Why the Concept of Learning and Development Needs to Change

03 Mar

Post by Expedite

Posted in: Business Development Consulting, Human Resource

Why the Concept of Learning and Development Needs to Change


The austere teacher at the front of the class, complete with chalk and blackboard, is but a memory that lingers in the minds of many of us. Interestingly though, although Power Points and tablets have replaced more traditional tools – as well as terrifying expressions –  this style of top down learning still prevails within learning and development (L&D).

L&D consultant Michelle Parry-Slater remains baffled by this state of affairs – not just for the progressive nature that L&D should espouse but because, in short, ‘it simply doesn’t work’. She argues that although classroom-style teaching still has its place, it’s outdated as a main source of teaching, particularly when you consider its origins.

During the Industrial Revolution, we needed to train people quickly but were limited in resources – so we settled with one teacher, one book, and one master who bestowed knowledge upon an intently listening audience.  It is erroneous to still embrace this method, as we now know the brain doesn’t absorb information after a particular amount of time. It is an accident of history – why are we still doing it?

It’s also reminiscent of the ‘command of control’ structure where there tends to be one individual ‘in charge’. Michelle says: “Some organisations have fallen into the triangular top-down shape structure, where individuals aren’t always given permission to think for ourselves – and are told what to say or do. Human beings are much more intelligent than that.”

Michelle believes that L&D has stuck to what it knows for too long. “Learning is not something that should be done in an allotted time, rather a practice that’s incorporated into our everyday lives.”

This has driven her to start up Kairos Modern Learning a specialist consultancy that aims to move organisations away from old style ‘Injection Education’ courses to embrace the best of digital, social and face to face – what Michelle calls ‘social blended solutions’.

She says: “When we give people loads of information in one ‘injection hit’, they can’t contextualise it.  There’s no point giving people any knowledge transfer, unless they can go back to their workforce and actually ask – ‘how does that impact me? How does that impact on my work and my role?’

How do ‘social blended solutions’ differ?

It’s the difference between having a productive conversation with John from accounts rather than spending an hour with a trainer who’s not actually doing John’s job. Or, deciding not to send Bob on a sales course simply because he’s not reaching his targets, rather than addressing the underlying, contributing issues.  Michelle points out that Bob may be very adept at cold calling and talking to potential customers, but not so good at ‘closing the deal’. Or he could be lacking in confidence in certain areas. This is much more productive than sending Bob on a course and ticking a box to prove it’s been done.

Interestingly, it’s something that smaller businesses and charities have adapted to far more easily than larger corporate organisations – they’ve had to be a lot more agile and improvise, due to funding and budget reductions. As Michelle explains – ‘people are beginning to realise there’s great value in the resources they have to hand already’.

People practise this in their everyday private lives already

Whether it’s buying a car or finding the perfect wedding dress, individuals blend many different skills to gather and research information – through talking to people, googling or tweeting – we’re all used to having instant access to answers, rather than waiting three months to go on a course. In a world where immediacy is so prized and patience continues to wilt on a daily basis, this can also help improve your employee and customer relationships. Michelle believes that L&D can help facilitate and curate this process, as well as ensure the validity of information.

Consultative rather than transactional

Consultative asks – ‘why do you need this’, and ‘what do you need? As opposed to the more traditional practice of selling a course.  It addresses L&D right at the beginning, when you’re closer to understanding the goals of the project or business, rather than shoe-horning it in at the end.

Michelle says: “It’s about resolving your business’ needs with learning interventions – the right intervention for the right need at the right time. And the companies that understand that will sell their products because those products are fitting that need, or recommend another one that does. If we ever get to that halcyon day, I’m not so sure but we’ll see…”

Where could your organisation embrace a more consultative approach to learning? Meet Michelle Parry-Slater at our Working Futures event, who is discussing how to create a learning organisation, and find out how Social Learning could benefit your team.