So I am on Twitter one evening and participating in what I class (aside from #Ozlearn) one of the best weekly tweet chats on L&D – #LDinsight and I see a tweet from Andrew Jacobs discussing the skills of L&D and some comments made about eLearning:
And so I responded:
After a brief discussion with Andrew, we decided that we each blog about this topic , which is obviously dear to both of us. A blogg-off was agreed to:
All things going well, the two blogs should appear around the same time.
Here is a link to Andrew’s blog:
So not knowing, what Andrew has written here goes:
For a while I have been surprised even to some extent disappointed on the state of play of L&D skills and to a lesser extent on the “segregation” of our profession. Why do we badge ourselves as eLearning Pros, Instructional Designers (ID) or X or Y or Z. I know each profession has specialities and focus areas, but at the end of the day we all have one goal – that of improving / enhancing the capability to assist the business to deliver on results.
We are Learning and Development, Performance Improvement, Capability Development Professionals.
Why does this segregation matter or concern me? I feel that as we fragment the profession so we fragment our skills and qualities. We are not seen as one but as many.
Yes I go to the GP who may refer me to a specialist., who may refer me on to a surgeon etc, but ultimately there are all there for one reason – My Health !
So with L&D – business does not say hey I need an eLearning Pro or I need an ID – they come to L&D (who sit in HR) and say “Hey guys we need a health and safety eLearning program for our managers”. Business demands a solution – and what do we do – we agree with them that it is eLearning they need.
As Andrew rightly said in his tweet above, an L&D professional will know when eLearning is required and what type of eLearning should be used. My response was in agreement with him and went further to question that although an L&D Pro would know, I doubt if an eLearning Pro would.
An L&D professional with the right skills should be able to undertake a consultancy to understand the gap, the issue and then determine what solution (if in fact it is an L&D solution) that may be required to achieve the desired performance outcome.
I have seen (and so have we all) eLearning being developed for the sake of pleasing the business because that is the solution they wanted – not because they have analysed the capability gap or the broader issue, BUT because this is what business wanted and asked for. So in this scenario we get:
“Yeah business – I have a few dudes who know how to use Articulate / Captivate and we can whip this up for you in a few weeks”.
Hold on – let’s rewind here – “we can develop that in a few weeks” – so we just do, we don’t think !
The Articulate dude puts his / her head down and starts developing because that is what he / she knows how to do – this is all they have been told to do. eLearning Pros (as confirmed in numerous surveys) don’t usually utilise or adopt performance or learning consultancy skills – they are paid to deliver X amount of eLearning and that is what they do and do it well ! They are (sad to say) considered as not having the skills to do anything more that that. Not my view but others.
The recent Towards Maturity survey concluded that business continues to throw more money into technology (read eLearning) than ever before, believing that this will solve their issues.
This is why I got concerned in the tweet chat and wrote “we need to focus on new L&D skills development” in my tweet. Andrew had already covered this by adding to his tweet – “Different skill and attitude required”. I think we are both on the same page – or are we?
In my view eLearning Pros need additional skills to carry out their roles and I think that they would also agree and acknowledge this.
Brando says in On the Waterfront:
“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been someone, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”
Now of course he was referring to a different set of people, but the quote rings true for eLearning Pros – just when they were looking to expand their skills and play a more active role with business, just when they “coulda been someone”, they are stopped – “not your role; your don’t have the skills; why are you questioning what the business wants; you are an eLearning developer so juts develop” – all common themes.
But, in my view, eLearning Pros can do more and also have a responsibility to do more. If they continue to see themselves as separate to L&D (yes some do see this as reality), they also do not see the need or consider it necessary to acquire new skills. After all they know how to use Articulate / Captivate – so they don’t need to learn any new skills.
Recruiters and business also have contributed to this. Recent job ads on SEEK confirm this. You look at any learning jobs advertised in Australia at the moment and they all ask for Articulate / Captivate knowledge (or some other eLearning product) – why? If I am to produce and design quality learning why do I need to know how to push a few buttons? Yes, great skills to have but why make it number one requirement – why not look at the other skills L&D pros have and focus on those as well, rather than excluding them. I can go and do an Articulate course and produce eLearning but will it be what the business needs? Will it meet the performance gap? Most likely not but I will get a job. As I said to one of my twitter friends just today, based on recent feedback from recruiters if I knew how to push an Articulate button here and there, I would have a job tomorrow.
Most times this is not the fault of the eLearning developer, but that of the Business, who does not know any better, and the Recruiters – who have “swallowed” the vendor driven theory that having their product and these skills are are all you need to producing quality eLearning – “This is what my client is looking for”, says the recruiter. Hold it, did you try and discuss this with them? “Oh they were very clear on what they needed!”
At a recent discussion with a recruiter, I was told they had a role to go in and develop some new eLearning products. When I asked what analysis was done to understand why they had decided to go that way, the response was that the business had determined what they needed and they were now looking for eLearning developers to deliver. So they were not looking for L&D skills as such but people that could use the software. I left the conversation thinking so why did you not advertise the role as a Articulate / Captivate User Required rather than L&D Consultant ?
Let’s be clear – I am not saying that pushing a button is not important – what I am saying is that eLearning pros need to think more broadly about their roles – develop other new skills – business acumen, relationship management, consultancy , interpersonal skills etc… They need to lead the charge and re-position themselves.
Some may say that L&D as a whole needs to develop these skills as well and yes this is true. But only by having a united approach can we focus on what we need, how we can acquire it and how we can apply it. Only by being untied in who we are, can we influence business and recruiters on what we do and how we do it.
Business needs to wake up and realise that quality elearning is more than demanding / requesting a particular elearning product, it is about understanding the performance gap / capability gap that exists and working together to design a solution that can make the difference they are seeking.
Recruiters need not focus as much on the software skills and only recruit eLearning Pros, but look at and investigate the broader L&D skills that individuals can bring to the role.
And L&D? Well L&D pros need to come together and focus on the profession as one whole unit. By doing that we are setting up ourselves to succeed, gain credibility from the business and more importantly are not seen as separate but as a total entity who cares about the business. Then, and only then, can we look at our skills and gaps, determine where we are as a profession, and plan how we can get there.
So whose job is it anyway ? If we are one and we stand as one it is L&D’s job.
Who is L&D – L&D is Articulate / Captivate users, it is IDs, it is performance consultants, it is learning consultants, it is capability developers – it is you and me !
So lets stand together, develop our skills together, support each other as one L&D professional, as we work together to improve “the health of the patient”.
Yes we are many, but in reality we are one – We Are L&D !