I have spent the last 2 days at premier conference for the learning and development profession in London. I have been in the profession for over 30 years, and in that time I have seen a lot of changes. In the last two years I have come to an increasing realization that maybe the profession is dead… but most people in the profession have not realized this yet. We are all the walking dead, zombies. We keep doing what we do, and have not realized the we and many of our colleagues have expired.
What do I mean?
Go to any major learning and development conference and exhibition, and take away the language and marketing speak, and 90% of that is being touted is the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. But business has moved on. The only change we have made is to the words and language we use! If you use the phrase “science says” or “research says”.. point us to the research… PROVE IT. just using these phrases is LAZY and unprofessional unless you can back it up
Are most professionals in this sector so brain dead that we feel the need to re-label the conference and its content? Do we really believe that taking the same content and calling it something else is actually helping anyone? It might make us believe we are closer to our customer (internal or external) but they average employee is beyond such tactics now, they have been done to death in the world of advertising that we are numb to it.
The conference used to be called HRD – Human Resource Development, now it is called The learning & Development Show, by the way it did not “show” L&D at all!
One of the sessions took a concept promoted in NLP and called it “neuroscience” without giving the science evidence that it actually worked.
What many exhibitors called “coaching” was in fact one-to-one training and not coaching at all!
What many call “learning” is not learning but training. Learning is the act that an individual may or may not do when they are presented with new information, training is to one extent or another sharing that information in a structured way
Why are we embarrassed to use “old” terms like “training”? because the way we used to do it did not work? then simple change the way we do things, do not just re-brand it and expect it to work!
Is L&D Dead?
Well certainly after the credit crunch, many firms changed their approach. Many freelance and small training providers have either reduced their income or gone bust. Certainly cutting external spend has changed people perception of L&D, but have people noticed or are they still walking in the pre 2008 world in their own heads?
Looking around the “show” my impression was that there are a lot of new people in the profession, and they have limited budgets and are looking for resources to use internally. My only hope is that they learn from the past, and do not do “learning and development” as it has often been done in the last few years. If it an’t broke don’t fix it… it is broke, it broke years ago but we have not (or do not want to) noticed!
Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of good stuff, but also a lot of activities to make the L&D or trainer “feel special”, and not focus on the real needs of the business or the individuals we were working with.
We need to stop this obsession with always wanting “new toys”, having the latest phone does little in the way of making texts or phone calls better, as almost every phone can also handle browsing and email, there is little to really improve their either. You will see from my 2009 article above that we have been doing this for a long time, and its not helpful.
Stop being sheep
We need to understand that training, coaching, lectures, courses, coaching, facilitation etc are all valid tools and methods. Few work on their own, but all are valid tools and strategies, we need to embrace them for what they are good at, and not re- brand and confuse everyone.
Ask any 18-20 year old and they want training! They welcome “training”, the learning they want to be left alone to do on their own. they have the tools and strategies for that.
Back to the future
For me we need to look at our past. Recognize what actually worked, keep the “old” names IF IT WORKED. add to our portfolio new approaches (IF THEY ARE PROVEN),
Above all L&D (Training) needs to go back to basics, training and development activities needs to be led by operations. It needs to be business focused. PROVE to the MD that we can add value, and we will get the funding we need to do it well, jump from fad to fad, and we will maintain our journey into history as an irrelevant business spend.
What do you think? Is the profession “the walking dead”? Are we sheep? does re-branding really help anyone or just undermine the whole profession?