Learning & Development (L&D) has evolved over time. In its nascent stage, programs were designed using a standard approach. This approach emphasizes on topics and content, evidence of which can be witnessed in the academic arena. This approach assumes that all learners would be able to learn topics using standard instruction methodology, which was predominantly teacher-led. Other
As we progressed, various enterprises recognized the importance of L&D. From new organizations like start-ups to multinational corporations, all have realized that learning is an essential and binding element for an organization. It is through continuous and correctly designed L&D intervention that organizations are able to achieve business sustenance and also accelerate growth. Devising learning solutions according to the organizational and business context is the need of the hour. Such requirements from various business areas have given birth to learning consulting. Over the past decade, learning consulting has shaped up as an industry. From a professional point of view, role of learning consultants has caught attention of CXOs.
Learning consultants play a customer-facing and an important role in helping organizations device a learning strategy and roadmap. Developing a learning strategy to enhance workforce competence and suggest approaches for developing capabilities essential to support growth and expansion of business, is an example of how learning consultants can impact the length and breadth of an organization. Learning consultants partner at various levels of an organization. At an executive level, they engage to understand business priorities and align learning interventions from design’s perspective. At mid-management level, their focus is on implementation, coaching, and monitoring of learning projects. At junior levels, focus is to impart requisite knowledge to associates and also demonstrate how one can apply knowledge/skills gained through the learning programs. It is noteworthy that learning consultants with varied experience engage at different management levels such as, a senior and experienced learning consultant is best suited to work with the executive level and those with lesser experience would interface and work closely with middle and junior levels.
Besides other important contributions, a learning consultant invests adequate amount of time in understanding client needs and also in creating stakeholder buy-in. Success or failure of a learning solution or intervention is highly dependent on the support provided by various stakeholders. It is extremely critical for learning consultants to ensure that they have understood the clients’ requirements. Moreover, it is also imperative that once a solution has been designed, all its stakeholders understand the solution and agree to partner for its implementation. Stakeholder buy-in creates internal ambassadors for various learning interventions.
Organizations may engage with learning consultants in different ways. One approach could be to engage with other organizations specializing in learning consulting. This approach may be useful in designing organization-wide interventions like leadership development, coaching/mentoring initiatives and driving change management across organization to name a few. This model leverages experience of one or more learning consultants, who have worked with multiple clients and have exposure in working with more than one industry. This will aid the holistic development of the learning solution and will enable understanding and imbibing relevant best practices followed by other organizations. Engaging with the learning consultant also helps the organization develop content and case studies from an external perspective.
Organizations may also decide to have an in-house team of learning consultants. Such an approach is suitable where an organization has a large influx of new associates at a regular frequency and all are required to go through similar learning programs at on-boarding stage. This approach provides consistency in program implementation and learning consultants can also update the program’s content to ensure all associates are up-to-date with organizational changes.
New technology is enabling faster implementation of learning solutions. Various industries have embraced new technology and this new approach is helping organizations cover a wider audience and at various geographies. While classroom-based programs remain a preferred choice, in recent years, we have seen an increased penetration of eLearning in India. India’s potential as a market for eLearning is enormous. As per the Docebo report issued in July 2014, the worldwide market for self-paced eLearning reached $35.6 billion in 2011. The highest rate is in Asia at 17.3%, followed by Eastern Europe (16.9%), Africa (15.2%), and Latin America (14.6%). As we peep into the future, the role of the learning consultant would require an upgrade. It will be expected of them to know about technologies like mobile-learning and social learning, game-based modules, app-based programs, and many more. It is also important to gain an understanding of generational learning style starting from traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen-X and Millennials. An understanding of these areas will enhance the value that learning consultant provides to the clients and facilitates creation of audience-tailored learning solutions.
Learning consultants also interface with other stakeholders, who play a vital role in designing a learning solution. Instructional designer, project manager, eLearning developer, trainer, Learning Management System (LMS) consultant, organizational consultant and organizational development(OD) specialist are some of the roles with whom interaction may be required. An individual may be performing multiple roles depending on the requirements. It is through interaction that a learning consultant ensures the solution is developed as per the needs of the organization and in accordance with the design. Before the actual implementation, learning consultants may organize pilot sessions with selective audience and fine tune the solution to improve effectiveness.
By now, it is evident that learning consultants not only design learning interventions, but also enable and manage change. Learning consulting is an exciting and creative work area. Learning consultants play a key role in organizational transformation. Their success lies in being adaptive, innovative, and viewing things from a customer’s as well as an end-user’s perspective. Knowledge of existing and futuristic learning technology aid them in providing comprehensive and sustainable solutions to their clients.