Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012: Emerging Trends, Roles and Responsibilities in Learning and Development

The following summarizes the comments received during an informal survey of Learning Leaders in the New York Metropolitan area on the anticipated changes and new developments in the Learning & Development and User Support fields.

The comments are presented in two categories (along with an indication on the level of consensus from the Learning Leaders surveyed):

  1. Roles and Responsibilities that will be in demand over the next 12 to 24 months, and
  2. Emerging Trends in the Learning and Development space over the same time period.

Emerging Roles and Responsibilities:

  1. Performance Consultants to ensure alignment between business goals, challenges and breakdowns, and learning and development initiatives. Most survey participants noted a critical need for learning and development professionals that can speak the language of business and understand profit and loss challenges, staff management and professional development concerns, and business operations. Are we better served to have L&D professionals with an MBA focus or MBA professionals with an L&D orientation? There was universal consensus on this role.
  2. Community Engagement Managers to promote, coordinate, organize, and manage user and subject matter involvement involved in social learning initiatives. Some survey participants indicated that this role and responsibility may be incorporated into the job description of existing L&D positions. There was broad consensus on this role.
  3. Project and Program Managers with the ability to oversee global and virtual team initiatives. Going forward, the concept of the team may include employees, subject matter experts, business partners, clients, business stakeholders, and third party vendors. These Project and Program Managers will manage team members with varying cultural perspectives and alternative work arrangements. There was broad consensus on this role.
  4. Talent Management / Human Capital Management Specialists to provide broader organizational design and organizational effectiveness to existing internal clients. These professionals will provide expertise in "hire to fire" strategies including topics encompassing competency modeling, recruitment and selection strategies, compensation, professional development, leadership development, and succession planning. There was broad consensus on this role.
  5. Knowledge Managers / Content Librarians to oversee, manage, update, and determine access of organizational knowledge and learning assets. This role is a morphing of the Knowledge Management discipline and the current Curriculum Manager role. There was some consensus on this role.

Additional roles and responsibilities noted included:

  • Learning Systems Integration Specialists to ensure seamless integration of learning systems and applications with enterprise systems. These specialists would serve as the primary liaison between Learning and Development and IT and third party vendors.
  • Learning Evaluation and ROI Specialists to assess the business impact of Learning and Development initiatives.
  • Online Learning Designers and Developers with expertise in rapid development tools.

Emerging Trends:

  1. Social Learning encompassing the utilization of social media tools to enhance learning and retention. Most survey participants are currently involved in the development or prototyping of social learning solutions. Some of the challenges mentioned included concerns over how information is shared and accessed, conformance to regulatory and compliance guidelines, productivity loss, and the reliability of the knowledge being shared. All survey participants saw social learning as a current and emerging trend.
  2. Greater reliance on User Generated Content: Most survey participants envision pushing more of the content creation responsibilities to the end-user and subject matter expert community. In this scenario, traditional Learning and Development departments would be responsible for: (a) the development of toolkits, templates, and training solutions to support the user community in the development quality content and learning deliverables; (b) serving as mentors and coaches to the user community on content and learning development activities; (c) quality control activities
  3. Mobile Learning: With the explosion in usage of smart phones and mobile computing devices, a great majority of survey participants see mobile computing as a significant emerging trend. With mobile learning (mLearning) come significant challenges including usability design concerns, security and compliance concerns, network reliability and speed, and the lack of an established mobile learning pedagogy and standards. Additional concerns were noted by David Wentworth of the Institute for Corporate Productivity who wrote, "Mobile learning is not without issues, though, most of which boil down to very tactical, practical application and the ever-present challenge of garnering the support of senior leaders. Do content owners now need to develop a mobile application for every piece of content they create? If so, does there need to be versions that can run on iPhones, an Android device, BlackBerrys and Windows phones? What about tablets? Are there authoring or content creation tools that make this easy? How do we manage all of this - through our existing Learning Management System (LMS)?" (
  4. Additional reliance on Outsourced Services: All survey participants indicated that they anticipated lean and mean times ahead. With continued economic uncertainty, staffing levels will be managed closely and Learning and Development departments will be pressed to continue to deliver quality solutions with limited funding. In order to meet these challenges, Learning and Development leaders will need to enhance their reliance on third party vendors and outsourcing partners. This will require (a) investigation of overseas or lower cost providers of quality services; (b) Learning and Development professionals skilled at managing outside vendors; (c) staff members skilled in managing overseas vendors and virtual teams

Survey participants included learning leaders from corporations representing the Healthcare/Hospital, Aviation, Insurance, Financial Services, Professional Services, Education, Manufacturing, and Real Estate sectors.