Are L&D slow to change?

Are L&D slow to change?

I like reading a lot of articles and blogs on the subject of L&D. I've been doing so since I started out as a trainer and will continue to do so as it helps keep me up to speed with what is going on in the industry. There are so many good writers out there sharing their thoughts and experiences it’s easy to tap in to that. It’s great to be able to read and contribute so much within this community as well which I value greatly.

We’ve written about blogs before here and here and it’s worth checking them out to subscribe to some blogs and use RSS feeds to keep up with stuff.

What I love about the L&D industry is the sheer variety, it is a wide and deep field of expertise that can make such a positive impact in the workplace and drive real change. What frustrates me at times is we (L&D) often don’t embrace change very well ourselves.

I am going to generalise a little but think about that. A department whose primary role is to improve workplace productivity / performance and help encourage change within an organisation resists changing itself. Some examples:


Now, if you’re reading this, then you are in a small group of early adopters and innovators. The fact you chose to study with DPG shows you are open to improving your knowledge and skills and wanted to study with a forward thinking CIPD provider. You may even disagree with my assertion that L&D are slow to change, and your experience may be different to mine.

But since joining the L&D ranks some 18 years ago, the same conversations have been happening, the same challenges, the resistance to technology that may threaten our very existence, the crippling thinking that classroom training is still how people learn effectively at the expense of other options, we still ‘train’ people, we’re still evaluating & focusing on the wrong things and we still like a myth or two, even when the evidence tells us something else.

Old habits die hard eh?

Towards Maturity benchmark reports points to an industry that is slow to adapt and change. CIPD describes the world we live in as VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) but it seems that L&D is more titanic than speed boat at the best of times. But enough of the doom and gloom.

In Donald Taylors 2019 global sentiment survey we may be seeing the first signs of real change in the industry. Acknowledging (as the introduction does) that those completing this survey are like you, early adopters and innovators. This may not be a widespread held view within L&D however this year’s results are the first time that the top 3 are all focused on data. The right sort of data. Data based on evidence. Now you could argue that we can only get access to this data because of new technology like AI, machine learning, algorithms, learning experience platforms and analytics dashboards.

This argument is definitely valid as providers like Filtered gain ground in the learning tech market using artificial intelligence to make personalised recommendations. This shift from created content to curated content is significant as a long-held belief across L&D is that our role is to create content in the form of courses and e-learning. Trusting in technology to make the correct recommendations and put resources together to support workplace learning is a big shift and has potential to change what we do and how we do it.

The top 3 were

  • Personalised/adaptive delivery
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Learning Analytics

So, are these game changers? Are we on the cusp of a seismic shift in L&D?

Or are we in another naval gazing situation as if you look at number 4 on the list it is

  • Social/Collaborative learning

This has been happening since the dawn of time and more so since social technologies became mainstream, but L&D teams still haven’t cracked how to leverage, support and encourage it effectively – hence it’s STILL so high in a global sentiment survey some 15 years later.

So, will AI, personalisation and learning analytics be on a similar survey 15 years from now? Are L&D slow to adapt, change and embrace new things because we like our trusted and traditional ways of doing things. Are we victims of the organisations we work in and can only move as fast as the organisation culture will allow?

I’m aware, I’m asking more questions than I’m answering, and I genuinely don’t have the answer just my own experiences to draw from. I am interested to hear what you think on the subject as fellow L&D professionals. 

If you aren’t familiar with some of the topics touched on in the post then click the links, give them a read and then let me know what you think. If you don’t already then read more blogs and thought pieces from leading practitioners and compare what they are talking about vs what’s happening in your organisation. Then answer the question.

Are L&D slow to change?

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Ady Howes - Community Manager, DPG

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  • I think we are slow to change and so I have started a discussion group on LinkedIn called the L&D revolution where we discuss how to get things changing quickly rather than evolving slowly. If anyone wants to join then you would be most welcome!  


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