Can L&D drink its own champagne?

Posted by Julie Hiipakka on June 13, 2019.

As organizations adapt to the fact that disruption is the new normal, reskilling the workforce is a top priority: 84 percent of participants in Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends research reported plans to increase their reskilling programs budget,1 while 54 percent of those surveyed by the World Economic Forum said they expect to reskill or upskill their workforce in the next three years.2 Team members in learning and development (L&D) are not immune from this trend. If anything, they must reskill more effectively to help the rest of the organization do so as well. But as the L&D function helps the rest of the organization incorporate learning in the flow of work, can they drink their own champagne3?

Bersin™ research shows that organizations with strong capabilities in certain areas do better at creating learning opportunities that are integrated into the flow of work:

  • knowledge management
  • content curation
  • personalized learning
  • information architecture4

This makes intuitive sense. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, leading organizations are taking steps to deliver learning to their people in a more personal way, integrating work and learning more closely with each other.5 Organizations that are good at this type of personalized learning and curation have an advantage when it comes to creating on-the-fly learning opportunities. So, too, do organizations that are adept at knowledge management, since they can more easily place online and digital tools (such as wikis, MOOCs, and searchable discussion forums) and external, publicly available online content, where workers can access them. But building these capabilities takes investment and willingness to change, and we are seeing that some L&D organizations are struggling to do it.

Reskilling L&D for learning in the flow of work
This shift from creation to curation, personalized learning experiences, and connecting learning and work has been underway for quite a while, but as of 2017, 35 percent of organizations were still trying to affect change largely through courses and programs.6 In spring 2019, we interviewed learning leaders as part of Bersin’s upcoming research on the role of the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) in the future of work. Those conversations reinforced that this shift still had not happened among organizations.

A plurality of the CLOs we interviewed spoke of needing to help their teams shift their mindsets away from building programs, curricula, and content toward curation, user-generated content, and open-source content as ways to meet the needs of their organization’s workers. They also identified the need to explicitly build curation, information architecture, design thinking, and personalization capabilities within their learning organization.

Given this clear need, why have some organizations not yet reskilled their learning teams?

The learning leaders who haven’t made the shift said they are still making the case for change. They described their work as influencing their organizations and leaders to invest in those capabilities, building business cases to shift learning approaches, and influencing their own teams to do different things. After all, L&D practitioners have been asked to build great content for 20-plus years—creating industry recognition to celebrate it, continuing education to teach new and innovative methods to enhance it, and developing various systems to disseminate the content. The leaders’ dilemma is the same as the organizations’ dilemma: they are trying to change what people have been doing at work for years. They are asking workers to reskill.

Reskilling in the Flow of Work
While this ask is not easy, it is an imperative. Learning leaders, and their teams, need to drink their own champagne. To truly make the shift, organizations should take an in-the-flow-of-work approach.

Here are some tactics to consider:

1) Look within. The best source of talent is already working inside your company. Assess whether proficiencies in curation, personalization, knowledge management, and design thinking already exist. That talent is likely working inside your customer-facing teams.

2) Borrow for the win. Rotate that talent onto your team. Learning team members working side by side with people that have capabilities in need-to-have-learning skills provide exposure to experts and real-time mentor opportunities. If their work together also helps the customer-facing team perform better, both teams win.

3) Spread the love. Lend your own talent to customer-facing teams. Alternatively, your team members can get the same type of exposure and change of scenery by moving onto a different team, with the additional benefit of a deeper level of insight on the experience of workers inside your organization.

4) Look outside the box. Don’t be afraid to leverage the alternative workforce. If you don’t have internal talent available, a contractor or gig worker could join your team as that side-by-side mentor and bring to your team the insights of an outside perspective they’ve obtained working with other organizations.

Learning in the flow of work demands that companies make some significant changes. L&D leaders need to access curation, knowledge management, and information architecture capabilities and work to shift the mindsets of existing talent as they reskill. For the companies that succeed, however, the benefits of placing tools, information, and learning in the flow of work can be substantial. Making it easier for workers to do their current jobs well simplifies their experience at work and helps afford them the mental capacity and time to engage with development toward their long-term career interests. Many high-performing organizations recognize the benefits of drinking their own champagne—that learning in the flow of work/life can help a company respond better and faster to the ever-changing business environment. Cheers!

We’re interested in hearing from organizations about how they’re drinking their own champagne. If you have a story to share about how you’re reskilling in the flow of work, please contact Julie Hiipakka (jhiipakka@deloitte.com).

Julie Hiipakka is a vice president and the learning research leader at Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP.


1 2019 Global Human Capital Trends: leading the social enterprise—Reinvent with a human focus, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Deloitte Insights, 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/5136_HC-Trends-2019/DI_HC-Trends-2019.pdf.
2 “The Future of Jobs Report 2018,” World Economic Forum, 2018, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf.
3 This expression describes the practice of a company using its own products to either test them or express confidence in them. Other terms for this are the less elegant “eating our own dog food,” the more pious “practicing what we preach,” or the more physical “walking the talk.”
4 High-Impact Learning Organization research, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2017.
5 2019 Global Human Capital Trends: leading the social enterprise—Reinvent with a human focus, Deloitte Consulting LLP and Deloitte Insights, 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/5136_HC-Trends-2019/DI_HC-Trends-2019.pdf.
6 High-Impact Learning Organization research, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2017.

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