Learning and Development’s Role in Digital Transformation

Learning and Development’s Role in Digital Transformation

There can be no doubt that Learning and Development (L&D)  has a pivotal role to play in digital transformation. At the core of any transformation initiative is a huge amount of change – new skills, new technologies, new ways of operating, new processes… L&D has to be right in there, driving and supporting the change.

In our first and previous post in this series on digital transformation we talked about the fact that digital transformation is as much about people as it is about technology. If organisations just focus on the tech and forget that transformation is a journey involving the whole workforce, their efforts will fail.

That’s why Learning and Development has to be involved from the outset, ensuring that the organisational climate is ripe for change. Transformative companies have a workforce that is forward-thinking, collaborative, innovative, agile, adaptive, curious and resilient. And that’s just for starters!

They are learning organisations. This is critically important because transformation is an ongoing journey, not a one-off event. Learning and Development has to instill a learning culture, ensuring that the workforce is willing and able to embrace change as it happens. Knowledge regeneration is key now so people need to keep learning, unlearning and relearning and keep upskilling. This only happens when organisations have a learning culture.

Research by the IT and services company Fujitsu, outlined in a report called ‘Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision 2017′, found that 75% of the business leaders polled thought their sector would fundamentally change over the next five years. Fundamental change – transformation – will undoubtedly require a fundamental change in the workforce’s skills and competencies. That’s what organisations have to be prepared for. L&D has to make sure that it knows what skills and competencies are required now, what the emerging needs are and how to meet them. The Fujitsu report found that 70% of organisations lack the digital skills they currently require. To avoid this situation, Learning and Development needs to be constantly horizon scanning, looking at the future skills landscape and the future needs of the business so that organisations aren’t caught short.

Working in partnership with the business is really important so that all the stakeholders know what the business and learning priorities are and how to achieve them. It’s not a case of the business telling L&D what is required or L&D telling the business – everyone needs to be working together. That’s why so many L&D functions have now assumed a consulting role.

On top of all of this, L&D professionals have to keep updating their own skills. The L&D benchmarking, research and analyst organisation Towards Maturity has said many times over that L&D is guilty of cobbler’s children syndrome – upskilling everyone else, but not themselves.

Its recent research, outlined in ‘L&D: Where are we now?’, and ‘The Transformation Curve’, claims that Learning and Development is slipping behind in its own transformation journey, which in turns impacts on its ability to drive transformation in the business. Nine out of ten organisations participating in Towards Maturity’s benchmarking service say skills in areas such as stakeholder engagement, technology, performance consulting, developing content, collaboration and data analytics are important, but only 30% have audited their L&D workforce against these skills. And 53% of them said L&D lack the skills to implement and manage tech-enabled learning.

The profession knows that this is a problem and what skills are lacking. When asked what skills they wanted to develop in 2018, this was the response:

  • facilitating collaboration – 75%
  • data analytics – 70%
  • digital content development – 66%
  • webinar delivery – 65%
  • technology/infrastructure – 60%

Learning and Development teams must be constantly updating and regenerating their own skills and knowledge, while helping the workforce do the same. As we said, transformation involves the entire workforce and that includes the L&D team.

Our previous post in this Digital Transformation talked about ‘what exactly is digital transformation?’

Next up  in the series is ‘what digital learning looks like?‘

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