Magazine article Talent Development

A Lie about Accountability for Learning: With Employers No Longer Solely Accountable for Workforce Training, Questions Arise about Ownership of and Access to All the Talent Development-Related Data

Magazine article Talent Development

A Lie about Accountability for Learning: With Employers No Longer Solely Accountable for Workforce Training, Questions Arise about Ownership of and Access to All the Talent Development-Related Data

Article excerpt

Myths often are far more attractive than the truths they replace. We experience this phenomenon in many facets of our lives, especially our professional lives.

In More Lies About Learning, the authors point out what might be described as the inconsistencies between the facts associated with our profession and some of the myths that sometimes replace them. Now, a new lie (or myth) about learning is emerging, related to who actually has the ultimate responsibility and accountability for the development of today's professionals.

For many years, employers directed development of their employees, but that may be changing. The widespread availability of learning resources and the ability of individuals to access those resources directly, without the approval or even prior knowledge of their employers, has the potential to significantly change how professional development occurs. *

A little history

It used to be that employers all but promised their employees a job for life-show up every day and put in a hard day's work and, in return, you receive a decent salary, good benefits, a pension, and whatever training you needed to do your job. It was a highly effective model, and it worked incredibly well-until it didn't.

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Then in the 1990s something changed, and so too did that lifelong "employee contract" Employers acknowledged that they no longer could provide jobs for life, but they could commit to making their employees eminently employable. Although there were some distinct disadvantages to this new arrangement, employee training and development remained a central focus. Companies continued to provide their employees with the ability to increase their skills and, in theory, their value in the marketplace.

In both models, employers were fully in control of professional development-they decided which skills mattered, developed and managed supplier relationships, and planned training deliveries. Employees then signed up for programs, learned and applied new skills, helped their companies grow, and appreciated the fact that the company was looking out for their welfare. And, in theory anyway, the skills were portable: What you learned at one company could be easily applied somewhere else.

In practice, however, things were a little different. Systems that kept track of training and skills were primitive, at best. And if there were records of training completions, test scores, or information about employees' skills, employers owned them and, in most cases, weren't inclined to share. So, in practice, "portability" became less practical because all employees could do was list skills and training on a resume and hope that a potential employer could validate them through an interview process.

There was, I believe, an additional side effect of the change in the employee contract, which has been attributed to what often is referred to as a generational difference (apparently another myth that was more appealing than the truth). Having witnessed what their parents experienced with their employers, Millennials, now comprising more than one-third of the workforce, have taken an entirely different approach to the workplace. Like their parents, they work hard and learn what they can on the job. But they also have low expectations of their employers because they recognize that there are no guarantees.

As a result, they demand a level of independence in the workplace their parents had not. And their task was made easier by other societal and technological changes that had little to do with professional development, but have had a significant impact on how skills are acquired.

The disintermediation of professional development

Disintermediation is the elimination of the traditional middleman between a seller and a buyer. Although it is a term we don't often hear, we experience it every day. Tesla Motors, for example, sells its high-end cars directly to consumers through its website. …

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