I’m reasonably active on Twitter and for quite a while now, the view of the more progressive thinkers is that as L&D professionals we should stop ‘providing’ training for people. We should instead help people learn how to learn and encourage them to curate their own learning from wherever they feel it is appropriate.
Whilst I agree with this in principle, I’ve always had a nagging feeling that it’s not quite right.
I think that’s because I spend a lot of time working in financial services, manufacturing and retail where much of what people need to do is still relatively process-led. Of course, to execute processes well you need a wide range of (what’s traditionally termed) soft skills at your disposal: communication, problem solving, personal organisation etc… and each of us have different strengths and development needs here. Each of us operates in a different context so we need to apply our skills differently. So there’s clearly a need for self-driven development.
But this development needs to be built on a solid foundation of doing the basics right, consistently and to the required standard. Even professionals need to be trained in using the in-house HR system, how to present their reports and yes, do the soft-skills stuff if they’ve never done it before.
ALL the companies I’ve ever worked for and with want people to the basics in a certain way. There are some rights and wrongs. This is where training is essential. And by training I mean the stuff that is provided/delivered by a company to its people. You simply can’t have every sales person reporting back in a different way; Complaints can’t be handled in a random fashion; You can’t have every line manager taking a different approach to performance management.
Training – whether it’s delivered face to face, via e-learning or coached in one-to-one, is still essential. I believe that employees expect their company to train them to do their job. It’s a company’s responsibility to provide training so people can meet the requirements of their role. Surely if individuals were left to find their own solutions, there’d be a lot of dissatisfied people out there and a lot of underperforming companies!
Once people are able to perform in their role to the standards required, THEN we can start to think about development: About doing things better, about stretching ourselves and growing our knowledge, skills and confidence. Learning to innovate and move with the times. NOW it’s a fantastic idea to let people curate and source their own learning. NOW it’s appropriate to let individuals drive their own development. NOW it’s personal and shouldn’t be spoon-fed or ‘provided’.
There’s an old saying that we shouldn’t try to run before we can walk. I feel the same way about this. Organisations have a responsibility to teach their people to walk: Then encourage them to learn to run all by themselves. There’s a place for training that is provided, and a place for learning that is uncovered.