When Did Learning & Development Become So Complex?

I read a lot of articles, papers and indeed books about Learning and Development as you might expect. It’s good to keep abreast of the latest thinking, hear about people exploring new ideas and approaches and testing out what works and doesn’t work.

However, sometimes I do wonder if we as Learning & Development Professionals have a tendency to over-complicate things. One of my passions throughout the time that I have been involved in L&D is to make learning accessible and to communicate with people in a way which makes sense to them. Of course it’s right and proper that we as professionals in our field stretch ourselves, reflect on our learning and share things with others. But do we always need to dress it up in seemingly obtuse language or come up with some clever description for it?

I was discussing this the other day with a fellow L&D Professional and one of the comments that they made was that they thought that sometimes we do it in order to express our uniqueness as a profession. They pondered whether, in a world where many organisations still bundle L&D responsibilities into the remit of an HR. Generalist, we might feel the need to carve out a very distinct identity for Learning & Development.

That set me thinking about what L&D is ultimately about and why having spent some time throughout my career with HR. Generalist responsibilities I chose to specialise in L&D. I can well remember one of the first events that I attended which opened my eyes to the impact that Learning & Development could have. Having participated in a number of “Train The Trainer” events since I first started to drift into the L&D area I was a little sceptical about this event, assuming that it would be more of the same. However, it was to be a revelation. The trainer was enthused about their topic and they conveyed that enthusiasm to the group.

I call it an “event” but in reality it was more of an informal discussion with a group of us sat comfortably around the room and a flipchart set to one side. No high-powered laptops, PowerPoint presentations or other fancy gadgets and distractions. It was a discussion about “How do people learn?” The Trainer/Discussion Facilitator acted as a guide as we explored all the usual suspects (courses, books etc.) and then explored what we didn’t know that we knew. He opened my eyes to the wealth of learning opportunities that we don’t even realise we are experiencing as we go about our daily lives. He skilfully helped us to consider how we could reflect on that learning, apply that learning to our work based challenges and keep on learning.

I remember his closing sentiments to this day which were along the lines of “Our job as L&D people is to help others learn how to learn and to provide them with the tools, resources and opportunities to learn. We need to enthuse people with a passion for learning; to enable them to see that learning is easy; learning isn’t about the when, where, or the how it’s about the what; the ability to learn is a lifelong skill and like a passion for reading it’s a gift which we can awaken in others.”

For me that has been a guiding approach ever since. Whatever the latest fad is, be it eLearning, mobile learning, blended learning, social learning, unstructured learning, is largely irrelevant. Whatever deep and meaningful ponderings we come up with to explain our latest approach are all irrelevant.

What matters is that we as Learning & Development Professionals are encouraging a real passion for learning and once we awaken that passion in others we are making a real difference. I will close with a comment I made on Twitter earlier today:

L&D’s mission, if they choose to accept it, to help people to learn how to learn & then provide the tools to feed their desire to learn.

Are you ready to accept your mission?

Embrace The Joy of Learning

The other day I briefly became involved in a discussion on Twitter about the need for people within Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development (L&D) to engage in Continuous Professional Development (CPD.) That’s something I fully support because all of us need to keep abreast of developments within our own fields of expertise. However, there’s another reason I firmly believe that we should be engaged in CPD and that’s because we can have an impact on those we work with throughout our organisations.

I am passionate about what I tend to refer to as the sheer “joy of learning” and that it is something which can become infectious. By showing a real commitment, engagement with and joy at learning new things we can encourage others to engage with their own learning and development. If we act as role models for continuous professional development or learning then others can be influenced by us and the organisation as a whole will continue to grow.

I know that when it comes to ongoing learning and development in the workplace, the prospect of keeping your skills relevant on a continual basis may seem daunting. However, learning new things and increasing our marketable skills doesn’t have to be an laborious task it really can be a pleasure endeavour. The attitude which we adopt about the process can have a large impact upon our experience and that of those we work with. Continuing education can be an opportunity to discover the joy of learning with the right outlook. Let’s take a look at how rewarding it can truly be.

Not Just a Means To An End

You may feel that you must constantly hone your skills through continuing professional development, in order to remain competitive in the workplace. Or, perhaps your professional body or your company requires you to complete a minimum number of CPD hours each year. Either way, when you think of this as another hoop that you must jump through, it is likely to diminish your experience and even the amount of benefit that you receive from the development.

In contrast, whether taken voluntarily or mandated by your profession or organisation, continuing development can enrich your professional life. You will have access to the latest information, trends and techniques in your chosen field – allowing you to stay on the cutting edge. This will not only give you an advantage over your peers, but it can help you to become more efficient and effective as well. In addition, with new methods and ideas to try, it can provide you with more outlets to be creative and proactive about your daily tasks. All of these can work to bring you more joy in your professional duties, as you enjoy your career more.
Enjoy the Process

Yet, while the end result can be increased productivity, marketability and knowledge, part of the joy of learning comes from the process itself. Many people rarely get the opportunity to take time out just to learn in their adult life, and continuing development in the workplace provides you with the perfect chance.

You will be able to investigate areas of interest to you, or delve deeper into topics regarding your work that you’ve always been curious about. Learning new tips and skills also helps to keep your mind working well, and your cognitive abilities sharp. That’s why I would encourage you to approach your continuing professional development as a fun challenge, rather than just a necessary task.

The Benefits

Not only can ongoing learning and professional development provide you with new information and greater marketability – it can increase your earning power as well. This can work in several ways, the first being the greater mastery of your occupation. You’ll have more expertise to offer your employer, which can often translate into a bigger role or the opportunity to move on to a bigger role.

In addition, by keeping your work varied and your interest piqued, you’ll likely derive more pleasure from your job as well. How can this affect your earning capability? People who enjoy their work tend to do a better job, and invest more of themselves into their projects. Simply put, the more you enjoy your work and the more you learn about it, the greater your chances of advancement are.

Finally, by constantly improving and expanding your skills, you’ll have an advantage in the job market as well. You may find yourself being contacted by recruiters, or if you were to suddenly need another job, you should have less trouble finding a new position.

In summary, I firmly believe that ongoing learning and professional development in the workplace can be both a pleasurable and a beneficial experience. Rather than a duty that you must perform, it can be something that you should enjoy. It can not only enhance your understanding of your occupation, and provide you with valuable techniques and strategies for success, but it can inspire those you work with to embrace their own opportunities for learning and development. For all of these reasons, approaching your continuing professional development with a positive attitide is an opportunity to enrich your professional life and to embrace the the joy of learning.