Accelerated change in learning was core to discussions at this year’s Executive Development Conference

change in learning

Warwick Business School, in partnership with EFMD, hosted a plethora of international business schools, learning providers and L&D professionals to consider the evolution and future of learning and development.

learning and developmentThe industry is anticipating global and local business being further affected by VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity); and is focusing on developing learning that recognises how a “BANI” (Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear and Incomprehensible) world affects individual leaders and learners, and the systems they operate and transform.

There are disruptors all around us in many forms, the landscape is changing rapidly. This requires agility, curiosity and innovation, not just from top-down but from every employee ‘Leaders often get into Leadership roles to solve problems, to be heroes, instead Leaders need to frame problems and let others solve them’ (Bernard Crump, WBS).

Advancements in technology are changing the economic landscape, with huge impact on demographics and skill shortages, and the ‘War on Talent’ continues to rage. Equally, hybrid working is more prominent than ever imagined ‘people go home to work and go to work to socialise’ (Renate Deken, Randstad), ‘the ‘Lazy git’ assumption for home workers is outdated’ and ‘Leaders asking trusted employees to return to the office full time may breach their psychological contract’ (Tina Kiefer, WBS).

Executive Development conferenceRecognising those shifts, organisations are moving from ‘performance management’ to ‘performance enablement’ in order to unlock greater human potential, which in turn has an impact on greater organisational productivity and growth. To become a ‘performance enabler’, Leaders must build trust across their teams and foster an environment where staff can challenge, collaborate more widely, break down barriers, and look up and out across their industry eco-system.

What was clear from a series of award-winning case studies on development programmes, along with Faculty sessions and associated discussions, was that Learning and Development has experienced a major shift in methodologies and pedagogy, much of which has been driven around the needs for managing hybrid and remote working following the Covid-19 pandemic. Examples are offered below:

Levels of seniority

Executive Development ConferenceCohorts have seen a greater number of participants, often with more than one level of seniority in attendance together. There is, therefore, a requirement to create greater trust within the cohort, and across levels, to ensure all participants feel safe to learn, to experiment and to contextualise the learning.

Greater psychological safety

To create greater trust in the cohort, attention has been given to building psychological safety between participants; bringing one’s ‘whole self’ and creating a sense of belonging from the outset, where participants can speak up, challenge and be heard. Learning has become more ‘people-centred’ through personalisation of learning content to meet individual learning needs and in building greater trust between participants in a cohort. Creating this psychological safety empowers the participants to speak up, to share and to challenge, resulting in greater learning, collaboration and innovation.

Challenging prefixed judgements

EiP winnersInclusion and Diversity are at the forefront of organisational strategies across recruitment, development and talent retention initiatives. Organisations are striving to create greater Diversity across their Leadership teams by hiring, developing and promoting expertise from female and ethnic minority groups. Learning and development can play a role in this by helping Leaders develop their curiosity and listening skills, whilst challenging prefixed judgements and stereotypes, learning how to build greater trust and psychological safety in their teams. Developing Coaching skills play a key role in enabling this.

Shifting to online learning

EiP winnersThere has been a shift towards blended learning with greater weight given to online learning and micro learning to ease the burden of time-poor Leaders. Driven by expectations to engage remote participants, technology continues to transform learning design and pedagogy with more micro and online content that people can watch in their own time. Some learning providers have developed their own online learning platforms with bitesize, asynchronous content, whilst others are beginning to explore the use of two-minute download through TikTok videos. There is still a desire and call for synchronous development with webinars offering input from Academics to cohorts followed by smaller group discussion and facilitation, and with face-to-face modules to bring cohorts together for networking, collaboration and experimentation.

Learning content themes

EiP winnersThemes around Purpose, Inclusion, Curiosity, Collaboration, Performance, Innovation and Digital Transformation dominate the learning content across programmes, whilst Coaching, Action Learning and Experimentation continue to feature as robust vehicles for enabling application of the learning back into the workplace.

In summary, our role in learning has never been more crucial as an industry of learning and development professionals, we need to approach the future of learning with bold new approaches, to get curious, to experiment, and to potentially fail before we can fully succeed ‘There are multiple futures, the decisions we make today will design that future’ (James Hayton, WBS).


2022 Exec Dev Conf