New York L&D roundtable event: Learners are doing it for themselves

Mind Tools toolkit clients and prospects joined us in New York for a lively panel discussion. Two topics were up for discussion: the rise of the consumer learner, and the findings of our new research report.

Published 11 March 2020
New York L&D roundtable event: Learners are doing it for themselves

On Monday March 2, we invited a few of our Mind Tools toolkit clients, as well as some prospects, to the Farm Soho in Manhattan, New York, to discuss the findings from our latest research report, Back to the Future: Why tomorrow’s workforce needs a learning culture. 

During the 2-hour session, three L&D professionals, each from a different sector, shared their experiences of using and implementing the toolkit. And more than 20 fellow L&D practitioners joined them for an evening of networking. 

The line-up 

  • Michael Kennedy – Founder, Gray Henley Learning & Development, and former client contact for the National Basketball Association (NBA) 

  • Liesel Anthony – Managing Director, Success Academy Charter Schools 

  • Adam Schaffer – VP, Procurement Category Management – Human Resources and Marketing, Barclays and former client contact for Bloomberg.

The rise of the consumer learner 

The rise of the consumer learner within organizations is happening at this very moment. So, it’s important that we all adapt and move with the times to offer the best support for our learners. 

By aligning with the needs of the consumer learner, your company benefits too. Organizations that actively seek to create an agile learning culture by guiding behavior – based on the principles of self-determined learning – are more likely to have a deeper understanding of their people. And, those with high-impact learning cultures are 10 times more likely to see growth, transformation, productivity and profitability. 

Three important questions 

We asked each speaker three questions during a lively panel discussion. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Why is it important for organizations to understand how your consumer learners are learning? 

With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Michael outlined how the L&D professional’s role has changed, and how you can empower learners by giving them content they can engage with. 

“L&D professionals really need to get a handle on what content people are flocking to and resonating with.  

Learning styles don’t influence success; we must educate people that preference won’t limit their ability. The question is, how will they learn more effectively? 

People are always saying that content is king, but that isn’t true. The content is only good if it resonates.” 

If you don’t understand how your consumers want to learn, it’s possible they’ll go somewhere else that does. Change management and leadership development professional, Adam, expanded more on the consumer learner and their high expectations. 

“People are consumers wherever they are. This is now a key element of what people expect at work. There are so many alternatives available and people can get access to learning whenever they want. 

You own your own career as an employee – but this can be done outside the organization if they don’t support you. And ultimately, that could be a threat.” 

If you know what your learners want, you can quickly put your plans into action. Liesel spoke about the importance of understanding the learner, as it allows them to move at a faster speed. 

“At Success Academy, we have been getting ready for people to become teachers. The ability to train them has been accelerated. Understanding the learner allows democratization – a fast pace. 

By giving the learners power, there is less burden on L&D. Our end goal is to evaporate the L&D team and run a maintenance model.”

2. How do you know your people are actively engaged and aligned with your vision for learning? 

For Adam, it was all about listening to the learner. 

“We use engagement surveys and feedback collected through continuous methods. 

We need to be more commercially minded within L&D and ensure the C suite are bought in. By having regular check-ins with senior leaders, we are able to cascade messages down to the learners. 

Having a strong valuation proposition is key, and we must advertise the value of what’s being provided. Even by using materials such as the employee handbook and things that learners have to mandatorily read.” 

Liesel suggested adopting a more analytical approach by tracking learners’ activity and engagement. 

“Learners will opt out of programs if they are not engaged. They are voting with their feet and with the systems they do and don’t have access to. We are tracking attendance on all learning. Nudging them with marketing is key to engaging and reminding them of the content available.” 

Michael drew inspiration from his previous experiences. 

“During my time at the NBA I had great pride that learning was woven into the culture. There was almost a competitive aspect to learning – people were comparing what they had learnt to their peers and describing it to friends, recommending the best content.” 

3. What role do people professionals play in driving self-determined learning behaviors? 

When it comes to driving self-directed learning, Liesel suggested that the best way to encourage these behaviors is to “think like a marketeer.” 

“We should act as marketers, by branding and communicating the learning offering. The most important thing is to make it crystal clear what the L&D offering is, and what value it adds. 

We must connect performance with learning. Content used to be king but now it is all about how we connect with learners. The learners are our customers, and their voice is critical.” 

Michael, however suggested engaging those key individuals one-on-one. 

“We need to allow people to choose their own learning paths and guide them along the way. Becoming engaged with managers is crucial, so they become the curators of content. L&D should help them to become their own facilitators.” 

Asking the audience 

After the panel discussion, all attendees took part in an interactive activity called “Framestorming“ where you ask a question and think of a series of questions to reposition it.  We decided to use it to address the following issue: 

In 2020, 71% of leaders with high-impact learning cultures report actively involving learning consumers in design, against 21% on average.  

What questions should we be asking to break the impasse? 

The main points that came out of this discussion was what L&D practitioners needed to challenge the decision makers to look at their L&D strategy in a different light. 

Here are some questions that you can ask the decision makers in your organization:  

  • Are your leaders prioritizing their own learning? 

  • What role do we play in the career of an individual? 

  • Do we believe that L&D can help take high potentials to the next level? 

  • How can our learners help in the design of our learning strategy? 

  • Why is this learning better than others? 

Thank you 

I'd like to personally thank all our speakers for sharing their insightful stories with us. 

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