The Learning Culture Officer (2 of 4): What The Future Looks Like

A look into the future of learning
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This is part 2 in a 4-part series painting a picture of the future of learning and development inside companies. Click here to read part 1

The role of an L&D professional is tough. We saw this in part 1 of this series. But there are companies in which learning cultures are understood, cultivated, and leveraged for the competitive advantage of the company and the benefit of all people involved.

There are companies in which employees are integrating work and learning.

Where employees seek out learning opportunities based on self-assessments of what they need. Where new learning opportunities are provided in areas they didn’t know existed. Where L&D provides access to the tools, data, and personalized analysis to offer clear learning pathways for every individual to choose from. 

Employees at these companies see themselves as lifelong learners. They hungrily consume knowledge from books, videos, podcasts, and courses. They deliberately reflect on what they’ve learned and instinctively apply it to their daily work. 

From Novice to Expert over time
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Employees at these companies don’t learn from the transfer of information, they learn by transforming themselves

They learn from each other. They learn from experts both internal and external to the organization. They learn from the experienced guidance of facilitators, their peers in learning cohorts. 

They fall over themselves to be volunteer experts and facilitators. To share their knowledge and experience with others. They feel pride, they gain stature and they stay longer. They grow the internal talent pool of the company.

Career Progression with CLXs
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They seek opportunities to learn together in small groups. Groups with peers on the same path as them, Journey Groups, in which members feel the psychological safety to share what they’ve learned, the challenges they’re currently attempting to overcome, and what has worked for them in the past that others may be able to learn from. These gatherings, believe it or not, take place without the presence of someone from L&D! The group work is infinitely scalable as members take turns to assume leadership responsibility for the learning of the group. 

Let’s call these group gatherings Cohort Learning Experiences (or CLXs) so we know what we’re talking about going forward.

Cohort Learning Experiences
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CLXs are the perfect medium to surface new learning needs and more broadly, the true voice of the people. 

That’s because companies who embrace the role of CLXs in shaping their learning culture see failure as a learning opportunity. Leaders talk about the value of good mistakes and allow for individual initiative and risk-taking. Employees have time to think and reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Managers evaluate how work was done, not just what was accomplished. 

Lessons learned, and ultimately knowledge and skills, are shared broadly across functions. 

No one is anonymous. Top contributors are recognized. Senior executives celebrate people who develop themselves and share their knowledge. 

Development is measured by knowledge and skills gained, not courses completed. 

Managers feel accountable for their roles as people developers, not just task managers. 

Employees feel accountable for the completion of their own development goals. 

6 Levels of Learning Culture Enlightenment
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The L&D team, meanwhile, spends its time conducting thorough needs assessments, analyzing industry trends, testing exciting new products, and actively participating in communities of peers from other companies. Communities of practice, in which they accelerate their own learning for the benefit of the organizations in which learning is their responsibility.

These organizations gain a massive competitive advantage by listening to their people, by giving them access to learning experiences on-demand, by accelerating the learning process of the company itself, and by surfacing new ideas and innovations. High levels of diversity combined with open dialogue on decisions rapidly accelerate this innovation in an inclusive, supportive, and growth-oriented environment. 

These organizations become learning organisms, living and breathing the lessons, observations, and ideas of their people. L&D not only has a seat at the table in these organizations but a respected voice because these organizations know that the highest leverage thing they can do is develop their people.

Trad training Org vs Learning Org
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When you zoom out, you begin to realize that all the headwinds and tailwinds are aligning to move us in this direction whether we like it or not.

In part 3, we’ll explore the macro factors contributing to the momentum behind the new role of L&D: The Learning Culture Officer.

This article is part of a 4-part series exploring the future of learning and development inside companies.

Here is the full series:

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