Take off those rose coloured glasses

Training is only 5% of organizational learning, but for a long time this small slice has been the primary focus of most Learning & Development (L&D) departments. The other 95% was just taken care of by the informal networks in the organization. On-job-training in some cases, or just observation and modelling in others. Then a funny thing happened. All those informal networks became hyper-connected. First with web-links and later with ubiquitous mobile devices.

Take a look at social media. These manifestions of the current state of the web enable easy knowledge-sharing and, as Seb Paquet calls it, ridiculously easy group-forming. Social media are fantastic tools to support organizational collaboration and informal learning. But if you look around, L&D is almost never the initiator, nor the owner of, social media in the enterprise. The informal part of organizational learning is no longer the private purview of L&D, if it ever was. The new reality is that, at least implicitly, business units are realizing that work is learning and that they need to empower workers to learn and solve problems collaboratively.

Joyce Seitzinger referred me to this post, What will your training role be in the future? The author describes four future roles:

  1. Design & Create Courses
  2. Enable Learning
  3. Support Learning
  4. Be a change agent for development

Only the first is related to what L&D has actually been doing.  The other three are open for the taking in the networked workplace. They can be done by people from sales, marketing, communications or many other areas. It should not be a foregone conclusion that these roles will be filled by trainers. In my experience, trainers have often been let go during a transition to a more performance and social focused L&D function, replaced by people with other skills from varying backgrounds. The future will not be L&D 2.0 but rather a new organizational learning approach, where learning is integrated into the workflow. Many departments outside L&D are already staking this new ground and building their expertise.

The future is bright for organizational learning, but don’t think it will look like the past.

A Sunset Through Rose Colored Glasses” by Josh Harper

9 Responses to “Take off those rose coloured glasses”

  1. Rob Wilkins

    Hi Harold,

    Great post and basically I do not disagree on the fundamentals but I wonder sometimes that if we could survey all the organizations in all the world whether statistics like we quote would hold up.

    I was chatting with a friend who works with the U.N. the other day about this and she stated that in the corporate world that may be the case but in her two worlds she deals with (the military and aid organizations) nearly all their training is formal education.

    It got me thinking that we need to be more explicit about context and we need to have more acknowledgement that there is massive benefit in the harnessing of 70:20:10 for our “rosy” future but formal education will never disappear because in occupations where lives are at stake, informal approaches raise the risks and that may not be good for anyone.

    This is a pondering more than anything as I am an advocate of informal or as I like to call it “unstructured” learning but I still can think of too many examples where informal is not appropriate.

  2. David Glow

    I just tweeted about the post http://www.internettime.com/2012/05/the-new-workplace/ from @jaycross. I work at one of the world’s largest international financial organizations, and we collect an astounding amount of metrics. We are highly regulated, frequently audited, and have a significant amount of formal training in place to meet all the requirements and reporting needs.

    Yet, despite all this, we are seeing 95/5 – measured. Even with the amount of training we do, and significantly limited social/web2.0 tools, we still see this ratio
    measured. And that’s what we can measure- I have no doubt there are informal coaching, on the floor discussions, and peer support that go unmeasured.

    I’ve been a proponent of “the Pareto rule” for a long time. Seems many organizations attempt to boil the ocean instead of focusing on the most critical 20% that make the difference. This attempt to “cover all bases” is a poor investment.

    Now that I have seen actual measures of 95/5 in many metrics around the organization, it is clear that the leverage points for impact are actually much more concentrated than the standard Pareto ratios. For example, 5% of our hundreds of reports provide 95% of the value to the organization- imagine the inefficiencies in maintaining the 95% that provide marginal value. With over 67K learning assets in our LMS, a mere fraction are even used (less than 5%), yet our informal tools get significantly more traffic. No big push to get these arranged, we just needed to provide a forum for our employees to be able to connect to ask questions and get answers.

    Even in a highly structured and regulated industry with tons of formal training assets, we see the informal support needs outpace them by a tremendous factor. That’s where the real work- and the real learning happens.

  3. Brian Gray

    Hi Harold.  I also shared your experience with military training.  In hindsight purpose of the formal training I received in school environments was to provide me with the ability to participate in informal (collective) at the unit.  The exception of this was specific skills training, which would fall into the ‘simple’ category described in your ‘Three Principles of Net Work’ post (http://jarche.com/2012/04/three-principles-for-net-work/).

    As you indicate in one of the graphics in the latter, as a principle can we posit formal learning – training and education – as suitable for simple and complicated tasks, and informal as best suited to prepare staff to develop solutions for problems in the complex-chaotic zone?

    • Harold Jarche

      “As you indicate in one of the graphics in the latter, as a principle can we posit formal learning – training and education – as suitable for simple and complicated tasks, and informal as best suited to prepare staff to develop solutions for problems in the complex-chaotic zone?”

      As a general guideline, yes, but not as an inflexible rule.

  4. Paul Matthews

    These are exciting times in L&D, for those who see the potential. And there is lots of it! I come across two schools when I speak with L&D people.
    1. Those who feel their role is shrinking because of the ‘rise’ of informal learning and the ‘fall’ of emphasis on the classroom (their perception).
    2. Those who see their role as improving employee capability, whatever that involves. They see a vastly expanded role for L&D.
    I wonder what will happen to organsiations where their L&D people have the smaller and shrinking vision?
    Cheers, Paul

  5. Rob Bartlett

    I recently started in a new organization, I got the role in part because I flipped the list based on my mission statement.
    How can I help the organization fufill it’s promise by being “expert” in how people change learn and remember and applying that expertise to people doing something differently or better.
    I am striving to adapt this list in my organization, but in a different order.
    1. Be a change agent for development. How can I identify areas of performance that could be improved and then build the raodmap for how it could be done. Currently I have three of these projects on the go, they are the most exciting, and the most dangerous because success is not guaranteed.
    2. Support learning. Move the organizational culture to one that has managers and peers support learning both informally and formally, and have networks available for use. I can’t support learning from the training chair, it needs to happen out in the organization. I can help managers and employees with mindset, tools and process to do this. How can I leverage all the tools to help people change and develop is how I look at this.
    3. Enable learning. Get learning in the hands of employees in what ever form I can, social, informal, or formal.
    4. Design courses. Still relevant and I think it still makes a difference as it moves new people along to the point where they can get out in the organization and start working. In my particular circumstance if I went away from formal training completely it would impact production.

    Integrating into the workflow is hard because all employees pardiagm has been shaped by the K-12, university and corporate training to expect it in a certain manner. I recently did something that was unstructured and not a lecture format…the learners ( except for one) were upset. There was a visceral reaction to it, one of the most fun days I’ve had in a while and know I have reference point to push to.


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