A lot has been said about how businesses can adapt to the ever-changing environment. But what do we know about the role of L&D leaders in adapting to the future? The thing is that their role has never been so crucial. How can leaders become L&D experts?

Jack Welch, a former CEO of General Electric, once said: “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near.” For learning and development professionals it means that the L&D practice should be shaped constantly to keep up with changes in the outside world and its trends. It’s no wonder that such a heavy responsibility can cause anxiety for even experienced L&D experts.

To ease the mental load and make the L&D leaders’ job more effective, I suggest focusing on these three cornerstones.

Be data smart to translate reports into usable learning initiatives

L&D leaders should be people analysts to some extent in order to successfully accomplish two key tasks.

1. Continuously provide training that meets employees’ needs

Knowing how to decipher all those figures from reports and extract valuable data gives L&D experts the possibility to uncover how employees learn: where they encounter difficulties, what tasks they fail to complete, where they are competent enough to go further on, and the like. Having this information on hand, L&D leaders can modify their training program to make it more effective and fruitful as well as uncover possible pitfalls where the whole teams or groups fail due to some workflow inefficiencies.

At the end of the day, L&D professionals should know how to answer three important questions: Did their training program work? Why did it fail or succeed? How can they fix or improve it to get better results in the future?

If L&D professionals are data-savvy, the above-mentioned questions won’t be difficult to answer. Moreover, the more information they have and analyze, the less likely their learning initiatives will fail and the bigger overall impact on business growth they will have. This gets us to our next point.

2. Align a training program with the company’s business goals

When L&D leaders struggle to tie training to business objectives, it means that they don’t know how to work with data or are just unaware of where the business is headed.

Here we have two solutions. First of all, L&D experts have to understand the short-term and long-term goals their company needs to accomplish. On this basis, they should build their training program in consideration of the desired outcomes. That’s the second step.

Training for the sake of training is a dead-end. If L&D professionals fail to tailor their learning program to a business’s needs, then employees’ performance will stagnate, productivity will remain the same; and thus, not much will be done to future-proof the company.  

By constantly measuring and analyzing provisional results and adjusting the training program (if needed), a company will see tangible results in terms of improved performance, high ROI, and motivated employees.

Be tech-savvy to use tools that deliver true learning value

Knowing why and what employees need to learn, we’re moving to the next question: Where, when and by which means can training be delivered quickly and efficiently?

The omnipresence of technologies pampered people and made them more demanding than ever. It means that personalization, immediate applicability, flexibility, relevance, and 24/7 accessibility are not just nice-to-have things, they’re a necessity. To ensure that all of today’s must-haves are at the employees’ disposal, L&D leaders need to be tech-savvy.

When facing a dilemma of which learning platform to choose so that it’s cost-effective and caters to employees’ needs, it’s not enough to simply rely on vendors’ promises. L&D professionals should understand how the capabilities of learning platforms can benefit their company directly and what challenges they will help to solve.

A rapidly-changing work environment calls for employees to learn on the fly which means that businesses need modern learning tools that only tech-savvy L&D leaders can provide.  

As you can see, everything is interconnected. With limited budgets, a wide range of learning solutions, and highly demanding employees, the L&D experts’ goal is to wisely choose a learning tool that will provide real value for both employees’ development and a company’s future-proofing strategy.

Be experience architects to foster a culture of learning

One way to check whether L&D leaders are tech-savvy enough is to see if employees enjoy using a learning solution and use it regularly. However, there’s one more condition that guarantees that a chosen solution is the right one—L&D leaders should not only be people analysts but also experience architects in order to connect human emotions with the end product and ensure that the experience meets or exceeds the needs and objectives of the intended users. Simply said, the choice of learning tools should be based on people’s needs and create such an experience that will make employees use it repeatedly, as it’s beneficial for them, as well as make them fully aware of the benefits it brings to their professional and personal growth.

Being an experience architect means not only providing employees with the best tech learning solutions but also building a culture of learning within the organization, facilitating collaboration, encouraging idea sharing, and enabling innovation.

The ability to integrate industry knowledge, data analysis, and employees’ needs creates L&D experts of tomorrow. It also helps them to develop at a speed to match outside changes, ensuring their company’s future stability.

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