3 Tips to Transform L&D for the Digital Age


Adapt quickly or die is the new skill organizations need today. Pithy, simple, sure--but much easier said than done.

This new digital reality is forcing the Learning and Developing (L&D) function in every organization to come of age. Once an afterthought, learning is now at the core of digital transformation success. Yet, many L&D functions are not up to the task. Instead, they are holding on to the old assumptions about their roles in the organization–– as a “nice to have” employee benefit , with the budgets to match. Very often, at yearly financial planning meetings, L&D’s budgets were first in line for cuts. That can no longer be the case. For any organization to successfully transform, it must treat L&D as an essential function and fund the department accordingly.

Transforming L&D

If you are leader who wants to ensure that your company’s digital transformation is successful, start by rebooting your L&D function with these three steps:

1. Prepare yourself for a frank conversation among all functional heads. Focus on the role of L&D in the organization’s digital transformation. You know that L&D can enable a new shared understanding of how to attain the company's mission within the new digital reality. But can you provide a path that will guide your colleagues to come to the same conclusion? Consider how the L&D function should go about facilitating the learning and skills needed for each function to quickly adapt. Consider how the organization can measure the success of this endeavor and share it with the rest of the organization.

2. Hold a meeting with the CEO and the CFO to discuss the new realistic level of investment required for L&D to enable a successful digital transformation. Discuss how the role of L&D has changed and why a stronger presence of the department is essential to the organization's success. Challenge the old assumptions that the L&D function is a “nice-to-have expense.” Instead, line it up against the other must-have investments” and determine the relative role of each in guaranteeing the survival of the organization.

3. Challenge the old ways of thinking about organizational learning. Organizational learning is quickly evolving. Not only are old theories being tossed out the window but technology is providing new, more exciting, and more effective ways for employees to learn, collaborate, and engage. The best organizational learning experiences no longer happen in isolation. The best new learning technologies are evolving to mimic employees’ everyday lives. They provide learning that is authentic, comfortable, accessible, fun, engaging, and social. Most importantly, this new type of learning generates shared knowledge that is held in common by the community––strengthening bonds among colleagues at all levels. In order to succeed in the new, scary, and exciting digital reality, leaders need to understand that without effective learning, their organization will be left behind.

Rebooting L&D, while necessary, is not an easy task. Nonetheless, now is the best time to make it happen and it will most definitely be worth your while.

Robert M. Burnside

Senior Learning Advisor


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