With the recent announcement of the finalists of the 2020 Learning Awards, we continue this series of the L&D QuestionTime where we hear from this years finalists.
Today we hear from Eglė Vinauskaitė shortlisted in the Rising Star of The Year category.
In your opinion, what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?
Irrelevance. Often, internal L&D functions aren’t perceived as equal to sales, marketing or finance to the business. They’re struggling to carve out a place as an integral partner of the business, with accountability for KPIs just like any other department, rather than an appendage that produces courses on demand.
Learning and development opportunities at companies are constantly cited as the biggest factor in employee retention, but we all know it’s not e-learning the employees are after.
It doesn’t help that wherever you look, the profession is getting attacked for not doing enough, or not doing the right things. The criticisms are often valid, but there isn’t much actionable advice or will and vision from leadership to do things differently. In the conversations I’ve observed, there is a lot of problem spotting and not enough problem solving.
Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?
I do keep an eye on conversations on LinkedIn and Twitter, and listen to industry podcasts – to the surprise of no one, David James’ Learning & Development podcast is the first that comes to mind these days. But more than that, I try to look outside of L&D: design, behavioural science, marketing, management, even education entrepreneurship. L&D is rarely the first adopter of new ideas and tech.
I also try to take contracts that take me outside of pure corporate training and into learning product development. There, I get better access to users, have a sandbox to experiment with, and opportunities to collect impact data. Then I can bring these consumer-grade UX and learning design practices back into the corporate sector.
What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?
Over the last few short years L&D has seen lots of innovation, especially in the realms of XR and AI. I remember lots of excitement and wonder a few years ago, but I don’t think they have made enough of a dent in the experience or perception of corporate L&D. So instead of anticipating the next big thing, I am more excited about finding more intelligent and meaningful applications of what we already have – because the tech is already powerful enough to create something great.
One exciting thing I am observing right now is the performance consulting mindset going mainstream – or so it seems. We’re talking about what the purpose of L&D should be – which is a worthwhile conversation to have! Call it an innovation in approach rather than tools: ‘Start with a problem, not with a solution’. It doesn’t matter if you are a vendor or an in-house practitioner. If you think of yourself primarily as a course developer, courses are going to be your go-to answer to any business problem.
What “game changers” would you like to see and why?
The biggest game changer would be the change in the approach to learning development among many L&D practitioners. In my experience, there is a stark difference between internal L&D folk and learning product developers.
Internal L&D are often so focused on creating neat little course packages and achieving 100% course completions. Something I’m sure at least in part comes from the top – and that’s where the aforementioned lack of L&D vision and leadership comes in. Whereas learning product developers are all about uncovering user needs, experimenting, testing, iterating, and measuring. Ruthlessly, I might add, because their products won’t survive in the market otherwise.
Corporate L&D has increasingly large budgets, and if they don’t, there are plenty of open source experimental tools. The tech is already available. And most importantly, they have users that are hungry to learn (a 30-minute elearning course doesn’t count). I wish internal learning practitioners would capitalise on all that and operated more like consumer-grade product developers. As a result, corporate learners would benefit from truly innovative, timely, and relevant learning experiences across digital, F2F, or both.
That’s where data-informed L&D comes in too. Not just data analysis skills, but also the mindset that impact should be measured. I’ve met too many learning professionals who don’t think that’s part of their job description. If you have no interest in seeing what’s not working, if you don’t care if your work is making a difference, what could possibly motivate you to improve? No ‘game-changing’ tech will make a difference if that’s the case.
What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2030?
Market forces motivate employees to be diligent about their own development – they understand that subpar development opportunities can have dire consequences for their careers going forward. They are self-determined, they know where they need to get, and have high expectations for the L&D function and their line managers to help them get there.
Luckily, L&D departments and businesses as a whole are adept and responsive at tackling those needs. They support employees on their individual professional development journeys in various ways, even if it’s about facilitating the right introductions and supporting career sabbaticals.
We have 10 years, I believe we can get there.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
‘No’ is not a ‘no’, it is a ‘not yet’. I get reminded of this every year still.
Egle Vinauskaite is a freelance learning designer and consultant. She has worked on a diverse range of learning projects for companies such as Facebook, Tech Nation, HSBC, ACCA, as well as a multitude of innovative education startups.
Connect with Egle on LinkedIn