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Mark Green

Semco Style Institute UK (SSI UK)


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What could learning and development look like in 2023?

L&D is poised to play a major role in experimental organisational development in the coming year.
Woman dancing with floating fabric leaping into the air

Corporate L&D functions have adapted hugely to the needs of a largely entirely remote workforce over the last two or three years. Now, as the UK enters a significant time of uncertainty, the ask of L&D has become even greater.

There are several reasons for this: the UK is entering a recession and businesses are concerned about their futures. Employees are worried about the cost of living and looking for ways to maximise salary potential and job satisfaction. Add to the mix the changing ways of working, and it’s easy to see that we need to ‘humanise’ work – putting people at the heart of the way we do things.  

L&D is about shaping and influencing culture change that can help the organisation to be more successful

L&D plays a key role in developing and upskilling your workforce. It has the exciting opportunity to lead the way in evolving the way your organisation works, towards a more progressive and inclusive 'future of work' reality, and in so doing, helping you retain your best people and attract new talent.

How is L&D changing?

Historically, L&D helps people to develop the skills and capabilities to be successful in their current context or environment or to progress to more senior levels and accountabilities within the corporate hierarchy. But work is changing. Organisational structures are becoming flatter and teams are working more collaboratively. In this context, L&D is about shaping and influencing culture change that can help the organisation to be more successful.

Fundamentally, today’s workforce needs to learn very different skills from those of even 10 years ago. This is particularly true as organisations begin to experiment with different organisation models – either driven by the changes that happened during the pandemic or because they can see that the ways of working need to radically change in order to compete.

The L&D function as part of organisation growth

There are several common blockers to the next stage of growth, and one of those is the way your organisation is designed. Changing this affects management styles, ideally involving your people at every stage, encouraging creativity and fostering autonomy and responsibility.

We are seeing a spectrum of new and innovative ways to design organisations of the future and the L&D function has an important role to play. A core focus here is how L&D facilitates, enables and supports the organisation to embrace experimentation and adaptation. L&D professionals who are embracing learning agility, adaptability and responsiveness will have a real impact on organisation and culture change. 

It has an important role to play in reward and recognition, helping to reframe the language of success and performance

So, in an ideal world, L&D leads from the front, driving greater levels of innovation and creativity. It needs to provoke, influence, question and help people get into a mindset that values the right development, seeks out the best skills and understands how a creative, thriving workplace can deliver better results. Instead of sitting ‘under HR’, it becomes central to success. 

A fresh perspective for L&D

Does this require organisations to view L&D in a different light – and perhaps even L&D practitioners themselves? Definitely. Hard times are exactly when L&D can show its worth. It is usually cheaper to train and develop than it is to hire. And a clear investment in and commitment to developing your people helps with retention – important when you need all the support you can get.

What does a people-centred L&D function need to offer? It must support leaders and managers to lead and develop their teams in ways that are very different to what they’re used to.

It needs to create inclusive and participatory access to a range of skills, and it needs to deliver its work in an engaging way that drives creativity and innovation within the organisation. And, of course, it also has an important role to play in reward and recognition, helping to reframe the language of success and performance – also critical to retention as we go into 2023.

Let’s face it, L&D is already innovation-based. It has adapted well to delivering its work in a wide range of formats, with individualised learning experiences and multi-channel offerings. It understands that each person requires a different approach and has different learning styles. It can demonstrate its success through measurable differences in people’s productivity, teamwork, leadership qualities and target achievements. 

It’s not really a big step to put L&D at the heart of your organisation's design and your culture. L&D professionals are ideally placed to drive and support culture change that unpicks traditional hierarchical thinking and processes, instead delivering humanised, agile approaches that improve engagement, boost creative thinking and support experimentation.

We can break out of this conformity – both as individuals and as organisations, and L&D is a huge part of getting that right

Happy staff = successful business

If you have happier, more satisfied people who know you are invested in them, you will have more dedicated colleagues more loyalty to your brand, more imaginative thinking and an organisation design that can manage your growth aspirations.

As an internationally-renowned author on strengths and human performance, Marcus Buckingham, says in his book Love + Work: “Most of us actually don’t know the real truth of what we love – what engages us and makes us thrive – and our workplaces, jobs, schools, even our parents, are focused instead on making us conform.” But we can break out of this conformity – both as individuals and as organisations, and L&D is a huge part of getting that right. 

Interested in this topic? Read Shifting focus to capability development in 2022.

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Mark Green


Read more from Mark Green

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