The challenges of global learning and development – An OU initiative

Campaign for Learning
Learning at Work week (15 – 21 May 2017)

I was lucky enough to take time to attend a webinar run by the OU and the Campaign for Learning at the end of April. Campaign for Learning is a not for profit organisation which supports lifelong learning and is leading the Learning at Work week 15-21 May 2017.

The webinar looked at the challenges of global L&D and based the material on recent research by the OU of over 200 senior L&D decision makers. It raised some great questions and led me to think of the place and real value of action learning in the global workplace.

The OU research showed that organisations are demanding a great deal:

  • They want their talent and workforce to be mobile
  • Knowledge sharing is crucial irrespective of location
  • Agility in people and processes
  • From any R&D investment – organisations want to put less resources in but get greater commercial impact out.

These are strong demands and reflect the dynamic global marketplace.

58% of these L&D leaders expect performance to improve as a result of better sharing of learning and more than this, see global learning as the future. Almost all at 94% expect to increase their investment in global learning.

This is a great proactive, far sighted response – but what about the barriers here?

Is global L&D just too big a concept?

Many of the L&D leaders worry their organisations are too complex to accept global L&D, either in terms of business structure or organisational politics. About half the decisions makers in the research felt that their organisations do not have the capability to develop global learning. And of course the perception that face to face learning is likely to be more successful is still very pervasive. The webinar attendees did start a great discussion as to how to deliver behaviour change while working virtually.

A way forward

The OU response to this research entirely chimes with what we do with virtual action learning. The webinar talked of a ‘learning ecosystem’ as being the way forward. This is about creating self-sustaining learning between peers, creating networks in the organisation who learn together.

The move to support user generated content is a call to the classic action learning approach, where sets work on current work life issues for each presenter. As L&D professionals, the challenge is to engage the business and ensure the technology is a support and not a barrier. We finished on the need to maximise ‘on the job’ learning, to develop a culture so this is embedded in all workplaces and an active ‘learning ecosystem’ truly exists.

Virtual action learning – today’s answer to global learning

With virtual action learning we bring groups of people to work together in action learning sets using a rigorously facilitated structure to examine real work problems. In addition to finding creative ways of working and problem solving, participants develop classic action learning skills of open questioning and reflective learning. They also have the benefit of learning group facilitation skills to better manage remote or distributed teams so the learning ripples out beyond the set members, wherever they may be.

This platform works exceedingly well in breaking down barriers – perceived or real – and is an effective and practical way of improving performance through shared learning experiences.

Read more: Campaign for Learning
Learning at Work week (15 – 21 May 2017)

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