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Learning & Development Under The Spotlight

It’s A Great Time To Be In Learning & Development

Being in Learning & Development (L&D) in today’s world is fantastic! There’s an increasing recognition for learning as a competitive advantage. Executives are realizing the urgency and importance of learning, as they understand that the learning mindset of their employees is a core competency to the business. The workforce needs to quickly learn, re-learn and re-think as the rules change in how we do business, and innovation is a must-have. Secondly, employees won’t stay with employers who don’t invest in their learning, as they understand that they need to keep their careers and skills relevant.

It can also be daunting to work in L&D in these times. The profession is undergoing a transformation and as more and more companies realize that learning is necessary to future proof the workforce and the company, it adds some pressure. It shines a whole lot of light on the L&D pros and expectations are high. Leaders are looking to their experts to come up with new solutions. Those that are not a re-package of the traditional course design or program delivery, that only evaluates course completion to measure success. They are looking for more innovative thinking, more ways to engage employees and connect learning environment and experience to the organizations’ business challenges.

The mission of our GreenHouse team (Spotify’s L&D team) is to enable and empower our band members to learn faster than the world is changing. Maybe it’s not possible to learn faster than the world is changing, but it’s what we are striving for (you know the old saying: shoot for the moon, and you’ll land among the stars). And we firmly believe this mission will take us further than if we would have only said ‘enable and empower learning’.

This is our north star, it’s our raison d’etre (our reason to exist). If we break it down, ‘enable and empower’ are keywords here, as they are setting a direction for what the team should aim for. Simultaneously, it’s a wide enough team mission statement to open up to a sea of possibilities in how and where this learning can take place. It means that instead of a sole focus on training design/delivery and ‘butts-in seats’, we can take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We must ask ourselves – what we are trying to achieve, and what the results are that we are aiming for? With L&D in the limelight and organizations hungry for learning innovation, one thing is certain – our plans must ensure that we do not become bottlenecks in the development journeys of our workforce, which is quite easily done when you have limited resources. This is exactly why that step back and taking in the bigger picture is so important. 

At Spotify, we are asking our band members to drive their development so by giving them the tools they need, it means that they will undoubtedly move faster than if we were heavily involved in everything. It’s clear to us that this is what we are aiming for – we should be enablers, multipliers, and sometimes (but not as a set rule), build the learning ourselves. 

L&D Need New Capabilities

To adopt this approach L&D professionals should readjust to focus on enabling, which requires a different mindset and a few additional capabilities, as well as leaving a few habits behind. It requires them to think about what the tools are that can help in this mission, to personalize learning experiences and help individuals and teams develop. At Spotify, we have long believed that this is how we will be able to scale, and this approach grows more relevant since the launch of Working From Anywhere and our adaptation to being a distributed-first workplace. We don’t believe in cookie-cutter approaches, or by building personas where we cluster people into categories in an attempt to streamline and serve everyone the same meal.

Paradoxical Skills?

What are the new skills and capabilities that L&D teams need to add? There are certainly a few that are crucial to being a strong L&D professional today, and tomorrow. 

On the one hand we need to zoom out. A good L&D pro can have a vision for how their company goals and people skills come together. They understand what the development needs are and what the best solutions (that go beyond training and formal learning activities) are to build these capabilities. They are skilled in upskilling the workforce. This demands a strategic mindset built on an understanding of the complex 

system that their company and its people are, so that they have the competence to translate the needs into learning opportunities. Or in other words, L&D pros need to know how to apply a systems thinking approach to connect what is going on inside their company with what is going on in the business world and the society at large.

Apart from taking a broader grip, paradoxically, we also need to zoom in on the details and build tech savviness. We need to master ways of producing videos, creating animations and building learning opportunities in a fast and appetite teasing way. We are not suggesting leaving the L&D remit, we still need to keep our core competency and be able to curate and build learning in new ways than before. However, we also need to become better marketers and communicators, making sure our learning content is on point, accessible and personalized. There are several platforms and learning tech offerings out there that can help with this, and we do need to leverage more tech, but this world really is like the wild west. So, we need to get to grips with what is right for our organization and we need to do it fast, and be able to quickly understand new systems.

Whatever mission your L&D team has, the important point is to embrace this exciting time. Step back, see the bigger picture, figure out what is right for your particular organization, and be quick to identify the habits you need to leave behind and the new capabilities you and your team need to learn. Find a way to use your macro and the micro skills. 

And have fun, enjoy the attention and get the best process in place for you and your team to rise to the challenge! 

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