Why the future of L&D is like a Wedding

As both the technology and the needs of the recruitment industry progress, Lou Foster, Head of Learning and Development at Opus Talent Solutions shares her insights on the best training for employees......

I’ve worked in learning and development within the recruitment industry for over ten years now. Previously to that was a recruiter and it’s safe to say that things are very different from when I started out. I was given a phone, filing cabinet and fax machine and told to get on with it! There are now multiple ways to train and support your staff, but I think the best approach is a bit like a wedding day…only without the blue. Something old, something borrowed and something new.

Something new...

I’ll start with the new. Our e-learning platform has revolutionised how we train staff and there are many advantages over more traditional ‘classroom’ techniques. Firstly, it makes everything more measurable and therefore makes both the employee and the L&D team accountable. We can see how much time someone’s spent learning and if they’re flying through it or struggling. We can also monitor things like if everyone’s struggling with the same question and then reword the question. IT allows you to easily identify really useful patterns. If someone joined on a certain date, why might they be performing better than three others who joined with them, for example? It helps the business really drill down into what good looks like.

Flexibility is another bonus. We call it ‘Learner on the Loo’ which reflects the fact that you can learn on your mobile whenever and wherever you want. Currently, when we run classroom sessions, they have to be early morning or at the end of the day as the sales team need to be at their desks working from 10am. But for some people an 8am training session would be a nightmare – they’re barely awake. Others may perform at their best before the sun’s up or in the evening. People also have shorter attention spans nowadays and are used to receiving information in bite sized chunks. E-learning allows you to dip in and out of a lesson rather than sit there for three hours and only take in the first ten minutes.

E-learning can also encourage lots of different learning styles. For every couple of slides there’s an interaction needed – whether that’s watching a video, answering a question or clicking around a picture – so it doesn’t give you the option of switching off for a snooze in the back of the classroom. And for global businesses like ours, you can duplicate learning programmes easily and cost effectively for other countries. It really is a great way of training lots of people in one go, in multiple locations.

Something old...

However, although the ‘new’ part of learning and development is hugely important, I think there’s still a place for classroom learning. Particularly when you’re training people in sales jobs. Human interaction is a key skill in this area and ‘old fashioned’ teaching techniques allow for watching others in the flesh, asking questions or flagging up that you don’t understand something. Whereas on an e-learning platform the only way you find out someone doesn’t understand is when they take the questions at the end and get all 20 of them wrong.

Something borrowed...

The something borrowed part that I’m passionate about is SME’s – subject matter experts. That’s about identifying who in the business excels in a certain area and getting them to become part of someone’s training. We know a technique that works well in learning is storytelling – and the more recent and authentic the stories are, the better. So, if I can put someone who excels in a certain type of skill for example, in front of a class and they can talk about a deal they made happen yesterday – that’s going to engage everyone more than me talking through the theory. It keeps things interesting and it also makes champions of people around our business and gives them some internal PR.

It’s an exciting time in L&D. There’s a huge recognition of the fact that the next generation of recruits are not just classroom-based learners – and there’s a huge amount of information types available to learn from. People with an auditory learning style can listen to a management podcast whereas visual learners might watch a TED Talk. There are things happening in AI that I think will be part of our package in a few years’ time too – perhaps there will be robots you can train to be difficult customers, so you can practice your phone technique. One thing is for sure – five years from now our L&D programme will feel vastly different to how it does today. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

I’d love to hear your comments and feedback – what have you learnt from international clients and business? Go to

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