Learning Technologies Conference 2022: Our Key Takeaways

AuthorNatalie Ann HolborowDigital Content Specialist
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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: it was good to be back on the road for the Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition 2022.

The exhibition hall was buzzing with activity and we loved reconnecting with the great people in learning and development, whether that was discussing learning transfer, talent management, data analysis, coaching, digital pedagogy or content strategy.

We gave away stacks of our free L&D expert guides (but if you missed out, don’t worry – they’re all available for free download here) and caught up on a packed conference programme, but if you missed the event, here’s a roundup of some our key takeaways.

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1. L&D needs to focus on building skills for the future of work

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘building future skills together’. It was evident throughout the programme that talent management and skills are crucial talking points now for L&D to prepare its organisations for the future of work.

What do we mean by the ‘future of work’?

In the keynote session on Day 2, Julia Hobsbawm, Anita Lettink and Marco Dondi discussed automation, skills and the disappearing office as we emerge from the pandemic into an increasingly digitalised world of work.

“The pandemic didn’t start the ‘nowhere office’. The internet did,” said Julia Hobsbawm, author of The Nowhere Office. “We’ve been on this journey since 2007 and now we’re accelerating.” Julia likened the traditional office to a snowglobe – before, the office space was the little model at the centre. Now, this is being shaken up as we move into a new world of work, one which puts people at the centre – where they should be.

She noted that L&D and HR have always known that people are the centre of work. “Technology now allows us to move along and support more flexible ways of working – it’s a tipping point,” she said. “You need to listen and unlearn. You are the answer.”

Anita Lettink, Partner at the Strategic Management Centre, asked the audience to consider the automation already present in the workplace and what is coming up in the next couple of years. Automation cannot simply remain in the purview of the IT department. This is about productivity, culture, skills and how we work together.

“Do you train your people to work with automation?” she asked. “Because your leaders will expect you to.”

Marco Dondi, Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company revealed the findings of a survey of 18,000 people in 15 countries about the future of work and the specific skills tomorrow’s workers will require. This research identified 56 distinct elements of talent, referred to as DELTAs, which comprise a mix of skills and attitudes (e.g. ‘adaptability’ or ‘coping with uncertainty’).

Respondents’ proficiency was lowest in two skills groups in the digital category: ‘software use and development’ and ‘understanding digital systems’. Marco noted that education systems are coming short at developing some important DELTAs and it’s up to employers to address this shortfall.

No pressure, L&D.

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2. Developing leadership talent is more critical than ever for L&D

A recent report from Humu revealed that managers are ready to quit. In fact, they’re twice more likely than individual contributors to be looking for new jobs. How can we plan succession for our organisations and move them forward against growth targets?

It was unsurprising, therefore, to see leadership talent brought to the forefront.

In their session on ‘Leadership development’, our partners at Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) Helen Thomas and Julie Rogers, along with Professor Michael West, delivered an inspiring session on the importance of compassionate leadership in the NHS.

“Compassion is the most important intervention in healthcare,” said Professor Michael West. Outlining the challenges facing healthcare with increasing stress, demands in services and the need for more collective and community power, he emphasised the importance of compassionate leadership in the NHS today – to be a compassionate leader involves more bravery and authenticity that any other type of leadership.

He added: “Compassion is by definition inclusive as it blurs the lines of ‘them’ and ‘us’.”

HEIW deployed a technological solution to support this transformational approach to leadership across NHS Wales, creating pipelines of talent for effective succession planning. This was done via their ‘Gwella’ platform (Welsh for “improve”), powered by Thinqi’s smarter learning system.

Gwella has become an essential tool to help HEIW engage and develop staff and to embed a compassionate and collective leadership culture. This is supported by evidence-based and accessible resources, toolkits, webinars, masterclasses and other resources. To date, they now have 180 vibrant networks and programmes, along with 220 conferences, masterclasses, programmes and virtual events, helping them to firmly embed their leadership strategy.

In 2021 and 2022, HEIW scooped Gold at the prestigious Learning Technologies Awards and were finalists with Thinqi in the Learning Awards 2022 for their work.

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Success profiles have enabled people to discover the career pathways available to them and identify the skills they’ll need to acquire along the way. Along with a registration process to capture equality data, this enables HEIW to focus on their equality and diversity agendas to ensure that any leaders are representative of the communities and populations NHS Wales serves. 360 evaluations in the system enhance this self-led experience and ensure everyone is able to assess themselves against success profiles and seek assessment from peers. Finally, the Badges feature creates a reporting mechanism that HEIW can use to identify their ‘ready-now’ talent and the talent that will be ready soon with time and further support.

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In his seminar ‘Where are your leaders of tomorrow coming from and what do they look like?’, Steve Finch (our very own Customer Success Manager) highlighted the importance of investing in our existing talent to remedy the growing skills gap in light of the Great Resignation. Sharing findings from The Open University’s Business Barometer, he highlighted the growing cost for UK employers of plugging skills gaps, which stood at £2.2bn when the annual survey began and by 2020 had risen to £6.6bn per year.

This challenge is particularly pertinent in leadership and management roles.

Steve highlighted how talent management and performance management platforms – whether standalone or as part of your HR system – have been around for a little while. However, we’ve seen a recent trend where the learning technologies used to deliver and monitor learning programmes are starting to incorporate talent and performance tools. This enables you in L&D to join forces with your HR department, and get involved in conversations around performance management and people development.

Some of these emerging tools include competency frameworks and success profiles, where you can define the criteria a person needs to fulfil a role successfully. This is not limited to specific knowledge or experience – this could also cover any competencies you define as essential for the role. It could also include those valuable soft skills such as leadership capability or emotional intelligence.

Along with success profiles, badges for learning and application and in-depth reporting tools, these are key functions within your learning technology to help people to achieve their true potential.

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3. Learning content is king only with the right data

It's all good creating content you think is engaging. But what do you want someone to do after engaging with it? Be honest with yourself: do your efforts really link back to your objectives?

And, if they do, how are you measuring success?

It was clear from the exhibition that vendors are now fully aware that simply pushing out content isn’t enough for L&D. The majority are now developing their offerings to ensure content is connected and adapted to meet specific learner needs coupled with powerful analytics – an approach which aligns with that of marketing.

Marketing skills in L&D go beyond simply sending out push notifications and emails. This is about making data-informed decisions to ensure the right content reaches the right people, at the right time, in order to influence the desired action or behaviour change.

In their session on learning analytics, Peter Manniche Riber of Novo Nordisk and Timothy Dickinson of Novartis highlighted the importance of leveraging data insights within your learning system and analysing its impact to improve outcomes.

What content is being accessed? When is this content being accessed? Are curated resources being used? If not, why not? Feedback on performance is important – this means greater collaboration with line managers and the employees themselves to identify the impact on performance upon the completion of the learning activities in question.

Like marketing, L&D can also look at a/b testing to compare results. If one team consumes the learning content and another doesn’t, has there been any improvement in performance as a result of the content?

Remember, if you need a helping hand with data analysis, we’ve got a free guide right here that will help make it simple.

In summary…

Learning Technologies 2022 was worth the wait after so long behind the screen. From the people we spoke to and the feedback on social media, there was a clear sense that everybody who took part not only learned something useful to share upon their return to the office (or home office), but also enjoyed meeting new faces and reconnecting with some old friends. We also appreciated the fact that there was still a digital experience in the weeks before, facilitating a more accessible way to gain L&D insights.

After all, people coming together to share ideas and insights and putting learning at the centre is what L&D is all about.

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