Instructional Design

The Plight of the L&D Professional

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By 2030, 85% of the workforce will be working in jobs we’ve never even heard of, using technology that only exists today in our imaginations! In the race to innovation, corporations want employees immediately trained for skills they should’ve had yesterday, definitely needed today, and might need far into the future. This is the plight of the L&D professional: satisfying the organization’s demanding business goals while meeting our own learning objectives–all at the speed of innovation.

Competing Demands

In the evolution of Learning and Development, L&D professionals are being tasked with balancing competing demands. Every learning initiative has to get a ringing endorsement from leadership, consistent involvement from managers, and engagement from learners. 

Here’s where it creates a problem:

  • Leaders are asking L&D teams to establish, pitch, develop, maintain and show a return on our organization’s workforce strategy.
  • Managers need to be involved to reinforce and model the learning to employees. L&D professionals need to get them to buy-in. 
  • Employees want to be engaged and challenged by the courses. But, they are overwhelmed by so much content, coming from every direction. AND they are a multi-generational workforce with different modalities. We don’t want to leave anyone out. 

What we have are three separate opinions. For our work to succeed, all of these people must be on board with the learning campaign.

Hopeful Validation

What we’ve seen in the industry is that L&D teams are handling this plight in one of three ways: 

Toxic positivity

Toxic positivity is the unrealistic attitude that: “Everything’s going to be fine. Everything works just great the way it is.” Picture an ostrich with its head in the sand. This is toxic positivity. 

Total panic

Total panic is like Chicken Little from the classic children’s story: “The sky is falling! We’re all going to die!” It’s all doomsday with no hope for the future. 

Hopeful validation

Hopeful validation is a realistic point of view, tempered with positivity: “We have a problem, but there is a solution and we will find it.” This is the best kind of input we can get within a team and one that will lead to positive change in our industry. 

Why Context, Not Content, is King

As L&D professionals attempt to survive in a rapid-growth climate, it’s easy for us to lose sight of our priorities. Leadership demands massive amounts of content, without a bigger vision or context. The mistake we make is to take orders and build courses on the fly, trying to keep up with new roles and processes added almost daily. 

L&D professionals need to be organizational strategists, not order takers.

It’s imperative that L&D professionals take the time to address the root problem by asking, What is the overarching goal that we’re trying to help the learner achieve? That is the moment for hopeful validation, where we can critically analyze learner outcomes and align them with business objectives. Why invest all this time and money into a learning initiative that’s not successful because it didn’t take the real problem into account?

If L&D professionals design a course based on content but never think about the context, there’s a very good chance that it will fail to affect any kind of behavioral change. What we will do is overwhelm the learner with too much information and miss the mark. 

The context can change according to our goals and our learners on any given day. We have to be able to pivot or package content in a way that’s scalable. If we don’t take context into account, our efforts can fail. 

Scant Resources

As we all know, in many cases, L&D teams lack the resources and even sometimes the skills to accomplish these absolutely imperative demands. 

This blog will not end on that note. Here is our moment of Hopeful Validation. Everyone repeat after me:

We have a problem, but there is a solution and we will find it.

In our next blog, we will help you get started on the solution; what we call a Learning Experience Map. Maps tell us where we are, where we want to go, and the best way to get there.