CIPD L&D Show 2018: highlights from day one

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As CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese told People Management on the first day of the L&D Show 2018 at London’s Olympia, L&D has a critical role to play in developing businesses for the future.

“When things are tough for businesses and costs are being cut, L&D is a soft target, and it’s more important than ever that its impact is measured and demonstrated,” he said.

Like other business areas, L&D has its fair share of challenges and needs the ability to adapt, Cheese explained: “It’s early days for AI, gamification is starting to become more prominent and people want more personalised learning experiences – so it’s up to L&D professionals to think about different ways of delivering learning.”

Here are some of the other highlights from day one.

It’s possible to run a learning department with just a mobile phone

Gone are the days of clunky, desktop-only training and development platforms, said Andy Lancaster, head of learning and development at the CIPD. Nowadays, all the learning employees need can be created and distributed via a smartphone.

“More than half of employers see mobile phones in the workplace as a waste of time,” said Lancaster. “Really, they should be encouraging their workforce to use them for self-directed learning.”

Listing channels and formats that employers should be using to disseminate training and development content to their staff, Lancaster advocated the power of podcasts, apps and videos as learning tools, and suggested that employers curate useful content for their workforce from existing sources, rather than trying to create their own.

“It’s about seek, sense and share,” he told delegates. “Seek it out, check it makes sense and share it.”

Neuroscience tells us that context matters more than content

The songs you loved as a teenager are the ones that will stick with you for the rest of your life and can be recalled even after much of your remaining mental function has become impaired, said Daniel Glaser, a prominent neuroscientist and director of Science Gallery London at King’s College London.

But our powers of musical recall aren’t a scientific curiosity, he added. They demonstrate that emotional context – the myriad new experiences we undergo in our youth, for example – make learning memorable.

For learning professionals, that means creating a ‘learning experience’ can be a powerful tool, he added: “Think about the context where people are learning more than the content – the emotional engagement is what makes things stick.”

Glaser also passionately advocated greater engagement with neuroscience among employees and the wider public. He outlined experiments that had demonstrated that students who were told their brains were ‘plastic’ and could develop learned far more, far quicker than those who were told they had a fixed neurobiology.

“Beliefs about the brain change how it works in practice,” said Glaser. “They change your attitude to learning, how you learn and how your brain performs.”

Learning professionals need learning too

Laurell Anne Hector, managing director of consultancy McManus HRD, issued a rallying cry to L&D professionals – to lavish the same attention on their own development as they do on their employees.

“There’s a disconnect between the way we do things in L&D and the business,” she told delegates. “We work on these pathways and plans for the business, but what are we doing for ourselves?” It was relatively rare, she added, for L&D professionals to have their own personal development plans, even though they were responsible for implementing them among employees.

Hector’s presentation aimed to help learning leaders consider whether their departments had the right competencies to succeed. That means truly understanding the business, its processes and how learning can help it achieve its aims.

But most of all, it means being active. “How often are you getting out into the business?” she asked. “If we’re going to stay one step ahead, we have to get off our bums and start talking.”

Jobs replaced by robots will top five million by 2020…

… but two million other jobs will be created, Deloitte’s head of learning and development, Pash Reddy, told delegates.

“The future is now, and science fiction has become science fact. Businesses need to get ready for this digital disruption – but so far only 13 per cent have,” he warned. “L&D roles are changing – what was relevant last year may not be relevant now.”

Deloitte itself is far ahead of the game when it comes to AI and robotics. It already uses robotic process automation to great advantage, performing processes involving moving files, completing forms, logging into systems and completing complex calculations with greater speed than its human workforce.

The firm also has a chatbot – Emily – to help new starters get to grips with the onboarding and induction process, and its Robotics Academy is training the next generation of its workforce in robotic automation.

As Reddy said: “Robotics will affect your workforce, and you have to be at the table. It’s not coming – it’s already here.”

Don’t compare artificial intelligence to human intelligence

University College London’s professor of learner centred design, Rose Luckin, was keen to clarify at the outset the nuances of artificial intelligence and human intelligence.

“Artificial and human intelligence shouldn’t be talked about in relation to each other. It’s just about intelligence,” Luckin told delegates.

Perhaps the most important point that she was keen to stress was that humans need to understand what AI does, to be able to decide which aspects of jobs should be automated, and which should stay with human workers.

“Some things are easier for AI to understand – contrary to popular belief, it can’t do everything,” she said. “And different machines have different functions. For example, the automated passport gates at airports have learned how to recognise that faces and passport photos are the same, but they can’t play chess.”

It’s up to L&D professionals to accept that AI is here to stay, and to educate their workforce about its limitations, Luckin told the audience. “It’s about getting the right blend of human and artificial intelligence. Sometimes, you need human interactions and emotions. AI doesn’t understand itself, so it can’t offer that.”

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