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Every L&D team performs better than your own
Relax, it really isn't true.
If you work in L&D then you probably find your role challenging, the demands intense, the budgets constrained. You also probably think that you could be doing a better job.
In this, you’re not alone.
I think it’s natural for a profession obsessed with improving performance to have existential doubts about its own ability to perform, but let me reassure you: almost every L&D team thinks that everyone else is doing a better job.
Throughout August, I’ve been speaking to Mind Tools clients who I’ve never met before. Some work in local government, others in manufacturing. I’ve met teams from universities, law firms, mining companies and financial services.
If you’re one of those clients, and you’ve since signed up for this newsletter, then thanks for making the time!
I wanted to have these conversations because, while my Custom team work with around 40 clients a year, this represents only a small subset of the wider Mind Tools client base. I was looking to get a better understanding of what life is like for those L&D professionals whom I don’t interact with regularly.
I’ve learned that while digital tools can be great for learning, there’s real difficulty in deploying them if the people you support work in remote locations or are mining deep underground.
Engaging non-desk-based workers in learning is a perennial problem: though some of the solutions that our clients are adopting are truly creative.
And in higher education, academics are often promoted into managerial positions only temporarily - meaning that the people they manage will be their peers again in just a few short months.
These will likely all be topics of upcoming newsletters.
For now though, what I really want to say is that if you’re finding your role difficult: you’re not alone.
Here’s one example:
In this year’s annual report from Mind Tools, our Research team revealed that 73% of L&D leaders predict an increase in the use of blended learning: a mix of face-to-face and online delivery.
But since 2016, the number of L&D teams actually using a blended approach has dropped from 26% to 23%.
In other words, we think that a blended approach is effective, and we’re pretty sure that others are doing it. But we struggle to offer a blended approach in our own organizations.
Or another insight from the same report:
Social-media tools can be used to facilitate Q&A sessions with leaders, to help learners find relevant content with Twitter (X) hashtags, to connect learner cohorts via WhatsApp, or to create private communities of practice on LinkedIn.
But the number of L&D teams using social media for learning has declined from 46% in 2014 to 38% in 2023.
I think that, based on my conversations this month, there are plenty of reasons why this might be the case. There are obstacles to overcome, and we have to do our best in the contexts we find ourselves.
So if you are using blended learning programmes or making effective use of social media for learning, then take heart: you’re in the minority.
On the other hand, if you’re one of those L&D leaders who thinks that you are falling behind and that everyone else is doing better, then cut yourself some slack. Everybody else feels like that too.
For now, ask yourself why you are investing time and energy into each activity and, of course, let us know if we can help 😉
Fancy a chat about the challenges that your L&D team is facing? Email email@example.com or reply to this newsletter if you’re reading it in your inbox.
🎧 On the podcast
Long-term Dispatch readers will remember that back in June we asked you to vote for the ‘Hottest of Hot Takes’, based on a fringe event at the CIPD Festival of Work run by Mind Tools and Emotion at Work.
We said that we’d then discuss the winning ‘Hot Take’ on an upcoming podcast, and so here it is: ‘Most employees aren’t actually that interested in L&D’
If that sounds like a rather bleak follow-up to a newsletter that has thus far meant to challenge L&D’s existential crisis, then don’t worry. The discussion with Mind Tools’s Nahdia Khan and Emotion at Work’s Phil Willcox also featured L&D newcomer Lizzi Philokyprou, who said:
‘[Learning] was very important [in previous roles] because it was very obvious when I wasn’t doing what I was meant to be doing. But it very much felt like the way I learn and the way people want you to learn is very much ‘picking it up as you go go’. So the idea of formalized learning definitely felt… like a side to the main meal, which was doing your job correctly.’
This reminded me of a point made by Phoenix Group’s Carl Akintola-Davies on last week’s episode: the more learning going on in an organization without L&D’s input, the better.
People want to learn, and they want to do the job well. If we as learning professionals can create the conditions for this and get out of the way, then we don’t need to worry too much about whether employees are interested in ‘L&D’ as a function.
Listen to the full episode here:
📖 Deep dive
Speaking of Carl, he shared an article last week from Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of I, Human.
In ‘Eight Popular Misconceptions About Authenticity’, Dr Chamorro-Premuzic argues that we should not ‘bring our “whole self” to work’, especially if we have:
‘…character flaws, obnoxious tendencies, and bizarre beliefs.
As it turns out, work is not an invitation to unleash the full spectrum of our identity on others, but a formal, rule-bound, and professional environment to which only certain aspects of our self are invited, and even fewer rewarded. Generally speaking, you will improve your performance, reputation, and success by displaying the best version of you, seeming (rather than being) genuine.’
That is not to say that if you work in an environment where you feel oppressed or marginalized that you should keep quiet, but it does mean that it is up to you how much of yourself you want to share. Especially if you do work in an environment where it doesn’t feel safe to do so.
As with so many areas, the article essentially argues that ‘authenticity at work’ is more complicated than we might think. But, if deep down you’re a d*ck, maybe just keep your views to yourself.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T. Eight Popular Misconceptions About Authenticity. Forbes.
👹 Missing links
Ebbinghaus’s ‘forgetting curve’ is a go-to model for learning designers, demonstraing the difficulty that he had - individually - remembering nonsense words. Unlike the words themselves, the image of the curve is easy to remember. We see it and we think ‘Oh yes, I also forget things’, and therein lies the key: When we are exposed to a stimulus that has a connection to our previous experiences, we are far more likely to remember it. In this post from August 2021, Christian Moore Anderson discusses the problem with Ebbinghaus and presents an alternative approach.
In an Atlantic article that’s largely about the development of Artifical Intelligence, I was struck by this description of how the game is played competitively
‘At the highest levels, checkers is a game of mental attrition. Most games are draws. In serious matches, players don’t begin with the standard initial starting position. Instead, a three-move opening is drawn from a stack of approved beginnings, which give some tiny advantage to one or the other player. They play that out, then switch colors. The primary way to lose is to make a mistake that your opponent can jump on.’
As someone who finds the prevalence of a checkers draw frustrating, this was deeply reassuring to me.
Back in 2020, when many people suddenly found themselves working from home for the first time, there was great enthusiasm for this huge societal shift. The effects became a focus for study and, as this piece from The Economist discusses, two doctoral students at Harvard found that employees of an online retailer handled 8% more calls per hour when working at home. So far, so good. But three years on, that paper has been revisited - and now shows a 4% decline in efficiency. Productivity isn’t the only thing we care about, of course, but it does tend to shape business decisions.
👋 And finally…
An embarassing confession from me this week: For years, I’ve used Launchy to open programmes on my Windows laptop.
Launchy is a really simple tool. You hit a couple of keys on your keyboard and a search bar pops up on screen. I’d then type in something like ‘Wo…’ and Microsoft Word would be suggested. Hit enter, and the app opens.
It goes without saying that this offers vast productivity benefits over the Windows 95 ‘Start’ button shown below. I don’t even have to touch the mouse!
Now comes the embarassing bit.
A recent IT migration here at Mind Tools Towers sparked a conversation in our team about tech habits, and my smug description of Launchy was met with disbelief from my team.
‘Why don’t you just press the Windows key?’ they all asked.
Imagine my surprise when doing so opened a search bar. I literally hadn’t opened the start menu in 10 years. Needless to say, tech has moved on in this time.
Or at least, it’s moved on for most. When I checked the Launchy website for this newsletter, it looks like it was built in 1995.
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