Sunday, February 12

What will your training role be in the future?

After TechKnowledge 2012, I was inspired to think again about the role that learning and development professionals can look forward to in the future. For those who remain flexible and partake in continuous learning, I think the 21st century will be filled with exciting opportunities.

With cultural shifts slipping into the workplace, technologies changing at rapid speed, and an improved understanding of how adults learn, it's not surprising that many in our field are wondering what their training-related job might look like in the future.

One thing seems nearly certain—as time passes, the role of the training professional and instructional designer will be transformed. This is why various titles for our new role are being suggested, such as "Learning Experience Designer" and "Learning Architect" (see review of Clive Shepherd's book, The New Learning Architect).

There are many ways to imagine what will happen based on what is occurring today. One way to organize our thoughts about the future of the training and development professional is to think in terms of four roles that are based on how people learn, create, network, and collaborate. It seems feasible that all future roles could be based on this type of understanding, as represented in the diagram below.

Possible future roles of the Learning and Development professional.
Start with the core and work outward.

Each role defined here moves progressively further away from the traditional course design role. Perhaps the individual Learning and Development (L & D) professional will fulfill several of these roles simultaneously.
  1. Design and Create Courses: This is currently the most well-used role in the L&D repertoire. It involves using a systematic process to design and develop (and sometimes teach) courses and supplementary materials, such as performance support tools, for a specific workforce. The range of methodologies for doing should continue to expand. Using anything from the ADDIE model and it's many adaptations, to Thiagi's Four Door Model to Rapid eLearning development, there are many organizations who will continue to require courses for compliance, new hire and other types of structured training.
  2. Enable Learning: In this role, the L&D professional provides opportunities for a motivated workforce to learn and grow. These opportunities may be structured or unstructured, but they need not be tracked and have a certain informality and free flow to them. For example, setting up communities of practice, putting on special events with experts and teaching interested employees about enterprise collaboration tools are all ways to enable learning.
  3. Support Learning: In this more learner-centric approach, employees choose how and when they need to learn, dependent on their job tasks and interests. They may use the L&D professional as a resource for getting the on-demand information and training to meet their personal needs. For example, an L&D professional could moderate an online community, work with IT to design a social network or ensure there are no obstacles in the way of employee's creating their own Personal Learning Environments.
  4. Be a Change Agent for Development: In this role, the L&D professional envisions and champions critical transformations that are necessary for an organization to move forward. Savvy L&D professionals will be able to see where obstacles exist and provide insight and leadership for implementing innovative solutions, particularly as they affect professional development.
What do you think the future role of the training professional will be?

Connie Malamed (@elearningcoach) publishes The eLearning Coach, a website with articles, resources, reviews and tips for learning professionals. She is the author of Visual Language for Designers and the Instructional Design Guru iPhone app.

13 comments: said...

Great Insights and I do agree. The L&D professionals that embrace news approaches as well as learn ways of embedding THEMSELVES in the business and with the people will gain more credibility, respect and influence!

Connie Malamed said...

Thanks for your comments, ReThinkHR. Seems like you're as excited as I am about the future possibilities!

jay said...

Connie, I think this goes further. L&D must address the learning that goes on beyond courses. (I'd put your #1 at the bottom of the list, not the top.)

The bulk of the learning that takes place in corporations is in the workplace. L&D professionals can make this social, informal, experiential learning more effective by improving how that happens.

I call the locus of learning in the corporation at large the "Workscape." The significant role for L&D is Workscape Architecture, i.e. improving the channels for learning by optimizing the corporate network.

Perhaps a picture will help. See


HB said...

Thanks for this great article that is already making me think. I've been asked to come up with a concept of how to develop a 'future' state Learning and Development team for the company I'm contracted to.

However the challenge is that there is a team of facilitators (who used to be business SMEs and who have basic facilitation skills and who have no instructional design and development expertise). Added to this, we do have online learn workspaces (wikis, forums, chat) in the company, however this particular team has never been used these in learning programs nor have they been used by the team themselves. Virtual classrooms is simply too new. Effectively, training is still considered 'classroom training'.

The challenge to create a 'best practice team' is going to be daunting. It looks like it will be about 'the biggest bang for your buck' as it will involve training and a mindset change of our L&D team in these new skills and new technologies for creating real value for the business.

But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Hopefully this is going to be the answer to this big challenge...

Connie Malamed said...

Hi Jay,
I hear you. I put the traditional role as #1 because it is currently what most L&D professionals do. Perhaps it will become closer to your diagram sooner rather than later. Thanks for your comment and insights!

Connie Malamed said...

Hi Helen,
It sounds like you have a big challenge ahead. Everyone says to start your more innovative approaches small, and then grow larger with each success. Also, it's recommended to find a group of champions who can support these efforts and create buzz and excitement. Best of luck to you!

Rachel Miller said...

Great post! L&D pro's must keep up with technology and learn new ways to engage and educate people.

Greg Lemke said...

Its amazing how many jobs that exist today that didn't exist only a few short years ago and conversely how many jobs don't exist today that once did.

Flexibility and continuous learning and updating your skill set will be critical to future personal and corporate success. As Will Rogers once said "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

Josephine Poelma said...

Great article! It really got me thinking about what learning professionals need to do to stay relevant in the future. We all know the saying, “Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” To me, your post highlights the importance of going beyond that…to stay relevant, we need to also help the man figure out where is the best pond to fish, how to select the best fishing rod, and remove any obstacles that may prevent him from getting to the pond!


sute said...
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mieledi said...
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Connie Malamed said...

Responses to some of your comments -
@Greg - You've summed it up nicely, "Flexibility and continuous learning and updating your skill set will be critical to future personal and corporate success." Never stop learning. Life would be boring if we did stop!

@Josephine - Great metaphor, Josephine. Yes, it seems as though L&D professionals will really have to think about more than "command & control" as Jane Hart says. And also to know when it's best to help, enhance, support or simply step out of the way!

Thanks for your input everyone.

Carsten said...

I think in the future there will be more and more jobs where you don't need all the knowledge you currently find at the employee side. More and more jobs will use the huge amount of knowledge that can be found in databases so that employees can use them as a jobaid when they need it.

So I think enabeling the knowledge flow is one of the biggest tasks in the future for learning designers. That means implementing smart job aids into the used software on the one hand and enabeling informal learning that produces quick results on the other.

I think this will be the main focus in our future work.