Given the current economy, the role of L&D departments and learning professionals must change dramatically.  Elliott Masie, one of the great thinkers about learning and workplace productivity, writes in a recent issue of Chief Learning Officer:

It is time for the learning field to have a deep and open conversation about how we re-engineer our craft, our skills and our careers. The workforce and our world need agile, innovative and business-aligned learning colleagues to face the changing workplace of the future. Let’s step up to the challenge.

This is the same challenge that David Grebow and I address in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy. We lay out the case for managers taking on responsibility for employee learning and learning professionals helping managers learn to be effective in facilitating learning at the individual, team, and whole organization levels.


In an article we wrote for TD Magazine titled, Engaging Managers to Support Continual Learning, we write:

The learning practices and principles most of us use today are no longer effective. They were developed for the 19th- and 20th-century industrial economy in response to the need to teach many people how to produce many things. People worked with their hands. They built railroads, strung telephone lines, shoveled coal, and made washing machines. The work that was done during that era was relatively simple and slow to change. We had time. Time to learn, to practice on the job, to become the subject matter expert. Whatever we knew when we landed a job was enough. We could learn the rest as we worked.

That way of working has all changed. In today's knowledge economy, most of us no longer work with our hands; we produce work with our minds, using the latest technology. We need to radically change the way people learn and are managed, and take a new approach that has already proved successful in companies around the world.

Learning professionals must change because the world of work has changed. Designing and delivering training programs was okay for the Industrial Economy but inadequate for the world in which we live today. Patricia McLagan, author of a number of books about the workplace and learning, in an article titled, Changing World of Work Requires New Learning Mindset, McLagan writes about this new world:

We are moving into an era where technology will make almost anything possible, and where very powerful tools and knowledge will be available to everybody. It’s an era of self-service that will continue to expand and where the most empowered, industrious, and—we hope—ethical and moral will thrive.

Today we are hand typing email and text messages; tomorrow we will be doing this with our minds. It’s a fast paced, on-demand, hyper-competitive world in which we live and there are no signs that things are slowing down. What people know today is not sufficient for tomorrow. The way we learn in organizations has to keep up with this change which means that learning professionals and their departments must transform themselves into a function that is more relevant, more responsive, and more effective.