“Upskilling” and “reskilling” are hot words in our business these days. After an experience in which an esteemed colleague—someone I had considered a mentor—revealed that she had literally done no further reading or research after completing her PhD 20 years ago, I started paying attention to how others in our field were staying current. We spend a lot of time discussing ways of helping new practitioners but less on deliberate, intentional work in staying updated and choosing which new skills to pursue, and how to do it.
This month’s research report, Upskilling for L&D Practitioners, offers reflections and suggestions from L&D practitioners in varying stages of their careers: Back to those who recall overhead projectors and Authorware, some who began their work in the age of mobile devices and gamification, and those who are newer to the field but still remember the seismic shift that was the end of Flash. Familiar names like Connie Malamed, Tracy Parish, and Nick Floro, as well as some new names, offer their own perspectives on changes that demanded upskilling, as well as advice for where to focus.
A few things that emerged: The fact that, at least for those in L&D, professional development is primarily self-directed, with management often—not always—providing little in the way of guidance. And an aspect of upskilling that emerged here but is not seen in much of the literature is the idea of fundamental changes to beliefs and underpinnings that affect practice.
In terms of “reskilling” in L&D: Those already in the business spoke more of adapting to new technologies rather than shifting to an entirely different job. Even movement from frontline to team lead or manager, school teacher to instructional designer, and (as in my own case) classroom trainer/designer to virtual facilitator and eLearning designer, brought something more akin to layering new skills atop existing ones rather than shifting to an unrelated job.