Traits for LD Rockstar
ATD Blog

3 Traits That Will Make You a Learning and Development Rock Star In 2020

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A friend asked me to visualize the learning organization in three years and what their L&D department should do to get ready. As I thought about the answer, I realized there are three traits that will make you and your department a rock star in 2020.

Be Customer- and Learner-Focused

The learning department will be 100 percent customer focused and the “customers” are the employees (not the departments): 

  • Each person will get exactly (and only) what they need and want. There will no longer be role-based “learning plans.” There will only be a personalized learning plan. 
  • End users will own their learning and hold themselves accountable, and the learning organization will make this possible. 
  • The learning organization will not tell customers what to do; the customer will tell them what they need. All pull, no push. 
  • To support this customer-focused approach, the learning organization will have an agile, customer-focused mindset, rather than creating content that may quickly become obsolete. L&D will be highly responsive and can pivot quickly.

This customer-focused approach can only exist when L&D can provide customers with the organization’s expectations for their role. The expectations are the tasks they must perform, the behaviors that make the tasks executable, and the required levels of proficiency. That’s a competency model.

Be Curious

The learning organization will get curious and start to explore the industry of the company they are in and the audience they serve, not because they have a course to create, but to be intimately familiar with customer (learner) needs.


This will facilitate responsiveness and customer-focus, all in the context of what L&D knows their customers need to be able to do (the competency model). Competency models help L&D know how to serve their customers. They will become aware of what materials exist or need to be created for competency-based learning. They can pivot quickly to meet changing needs.

Embrace Diversity

The learning organization will provide materials that reflect true customer needs: approximately 70 percent will be activity based, 20 percent will be collaborative, and 10 percent will be formal.

  • Learning will identify activities and experiences, along with tools, templates, checklists, and the like to support learning on the job. In fact, when a new need is identified, an L&D rock star will first ask, “What activity could this person perform to learn this skill?” 
  • Learning will provide technology that supports identification of task-based mentors. Everyone in the organization is likely to be both a mentor and a mentee on a regular basis; it will simply become a part of the organizational culture. 
  • Learning may still create content, but more will be microlearning—short content that can be easily consumed in bite size pieces. The course as we know it today may still exist, but be used sparsely, mostly for large complex topics or for those who are new to the topic.

Part of embracing diversity is recognizing that you don’t have to own everything your audience needs. L&D rock stars will instead think of themselves as brokers, curating the best content and resources internally and externally. When a need arises because of a change in the environment, the learning team will be able to provide some resources within days to meet the new need.

So if you want to be a learning and development rock star in 2020, start now:

  • Identify what people need to be able to do (provide a competency model). 
  • Let them identify and own what they can and can’t do. 
  • Let them be accountable for closing their own gaps, achieving aspirational goals, and preparing for the next step in their career. 
  • Use that information, and deep awareness of their competency models, to provide competency-based learning with flexible options that reflect the way people learn and make sure it’s easily consumable. 
  • Make it fast and easy by providing one-click access to everything they need, recognizing that you can better serve the audience by linking to options throughout the learning ecosystem, rather than creating it all.

Want to learn more? Join me at ATD 2017 Conference & Exposition

About the Author

Cheryl Lasse is SkillDirector’s managing partner. Her goal is helping people and companies achieve their potential. Cheryl has extensive experience with competency model development and implementation, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Check out the LinkedIn group Competency Models For Professional Development.

She believes people are intrinsically motivated to excel, if they are given access to a competency model for their role, the opportunity to assess themselves against that model, and personalized learning to help them close gaps and meet aspirational goals. This philosophy has been embodied in the Self-Directed Learning Engine, the engine behind the ATD Skill Tracker.

Cheryl has a strong background in consulting, marketing, and sales, mostly in technology companies, where training has played a chief role throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University in computer science and HR, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

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