We at KPMG love to meet our clients at an informal occasion. Last month, we were more than proud to welcome over 50 learning professionals in our Learning Lounge. The energy in the room nearly exploded: our guests took every opportunity to talk, listen and learn from their colleagues in their ever-transforming professional field. “Is Learning and Development a profession?”, kickstarted the discussion, where the motto was: learn with each other, about each other, and from each other. 

What is keeping our leaders awake at night

Jan Rijken1 highlighted the challenges for his audience, saying that four out of five CEOs consider a ‘lack of skills’ as one of the most important threats to their business growth. On top of this, 81% of employees nominate upskilling as a key indicator for productivity, and 76% of employees state their willingness to stay at the company would increase if more Learning & Development (L&D) opportunities were offered. Combined with the current tightness of the labor market, everyone in the room acknowledged the growing importance of our profession (indeed, a profession!) and the opportunities we have to help resolve these challenges. 

What is trending: five shifts that add even more value to learning

Jan Rijken challenged his audience by suggesting a shift in focus in five key ways: 

  1. Shift from courses to resources: learning is more than training. It is about surrounding your employees with resources that can help them to perform at their best.
  2. Shift from mail to marketing: learning should be attractive and relevant in the context of the work that our employees do, so actively market your learning.
  3. Shift from evaluation to performance: empower your people beyond the learning intervention and take an active role in enhancing their performance in various ways.
  4. Shift from content to context: take a role in facilitating the right context. For example, creating the right learning environment, stimulating learning leadership, and facilitating learning support.
  5. Shift from transaction to transformation: instead of focusing on the delivery of information, we should deploy our ability to develop employees’ competencies and transform their ‘learning-related’ attitudes, values, beliefs and skills. 

All these tips and shifts did not fall on deaf ears: our experienced audience showed eagerness to listen, learn and share their personal and organizational wisdom with each other. After reflecting on Jan Rijken’s introduction, they shared experiences and discussed insights., addressing questions like: What challenges do I see in my organization? What am I proud of? And what would I like to learn from others? This led to interesting statements: “Organizations should actively reserve time in which employees are allowed to learn. In our organization, we have Focus Friday. No appointments or meetings, but time to develop and learn.” And: “Marketing is central to the importance of L&D. We make sure our employees understand the why; then the what and how become easier to adopt.” 

The added value of our audience: the five challenges they face

Prior to the event, Tijmen Schipper2 delved into the experience of a large group of L&D professionals, most of them present at the event. He asked them what challenges they encounter on a day-to-day basis and how they address these challenges. He presented us their five main challenges:

  1. Being a strategic business partner: continuous learning is a prerequisite for future-proof organizations. To deliver on this promise, we aim at growing and expanding our role as strategic sparring partners, guiding the people agenda.
  2. Finding and retaining talent: retracting and retaining talent are often perceived as an HR responsibility. However, career development and learning opportunities are growing in importance to employees, and so our L&D role in this matter.
  3. Reskilling and upskilling: there is a growing need to identify future skills, current skills, and an approach how to fill these gaps. To accommodate this, we aim to develop our ability to predict what skills will be needed in our future.
  4. Creating a learning organization: learning is more and more about facilitating a holistic view of learning, where learning is fully integrated in the daily work of employees. The challenge for us is to encourage, stimulate and support this transformation. 
  5. Collaborate across organizations: especially when dealing with high labor market shortages, collaboration can prove its benefits. As L&D professionals, we can play an important role in managing these inter-organizational collaborations.

Of course, our audience differ in where they stand within these challenges. Eager to share and learn, our guests gave insightful pieces of advice to one another. "Collect data: the top thinks in numbers." "Invest in leadership. Employees don't leave the company; they leave their manager.” And "Since you don't know the future skills needed, it's best to invest in the organization's learning-to-learn capacity.” Sharing best practices and advice also revealed that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in learning. Where large organizations might be thinking of their own platform-enabled learning academies, small organizations predominantly aim to deliver qualitative learning through outsourcing. Learning is different in every organization, and it was a pleasure to see our audience leverage the differences by learning from each other.

High tech & high touch: ‘lining up’ on learning technology to further connect

We ended the event with a line up. Our all-day facilitator Renée de Boo3 invited the learning lovers to line up on a scale from 0 to 10 on learning technology, from thinking about a LMS to advanced integrated HR platforms. The idea was to focus on who you would like to connect with in order to learn more. An impressed audience left our Learning Lounge with meeting appointments, many insights and an appetite for more.

1 Jan Rijken is a former Chief Learning Officer at ABN Amro, KPMG and Daimler, now professor at IE University and Nyenrode University and consultant to many boardrooms.
2 Tijmen Schipper is Manager in Human Resource Transformation within KPMG in the Netherlands and Senior Researcher L&D at Windesheim University.
3 Renée de Boo is Partner People & Change within KPMG in the Netherlands.