Friday, November 22, 2013

Learning Strategy for the Workplace

Increasingly my time is not spent facilitating, or designing content, but shepherding people and content so that others can gain access and do the learning for themselves. This is of course a smart use of my time, as I am only one person, employed to assist up to 500 employees’ learning experience. However, a tension exists between doing the ‘action’ of facilitating and designing, and doing the strategic things. Why? Because of my unrealistic expectation that I should be doing all the things.

Strategy is not a dirty word. Neither is delegating, planning or prioritising. I am much more comfortable being strategic about my content development, using those terms in relation to developing actual sessions that will be delivered to staff, however when it comes to dealing with the whole gamut of activities that a Learning and Development Consultant needs to do, all of a sudden the pressure rises and I feel guilty. Why the guilt? Other roles have strategies, other business functions are recognised for the full suite of their activities. By not being deliberate, clear and confident in my use of time, I give credence to the incorrect assumption by others that anyone in a learning team should be training all the time. This is simply not the case.

So how to develop a learning strategy? These things have been written about extensively and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Deb Gallo even presented on elearning strategies at the elNet event a couple of months ago. There are models galore to base a strategy on: ADDIE, agile, design thinking, systems, VSE. A fairly good summary of the main learning design methodologies is available here. These don’t necessarily address how a strategy involving those activities should be developed. A good initial place of reference should be the organisation in which you’re operating. Does the company already have a business strategy? If so, what model have they used? It would be an easy step for stakeholders to adopt a learning strategy if it were in the same framework they’re used to. Allison Rossett put it well when she posted: “It’s [success in workplace learning practice] not any one thing. It’s many things, aligned, in systems”. It involves personal learning networks, evidence, blended delivery, choices, devolved control, transparency, a grounding in common vision which is in turn supported by need which should be clarified by specific objective targets.

So, a new resolution for us learning and development professionals in the brave new world of businesses with increasingly more and varied needs for learning solutions: be comfortable with non-delivery activity and be prepared to back it up to your sponsors and stakeholders. Just like any other productive business unit.