key skills needed by learning professionals today

category: collaboration

As learning and development professionals in 2020, the skills we need to do our jobs effectively is changing. Here is an overview of some of those important skills. How many are you using on a daily basis? And how many of these skills are you actively looking to develop?

In years gone by, some skills might have been delivering courses face to face, booking trainers over the phone, or planning an induction course. Today, we might still have to do that, but we are also expected to be able to handle a whole host of new digital technologies and come up with solutions which deliver a tangible return on investment.

The good news is, barriers to learning, such as geography or financial cost, are being broken down thanks to digital development and eLearning capabilities. However, this opens up a new set of challenges for L&D professionals. Remember not to let your own professional development (or your team’s) stagnate while you focus on the learning of others. It’s important to identify your own knowledge gaps to improve performance and meet the needs of your organisation. Here are some skills which L&D professionals are needing more and more in today’s industry. How many of these skills are you actively developing in your career?

project management

Turning a problem into a solution needs a number of skills. There are a lot of stages in the training development process from concept through to final product, but through digitalisation it’s much easier to mock up ideas and show stakeholders what you are working on.

The crucial focus is to align working with time and budget constraints set out by the project scope. Agile project management is a relatively new methodology designed for software and tech-focused teams, which L&D now aligns closely to. By building content in small stages, you encourage feedback and testing of your eLearning product. It’s easier to stay on track with shorter deadlines, and its much quicker to change and improve segments earlier on in the development process.

Adopting agile practices is a great way to work; try and have a fortnightly deadline for each section, and set up regular opportunities for feedback from both your team and subject matter experts. When things go wrong, you can fix the problem early.

creativity

Being creative is more important than ever for L&D professionals. With such a range of teaching methods now available, it helps to have a bit of creative flair to deliver results effectively. Each organisation will have their own knowledge gaps, and creativity is needed not only to identify them, but to successfully address them. Can you engage your learners by doing something different? Or presenting the material in an interesting way?

Look back at previous projects and think about performance. Did previous training meet expectations? Did learners provide any feedback on areas to improve? What other ways can you deliver content, and would it be more effective? Remember there are many solutions to these problems – gamification could improve knowledge retention or case studies could provide more real life context. You might not be able to improve one thing 100%, but you could improve 100 things by 1%. Incremental changes across the way you work requires out of the box thinking.

collaboration and communication

As L&D teams are growing, collaboration is becoming more important. Working closely with your team is the key to optimising learning by drawing on everyone’s different skill sets, and making sure no work is doubled up. The old “two heads are better than one” theory. Encouraging ideas from all team members is highly beneficial as often the right way is often a compromise or collaborative response. Content writers, designers and subject matter experts may not always agree, but listening to their solutions and concerns collectively is the easiest way to find the path forward.

decision making

There’s no right way to build an eLearning course or deliver training for everyone. With so many learning styles to try and cover it can be difficult to decide on how to cover them in training, or know what’s best for your target group. Being able to look at the progress and take decisive action, particularly when you have so many ideas coming from within the team, is a useful skill, particularly when working to a deadline.

When you have a project brief confirmed, it’s a great idea to develop on that by building a customer persona and outline learning styles, teaching methods and assessment criteria you need to address. Making those decisions early will keep everything more aligned.

problem solving

Of course, no matter how much you plan in the beginning, problems usually arise at some point. Being able to come up with clear solutions is part of the process in any project. Whether it is a long-term project you have identified and are working to gradually solve, or it is an unexpected issue which comes as a shock, being able to move forwards with a solution is what matters.

Sometimes creating content is a little like trial and error. You might produce a module you are certain will engage the learners, but then it does not deliver very good results. In these situations, they things you do to change the content for better is what is most important. Taking a customer-focused approach and working backwards is useful here; by really understanding what the end users want, you can make sure that your project actually solves the intended problem.

business awareness

This is essential for two reasons. Firstly, you need to know the problem that stakeholders want addressing. Secondly, you’ll better understand what your learners need to know in the context of their role in the wider operations of the organisation. If they work closely with a legal team for example, making those connections for them can add a lot of value.

The brief you are originally given might need to be adapted as you identify new problems or different ways of working. There is no harm in pushing back on the brief and looking at how you can improve it. In fact, this is an important feature of agile methodology. You are the L&D experts and if you have strong awareness of how the business operates, you’ll end up with much better solutions.

digital skills

Knowing your way around office and design software is one thing, but strong digital literacy across all available platforms can boost productivity. Luckily with the aid of authoring tools you don’t need to be an expert web developer, and other tools exist out there that can help you in a similar fashion. You could benefit from using project management software such as Trello or collaborate more effectively with Slack. Capturing ideas and research can be made easier with cloud-based tools such as Evernote. There are a huge range of products out there to make work easier, with features far beyond standard Microsoft or Mac applications.

analytical skills

Don’t underestimate the power of data. A good LMS tool will provide a wide range of insights into the learning experience, helping you to improve current courses or to build better ones in the future. There’s also likely a range of data available from within your organisation, from average age group of a team to common errors and feedback from a regulatory body. Building a data-driven picture of the working landscape will result in higher impact learning, but only if you can read and use the data.

Here we’ve covered just a handful of skills needed in the day to day work of learning and development, you might well have a bunch of other skills you find essential to your particular role. But, whatever those skills are, don’t neglect to develop them. The L&D landscape is developing quickly, and while we are constantly thinking about the professional development of others, it is important not to neglect our own.