Master Class David James Lesson Six Transformative Learning
Training & Learning

L&D Master Class Lesson 6: How to Make Your L&D Strategy Future-Proof

If you’ve felt a little destabilized over these last few years, you’re not alone. The world of L&D has changed a lot, and recent phenomena such as the Great Resignation and the shift to hybrid work have created new challenges for learning leaders.

So, how can you make sure your L&D strategy can adjust and respond to future changes in the way we work? And what outcomes should you be focusing on to ensure the right learning impacts, no matter what the world has in store?

In this final lesson of our L&D master class, David talks about how you can keep your L&D strategy flexible and nimble by asking the right questions, gathering data, and measuring your impact. He also discusses what the future might have in store for L&D.

Missed Episode 5 of our L&D master class? Check it out here!

How to make your L&D strategy future-proof

*This content is provided by 360learning, an independent company, with no affiliation with the “MasterClass” brand.

1. Don’t just invest in a tool–invest in yourself

As David explains, in light of what’s happened in the last two years, it is reasonable to ask one basic question: why should you be investing in one single learning solution when the future can be so unpredictable.

“And if you're asking that question, then that is 100% right,” he says. “You can't buy one fixed solution to your known problems today.”

According to David, the real solution is to invest in ourselves and back ourselves to solve real learning problems. In practice, this means:

  • Seeking data inside our organizations to validate whether business needs are in fact real needs, and how much they’re impacting your organization;
  • Seeking the right evidence to convince the people we really need to influence; and
  • Experimenting with them in order to move the needle on employee performance in a meaningful way. 

“We can find smarter tools to help us to automate that process, and use AI to make that even smarter and service what people need when they need it at their moment of need,” says David.

But this doesn’t mean there’s one platform or one suite of content that’s going to solve everything. “We need to stop making the same mistakes as we have previously: ripping and replacing one LMS for another, or switching from an LMS to an LXP. This time, if we're going to find the answer to our problems, we need to really invest in ourselves.” 

David’s advice is that instead of focusing on the solutions in the market or listening to vendors who say their solution is going to solve all of our employee development goals, we should invest in our own digital capability. This way, we can ensure we have the skills–despite whether our technology is in or out of fashion–to make the difference our organizations require from us.

“If we want to be flexible and nimble,” he says, “then we need to own that ourselves and back ourselves to respond to any problems that may occur in the future.”

So, how can you ensure that your digital-first learning strategy is flexible enough to handle whatever tomorrow has in store? In David’s experience, it comes down to asking the right questions.

Speaking of investing in yourself–have you seen our free L&D salary negotiation cheat sheet?

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We need to stop making the same mistakes as we have previously: ripping and replacing one LMS for another, or switching from an LMS to an LXP. This time, if we're going to find the answer to our problems, we need to really invest in ourselves.

2. Ask the right set of questions–and track the right data

According to David, being flexible with your L&D strategy means asking the right questions and keeping a keen eye on the data, rather than starting with a pre-determined set of skills you’d like to focus on.

“It’s about understanding what it is that people are expected to do, what they are currently doing, and what they're not able to do easily and effectively is a way of unwrapping and unmasking what the actual performance problem is.”

Ask questions to track employee performance

“You can start now, and you can improve over time,” says David. “It's about being bold enough to ask: why are we doing this? Instead of simply taking a training request and asking, ‘what would you like in that course?’, we need to dig deeper.”

The right questions to ask are:

  • How are things working right now?
  • How are they supposed to work? 
  • Who is responsible for that work? 
  • And what's getting in the way? 

“If you can unpack these performance-related questions, you're having a conversation about outcomes which is going to lead you a long way down the path of being able to solve that problem.” 

Keep a keen eye on the data

Next, as David explains, being flexible is about keeping a keen eye on the data. This doesn’t mean getting lost in spreadsheets or buying a new system to identify the data.

“It's simply taking a training need as an assumption and then you're looking for reasons to either go ahead or not–is it actually a real problem?”

And if it’s a real problem, David’s experience has taught him that there will be data that will take you to the people responsible for the work itself. And to back up your assumptions, you want evidence on what people are trying to do that they’re unable to do easily.

“The alternative is to not understand the problem,” he notes, “look for the biggest possible solution, which is an all-encompassing technology platform and an exhaustive suite of content. Then, you’ll never really know whether it makes a difference, because you didn't understand the problem in the first place.”

“It's easier to do the digging and make a difference than it is to drive sustained engagement towards a platform that no one can see as a solution.”

If you can unpack these performance-related questions, you're having a conversation about outcomes which is going to lead you a long way down the path of being able to solve that problem.

3. Focus on outcomes, not outputs

For many L&D leaders, making this pivot to focus on demonstrable outcomes over learning engagement might sound a little disheartening. But not for David.

“I am particularly hopeful for what L&D can achieve here because I already know many L&D leaders who are addressing these problems,” David explains. “There are many who have sought the data to recognize where these problems are in their organizations, and who are laser-focused on actually addressing those to make a meaningful difference.” 

“And the good news is that it's faster, cheaper, less risky, and easier to prove the impact of doing it this way by understanding the problem and experimenting than it ever was before. So there really is no excuse for anybody not to jump on board.”

One final word of advice for keeping your L&D strategy flexible? Never stop experimenting.

The good news is that it's faster, cheaper, less risky, and easier to prove the impact of doing it this way by understanding the problem and experimenting than it ever was before.

4. Never stop experimenting

Once you start asking the right questions and gathering the evidence of the people who are responsible for the work, you can experimenting with them to try to create as little as you possibly can to make a meaningful difference to their performance.

“That way,” says David, “you can turn the dial and do more of what works and do less of what doesn't work. Yes, it might seem scary because it doesn't look like L&D used to or it doesn't look like L&D currently presents itself in some organizations.”

“But there are plenty of L&D leaders who have pivoted to proving their real impact on employee performance, and who are making an extraordinary difference in their organizations.”

That’s it for our L&D master class. We hope that you find it useful and that there’s plenty you can take away to make your learning digital-first and more importantly, more impactful. And remember, you can get all lessons delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our weekly content newsletter below.

There are plenty of L&D leaders who have pivoted to proving their real impact on employee performance, and who are making an extraordinary difference in their organizations.

Looking for more great resources on transformative learning?

If you loved our L&D master class, be sure to join The L&D Collective, our community of learning leaders where David hosts regular office hours on everything related to impactful L&D.

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And for more practical guidance, check out the 360Learning Resources Hub. Here, you’ll find a range of ebooks, cheat-sheets, and articles on everything from onboarding to blended learning and more.

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