Amanda Nolen is in favour of a resources rethink: allocate your L&D budget towards the grassroots, not the top of the executive pyramid – your employees, and the business, will benefit. Here’s her thought on how to train employees early for long-term success.
How are L&D leaders responding to Covid-19? That’s the question on Amanda Nolen’s mind – and she says their focus is on the wrong things.
As a learning strategist and co-founder of the NilesNolen consultancy, Amanda advises organisations on digital learning transformation. Even before Covid-19 hit, she found the pace of change rising at an exponential rate and the shelf-life of skills already shrinking. Coronavirus has accelerated the process.
Amanda’s concern is L&D leaders’ failure to see the bigger picture. In her opinion, they are not thinking about the business as a whole and how their learning strategy aligns to it. As a result, she predicts more redundancies and more organisations going under – unless L&D practitioners change the way they work.
We need a reskilling revolution
So where to start? Most learning leaders, says Amanda, have diverted resources in the wrong direction in their rush to convert face-to-face courses into digital training.
This scramble to get all learning online will resonate with many L&D practitioners, and it’s something we wrestled with at Stellar Labs. We scrutinised our programmes before deciding which would make a successful transition. If a course needs a physical presence, we are not prepared to sacrifice learning quality. Only those that deliver 100% online have made the cut, and our digital collection is carefully curated to give people the skills to improve their performance in their current job or thrive in new and emerging roles.
Get in on the ground level
Amanda fears many practitioners lack such a forward-looking approach and are caught up in reactive, fire-fighting measures – many of them directed at the leadership level.
But in these volatile and uncertain times L&D must concentrate on processes to reskill and upskill the workforce from the ground up.
“The skills needed to be a good leader should be learnt at the beginning of a career path.”
Amanda is clear where training budgets must be directed: the grassroots. L&D must stop “throwing money” at leadership development, and redirect resources towards the broader workforce.
It’s her firm belief that a disproportionate amount of money is spent in leadership training with no demonstrable ROI. She goes so far as to call it “a huge waste”. A controversial stance because leadership training has its advocates, but Amanda sticks to her guns.
The skills needed to be a good leader should be learnt at the beginning of a career path. Early access to training in soft skills and communication, for instance, will lay the groundwork for effective leadership later on.
That’s what she means by aligning business strategy with learning strategy. L&D needs a plan to develop the skills organisations need to stay competitive. With investment in training at the grassroots level, employees will gain the skills their organisations need to stay relevant, and keep their jobs in the process.
Spark curiosity to improve learning
Amanda also highlights the need for organisations to embrace mobility and establish an internal talent marketplace. For that, L&D must develop people’s “learnability” – the learning muscle and curiosity to acquire new skills and evolve.
“If employees are curious, they are exploring and coming up with creative ideas that could benefit the organisation.”
We know from our own research and current programmes that, with the right interventions, people can improve their ability to learn new things. And Amanda is keen for L&D leaders to encourage curiosity – even if it means asking uncomfortable questions. If employees are curious, they are exploring and coming up with creative ideas that could benefit the organisation. Endorsing creativity is a key part of the ongoing drive to grow talent.
So although Amanda has misgivings about L&D’s initial reaction to Covid-19, she is optimistic that a turnaround is possible. It will require a rethink on priorities, but if L&D is prepared to concentrate resources at ground level rather than the top of the executive pyramid, she believes organisations will be in a stronger position to ride out the current crisis and can look forward to a promising future.
Listen to her podcast and find out how to train employees early for long-term success.
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