The constant need for workers to add and improve skills has catapulted learning leadership beyond a mere seat at the proverbial table to a position of importance within many organizations.

The pandemic pivot to online everything accelerated this change, highlighting the need for digital skills training—while shining a spotlight on the L&D team, whose members could facilitate the move to virtual training and also to virtual meeting, working, and collaborating. The role of learning leadership in supporting the digital transformation will only expand as teams and entire organizations move to a permanent remote or hybrid work format.

This focus on rapid digital upskilling is part of what Mobile Coach CEO Vince Han describes as “continued disruption in traditional career paths” in The Learning Guild’s recent eBook “2022 Predictions from L&D Practitioners.” As technological advances “drive companies toward embracing digital competencies very quickly,” employers will care more about what employees can do than what they’ve studied. “Employers increasingly devalue formal higher education and are focused on a demonstration of a relevant skill set that an individual may have,” according to Han.

Emphasis on learners’ skills dovetails with a second trend that Han notes: The democratization of content creation, essentially the idea that anyone can create instructional content and share it with anyone else. While seen primarily in social media—Han offers the examples of cooking and dance tutorials on TikTok and a wide variety of how-to YouTube videos—this trend impacts how learners view training content and how they expect to participate in the learning process.

Rapid digital upskilling

The pandemic accelerated many organizations’ digital transformation, driving a need to rapidly upskill and reskill workers. At the same time, social media participation has accelerated many consumers’ digital upskilling in specific ways that are relevant to design, delivery, and consumption of training. Learning leaders face abundant opportunities to leverage these trends.

Also in the Predictions eBook, Learning 4 Learning Professionals founder Catherine Lombardozzi emphasizes the need for a new L&D approach that “combines rich digital learning with deep engagement with people as teachers, coaches, experts, and co-learners.” Social and collaborative learning, using digital tools makes this possible, while underscoring the need for digital skills—and highlighting the role of learning leaders and their teams in getting organizations to the point where disconnected, distanced workers again feel like they’re part of cohesive teams.

Learning leadership plays a key role in identifying the digital tools and skills workers and managers in their organizations need—and in providing the training, self-guided content, and resources that will enable those learners to upskill. By taking a holistic view of the organization, learning leaders can guide the adoption of tools that the entire company uses, reducing siloing and improving collaboration within and across departments.

Embracing and supporting self-directed learning

As consumers and therefore as workers and learners, people increasingly expect to engage in self-paced, self-directed learning that is personalized to their preferences, available on their schedule, and accessible on their preferred digital devices.

Learning leaders who advocate for self-guided learning opportunities and guide the development of tools and resources, such as microlearning, chat- or text-based learning, and performance support and workflow learning tools, empower learners to find and use the training and reference materials they need when they need them.

L&D teams that anticipate and meet these needs with high-quality content will head off self-directed learning directed toward those YouTube and TikTok videos, which might provide inaccurate information.

Proactive content creation

While managers may assume that self-directed learners who find what they need on the internet are well served, that approach risks learners relying on poor-quality information.

Even more significantly, it misses an enormous opportunity: Creating self-directed learning content and resources in-house enables L&D teams to build in tracking and measurement tools that can show them—and their leaders—the impact and value of the training they provide. Whether managed via an LMS, using a microlearning or chat platform that includes data tracking, or through surveys and other tools created by the L&D team, having all employees using the same vetted and quality-tested resources provides a way to measure and evaluate learning.

Self-directed learning increases development opportunities

Learning leaders who both foster a culture of continuous learning and encourage self-directed exploration tap into the desire many employees have expressed—since long before the pandemic—for opportunities for personal and professional development.

A library of content available for self-paced, self-directed learning, along with managers and learning leaders who encourage employees to spend time learning, facilitates the kind of exploration that many workers seek: In early 2019, well before the pandemic, 94% of workers that LinkedIn Learning surveyed said they’d stay longer at an employer that invested in their development.

Keep up with trends in learning leadership

The importance of building digital skills and providing opportunities for learners to participate in self-directed learning that advances their career goals, along with the L&D role in making those things possible, will continue to grow as we emerge from the pandemic into a new era of digital work and learning. Share what works, and explore the strategies and skills required to navigate the needs of today’s ever-changing workplace with your learning leadership peers.

The Learning Guild’s Learning Leaders Alliance offers a vendor-neutral global community for learning leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve and for aspiring leaders seeking to build their skillsets. The Alliance Membership package includes access to monthly networking and learning opportunities, exclusive digital events, and content curated for today’s modern learning leader, as well as opportunities to attend in-person learning leadership events held around the globe. Join today!