Food For Thought: Innovation in Learning and Development

Food For Thought | November 13 2018

At a recent #ThisisHr event, Devyani Vaishampayan – an investor in HR tech start-ups, provided a brief overview of sectors in HR that are experiencing greater technological innovation. As psychologists, we are interested in how the onset of the digital age is impacting what was once a very traditional business function and how we can be impactful in addressing the pain points linked to the rapid changes occurring in the HR and Learning and Development fields.


What was discussed?

Devyani listed recruitment in HR as one of the areas that were experiencing most technological innovation, because there are specific pain points such as time and cost to hire, which can be addressed with new tech. Most importantly, organisations have become more used to allocating budget to recruitment solutions and perceive more of an incentive to do so, as they address a current trend in the industry: the shortage of talent.

Other areas experiencing tech innovation were: employee engagement, well-being and diversity and inclusion solutions. While it was encouraging to hear that these important work-related challenges were at the forefront of innovation, it was interesting to see that Learning and Development was an area, that according to Devyani’s research, was lacking in terms of new approaches or technology.

An apparent reason for this was that technology solutions such as quality Learning Management Systems (LMS) already exist in the L&D space, however, LMSs are being used as “data dams of content that no one truly refers to”. So, tech for L&D does exist, however, is it being utilised to its highest potential and are companies adopting it effectively? Furthermore, what more can be done in the field of L&D to address the shortage of skills and specific pain points of L&D professionals, beyond just having a platform for courses online?


What is already happening?

In addressing the shortage of talent as an HR pain point, Suzanne Lucas made an innovative point about developing in-house talent as opposed to seeking already-made talent. Professionals are talking more about placing an emphasis on investing in current employees learning and development to fill gaps skills and abilities and make employees feel like assets. Many innovative steps are being taken in larger organisations to invest in solutions that cater to employees’ personal interest in self-development. For example, Tata Consulting and IBM having both developed tools to evaluate your skills and gaps in knowledge based on your goals and interests, from which you can then find specific courses and learning opportunities to upskill yourself. IBM is also working on ways to communicate internal opportunities for advancement to their employees, provide support and use their LMS to engage them to be self-directed in moving towards their career goals. However, on a general scale, an innovative L&D function is still lacking in many organisations, as the long-term vision of how to solve the perceived ‘talent shortage’, and the responsibility of companies to do so – is still being overlooked.


Where we can start from?

A lot of talk regarding the shortage of talent revolves around gaps in employees’ skills, abilities and knowledge, especially in the fast-evolving tech sectors and roles. Thus, the logical start point will be for organisations to invest in upskilling their employees through training, coaching and mentoring. An additional element often overlooked, is employees’ individual differences in personality, values and motivation. Some companies who have identified these as important for the specific sector or role, make use of personality tools for assessing these elements, however, many do not consider these important.

If we are to tackle the issues surrounding L&D from a holistic perspective, understanding employee’s motivation and developing personality traits to succeed in the current (or future) work environment, must also be factored into our approach towards employee development. While personality is often assessed at the selection stage, it is less common to consider it as part of learning and development until individuals reach executive level. This could be because most organisations assume that personality is stable, especially in the workplace, and is not significant unless concrete issues relating to it are observed i.e. in leadership roles. Hence, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to incorporate a developmental approach to personality in L&D processes.

However, recent studies in personality have shown that personality can change over time in response to our environment, including our workplace; and that this can be facilitated by concrete actions taken by individuals. Hence, employees have the capacity to adjust their personality traits to fit better in their roles, teams and organisations. So in addition to upskilling employees’ knowledge and skills, L&D practitioners can adopt an approach that considers an employees’ motivation to adjust their personality to better suit the demands of their working environment or help employees reinforce traits that are already well-suited for their work demands.

Shifting our perspectives on how employees develop is an innovative start point for the future of L&D.

Watch the space for more info about personality and employee fit. Or find out more about next training events here. 

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