For those charged with facilitating professional L&D in organizations today, the evolving business landscape offers obstacles and opportunities. Drivers of success differ significantly from prior decades, and customers expect learning and development experts to keep up and respond.
When asked about the challenges they face, more than 300 industry professionals shared their thoughts and experiences. And as patterns started to emerge, responses revolved around four primary themes.
The Tricky Trio: Better, Faster, Cheaper
It wasn’t that long ago that organizations could distinguish themselves in the marketplace by excelling at just one of the three. They could offer better, faster, or cheaper products and services and still survive. Then, they had to deliver on two—and the other would be forgiven.
Now, customers expect all three, and organizations demand the same of their partners and employees. Learning professionals today face an ever-increasing quality bar and turn-on-a-dime responsiveness, paired with the expectation of receiving both despite a “honey I shrunk the budget again” reality.
Of the three primary expectations, L&D professionals report that time is the biggest issue. From nonexistent lead-times to laughable turnaround times to no time to offer the best they have to give, too few hours in the day and days in the month present a constant challenge. As a result, it’s critical for learning professionals to develop strategies for managing the tyranny of time.
Beyond simply “better, faster, and cheaper,” L&D professionals feel the pressure of growing customer expectations on a variety of different fronts. A few of the most commonly noted include escalating requirements around:
- a focus on sustainable design, with both the environment and shelf life as high-priority considerations
- the ability to “edu-tain”—to involve and train a workforce with shortening attention spans, despite systems that often confine creative interaction
- an expectation to engage and connect with a diverse workforce, taking differences in culture, nationality, language, gender, age, and even location into account while ensuring that content reaches and resonates for an increasingly broad audience base.
Support Sink Hole
L&D professionals know that learning does not operate in a vacuum. It requires the buy-in and support of many stakeholder groups, from clients to subject matter experts to human resources business partners to executives. Capturing the attention and inspiring the action (or at least endorsement) of these time-starved partners continues to be a tough challenge to overcome.
The Shoemaker’s Children
Let’s face it—it can be difficult to prioritize personal professional development while taking care of clients’ learning needs. L&D professionals put so much time into helping others learn that they are frequently too depleted, from both a time and energy standpoint, to do the same for themselves. And this is hardly a sustainable practice.
Additionally, staying up-to-date while in the center of a swirling current of change can feel impossible. And yet it’s essential to meet contemporary and future challenges.
The pace of transformation in our modern workplace seems unlikely to slow, and for L&D professionals, the challenges will continue to multiply and evolve. The ability to act nimbly, be responsive, and utilize resources wisely becomes ever more important in building a foundation for success.
What about you? What challenges are you facing as an L&D professional in 2017?