In this issue of QuestionTime we hear the views of learning and performance consultant Michelle Banister.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

It varies based on the industry and the organisations themselves.  A lot of my time is spent working within the Automotive Industry and the biggest challenge (rather than anxiety) is how to develop the people in the most effective way so that all the L&D activities can be seen as adding impact and results to the business. Plus, how they work within global organisations.    As one motor manufacturing training manager recently said to me “inevitably, should we in the UK wish to do something different, it is subject to the decision from Europe who are trying to be consistent in the offering across many countries”.

The pace of change is fast and businesses in Automotive need to be able to keep up with this in order to be competitive – this requires flexible leadership where individuals can deal with the day to day operational requirements as well as having a clear vision of the future – this is a key challenge for L&D functions where the leadership capabilities of managers is lower compared to other industries (UK).

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

•  Working with clients
•  Reading (some!) L&D and business research reports
•  Working with the learners themselves
•  Networking with like-minded people
•  TED Talks
•  Reading good old fashioned books!
•  Social media – LinkedIn and Twitter are a good source of information
•  Being part of the Learning and Performance Institute enables me to access great sources of data and information as well.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?
Collaborative learning, personalisation and greater use of technology in the overall blend of learning.  Technology continues to grow but it can be a seen as a minefield for some – there are so many organisations offering what looks like the same solutions – buyers don’t always know what they want and this is where the relationship/customer service aspects can be key differentiators.

The use of videos for learning and sharing information is definitely on the increase.  It is a great way to get information and knowledge out to a large group of people – and in a consistent way. The younger generation coming into the workplace will also have an influence on future innovations in the world of learning.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

More personalisation (answering the ‘what’s in it for me’) and accessing learning at the point of need.   Time is often seen as the key barrier to learning, so access to knowledge and development material needs to be fast and accessible. Learners sometimes like to ‘graze’ and learn in short bursts and sometimes they want more support ‘doing’ rather than learning.

From the L&D Department’s perspective, more needs to be done to demonstrate its value to the business.  Employing business focussed individuals that have the capability to identify the business needs and link the L&D intervention to these should be a priority. I would change the name of L&D departments – something around Performance Support – and move it away from the HR function.

L&D should also play a key role to help evolve mind-sets/perceptions on the understanding of what is meant by learning.   This term can be interpreted in a variety of ways and for many individuals learning is seen as attending workshops and completing e-learning courses. In the Automotive industry learners do not consider learning on the job, talking to peers etc. as learning.  So, find a way to help everyone understand the 70:20:10 model!

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?

Technology will still continue to play a key role in the evolution of the L&D world but I still believe it will be seen as aspirational for some – particularly for the Retail Automotive Industry.   Workshops will still feature as an important aspect of management and leadership development programmes, but the more senior the position the more bespoke the solutions will be required.  Access to coaching and mentoring will feature more – for all levels and not just the executives.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

I was working in Volkswagen Group when I was 21 – I had 12 happy years there. I took the opportunities it offered and learnt so much about the different aspects of the business before settling into the ‘people’ functions of the business (an area I still really enjoy).

So the advice I would give to my 21 year old self is to continue exploring all the opportunities available and go for it – be brave!

About Michelle:

Michelle is a senior Learning and Development professional with over 20 years’ experience of working for and with some well-known organisations from the private, public and third sectors. She is a pragmatic and commercially minded individual that works in partnership with clients to achieve their business goals.

Prior to setting up her own business (GMD People Ltd) in 2001, Michelle had a successful career working as the Head of HR at Mercedes Benz Financial Services.  As part of the UK Management Board, Michelle was responsible for aligning the HR and L&D Strategy to the business goals.  Prior to this she worked for British Telecom and Volkswagen Group.

Organisations Michelle has worked with since 2001 include Vauxhall Motors, Volkswagen Group, Legal and General, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Hertfordshire Police.  During the past seven years she has also been focussing upon learning technologies to support clients’ L&D strategies and Michelle has gained valuable skills, knowledge and experience working with organisations such as O2 and Sainsbury’s.

Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn