This week we hear the thoughts of Paul Cliff – Head of People Development for Surrey and Sussex Police.

Paul is responsible for leading the strategic direction of the learning and workforce development function, incorporating significant people and budget management in the design and delivery of police training across a broad scope of areas including: police officer foundation skills, police officer and staff promotion and high potential development scheme, investigator (detective) training, driving school, technical (IT and first aid) and people development (senior and tactical management and leadership).

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

I still see a lot of traditionalists trying to hold on tightly and ‘control’ learning in their organisations, particularly in the police service. The level of tension this creates in an environment of constant change and uncertainty, a contracting financial landscape and increasing levels of political scrutiny is not conducive to the L&D function being an effective business partner. If we are viewed as a function that ‘does things’ to the business, it can only shift us all further away from the central mission.

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

I remain engaged with social media content as a flexible and convenient way to stay in the loop under an increasingly heavy workload and demanding home life (2 boys under 4!) but am increasingly convinced that we need to create more opportunities for informal face to face discussions to share what we learn in our individual virtual worlds.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

The growing appetite of the next generation of learners. The challenge to keep pace with the evolution of demand has never been greater. I do a bit of volunteer work with a local charity that runs career and personal development programmes in schools and I am always blown away by the level of inquisitiveness and optimism of the students I meet. I worry that we badge all teenagers as ‘technology zombies’ – incapable of holding a coherent conversation with an adult. What I see at these events is a growing sense of social awareness and responsibility and a desire to make technology work for them and their expectation of a healthy balance between both work and play, but also the time they spend alone and in groups.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?
A world without dedicated L&D functions! Cue tumbleweed……
What I mean by this is a position where learning truly is a day to day part of what we do at all levels of organisational structures and systems and an integral part of everyone’s responsibility. I am not suggesting that we do not need learning professionals with discrete skills, experience and behaviours, but that they are seamlessly integrated into business units and processes and perfectly aligned to the core mission of the organisation.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?
Not too dissimilar to today in that it is a patchwork quilt of varying stages of progress but I think the position in 2025-2030, with the growing representation of millenials in the world of work may be a bit more radical!

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
I would whisper the secret of success in his ear……’KEEP GOING!!!’ – but I am not sure he would listen! In all seriousness, I think it is critical for us all to define our own success in life, decide what we are willing to do to make it happen and then make relentless positive daily choices that take you closer to your goal. It really is that simple.