The Learning Culture Officer (3 of 4): The Times, They Are ‘A Changing

Working from home
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This is part 3 in a 4-part series painting a picture of the future of learning and development inside companies. Click here to read part 1 and part 2

We have established in this series that the expectations of the role of the learning and development professional have exceeded the importance given to it in current organizations. Something must change. We have also seen that there are companies integrating work and learning, elevating the role of the L&D professional to a new role we are calling The Learning Culture Officer. 

As when we zoom out and look at the broader landscape, we see that this is actually the direction we’re moving in, so why resist it?

There are six macro factors creating this momentum:

  1. Remote-hybrid work is here to stay
  2. Management Magic vs. Power Skills of the People
  3. Native Digitals are taking over
  4. Employment alternatives have erupted
  5. Career development is a driver for hiring and employee engagement
  6. Learning opportunities are everywhere

Let’s explore each of these in turn.

Remote-hybrid work is here to stay

Nearly half of all employees are willing to give up 5% of their pay for the option to work from home.

Work from home is here to stay
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Photo by Garett Mizunaka on Unsplash

Not everyone likes or accepts this fact, but it is a fact. A new study found 70% of leaders want their teams back in the office, while less than 40% of workers feel the same way. 

Two years of a global pandemic has taught us that it’s possible to be productive when everyone is fully remote, and it’s actually quite nice to skip the 1-hour commute and work in comfortable clothes. We get to see more of our families. 

It’s also taught us that we need each other. We crave social connection and interaction. Working completely alone, at home, sucks after a while. 

Both things can be true. The most attractive companies to work for will embrace this. CLXs leverage remote-hybrid in their design, recognizing that learning happens in every home office, work office, and Zoom call throughout the company. 

Management Magic vs. Power Skills of the People

In November 2021, General Electric announced they were breaking up into three separate companies. With that, the final nail in the coffin was placed in GE’s (and many others’) philosophy that top-down, management-led operations, or Management Magic as the Wall Street Journal called it, is the best way to do business.

The End of Management Magic
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Photo by Shutterstock (343930h)

Companies now are smaller, agile, people-forward, and skills-driven. 

Josh Bersin has written extensively about how the skills of the future are not technical, they’re behavioral. In studies with the University of California, Berkeley, they saw that skills like empathy, forgiveness, humility, and awe were the most powerful and sustainable skills in business. The ability to lead, work in teams, tell stories, and think strategically is what separates high performers from everyone else. 

The thing is, these aren’t soft skills. They’re actually really hard to develop. They require us to learn them together, in teams, with leaders. They require constant, deliberate practice. CLXs provide the foundation for this exact type of learning. 

Native Digitals are taking over

“Native Digitals” according to a new book by the Category Pirates, are people younger than 35 who grew up in a world full of screens, Internet connections, smartphones, social media, wearables, and an “always-on” culture. 

Anyone over the age of 35 is a Native Analog. These are the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, born anywhere from the 1940s all the way up to the early ‘80s.

Native Digitals are Millennials and Gen Zers, born between the early 1980s to as recently as the 2010s. 

Millennials will soon take over the workplace
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The inevitable result, of course, is that soon the world will be run by Native Digitals, who are more comfortable interacting in online communities, consuming bite-size information on the go, and sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings with the world. All three of these activities are crucial to getting the most out of CLXs. 

Employment alternatives have erupted

Thanks to advances in technology, transferability of skills, and the personal reckoning many have confronted because of the pandemic, people are leaving jobs in record numbers. In the U.S. there are almost 11 million open positions and more than 3% of all workers are voluntarily leaving jobs every month. 

People are leaving jobs in record numbers
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Alternatives for employees include joining the Creator Economy, embracing the future of web3, learning new skills to change jobs, or simply taking time off to consider what it really is that they want to do.

Companies are like communities. If people don’t feel like they belong, they’ll move to another community. The business risk, of course, is that institutional knowledge may be lost forever. 

Transfer of Institutional Core Knowledge (TICK) should be a business imperative. CLXs facilitate this changing of the guard, with leaders teaching leaders, and knowledge sharing occurring across functions. 

Career development is a driver for hiring and employee engagement

Research by Degreed showed that people who rated their company learning cultures as positive have control over their own career development, access to easy-to-use career planning tools, and experiential learning opportunities to develop consistently on the job. 

In other words, skills matter. Career pathways matter. Growing in a company doesn’t mean only “moving up” anymore. It also means mentoring others or working on new projects or teams that stretch existing skills. 

Hiring for new roles draws on internal talent as much, if not more than external talent. 

CLXs expose people to opportunities more rapidly thanks to the increase in surface area of connections and interactions across the company. Employee engagement increases with it. 

Learning opportunities are everywhere

The most valuable learning at work is informal, on the job, and often as the result of coaching. Thanks to the nature of remote-hybrid work, this activity must be replaced. 

Learning on the job
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What is informal learning if not deliberate practice? It’s the intentional reflection on actions taken to draw out lessons. It’s the feedback from a mentor, coach, or colleague that prompts us to focus on improving a certain aspect of our work. It’s the repeated action, reflection, feedback cycle.

CLXs facilitate this cycle. They bring people together to discuss observations, capture ideas, engage in dialogue, and draw conclusions that can be shared with the broader company. They promote a culture of continuous learning. 

Cohort Learning Experiences
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With this momentum behind us, how exactly do we capture it and ride it into the future? What role do Learning Culture Officers play exactly? What does the L&D team of the future look like?

We’ll explore these questions, and more, in our final post in the series, coming out on Monday, Jan 31, 2022.

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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