In the beginning, there was the corporate trainer. He was in charge of conducting training needs assessments, designing and delivering learning programs meant to improve employee performance and lead to superior business results.
Read more: The need for a Training Needs Analysis
Then, with the need to build strong relationships in the workplace, trainers also became team building facilitators.
When personal and professional growth through extensive questionnaires on how peers and superiors regard the individual became the trend, they had to transform into personal coaches.
Eventually they had to assume so many roles that ‘learning specialists’ was coined as the appropriate term for this professional category.
Yet the journey to what it truly means to be an L&D professional is far from being over and current conditions call for yet another change of cape (because if we take a good look at what managers and team leaders expect from these people they ought to be very skilled magicians).
Now they also have to be curators.
Curating learning content on the go
The noun itself brings to mind highly educated individuals working in big museums and curating countless art items. They need to be informed about everything there is to know about each painting, sculpture, photography or installation and figure out which way it is best to present it to the public and when. Some pieces just sit in depositories for decades simply because it is not their time to shine.
Yet while art curators probably got all their information while still in school and though they need to be up to date with what is going on in the artistic world, they pretty much dwell in the past.
L&D specialists face a daily challenge of staying on top of everything that is changing on the markets, in the workforce and in the field of learning itself. It’s safe to say that a lot of what they had learned in school and even of what they acquired at the beginning of their career is mainly anecdote material because nothing is the same as it was only a decade ago.
Choosing the right materials on the spot
The reason why the role of ‘curator’ has made its way into the L&D specialist job description is that just as any museum or art gallery has to be constantly showing something, the need for training seems to be more acute than ever before. Various requests come pouring in and it’s very difficult to answer all of them in a timely manner. Learning needs analysis and course design takes time.
In most situations, the old school method would only lead to useless material since the need would be long gone by the time the course would be ready for delivery. So instead of using the old formula, employees who are in charge of learning now have to come up with appropriate materials fast.
Read more: Old-school vs. New-school workplace learning
The optimal solution is for quality modules to be accessible ‘on-demand’ whenever employees find the need for them. So L&D specialists have to constantly be on the lookout and sift through all that is available, much like curators going over all art items and choose what should be part of an exhibit at a certain time.
Personalizing the learning experience
Even if there is no time to conduct a classical training needs assessment, identifying what is and, more important, what will be in demand is highly necessary. Keeping in mind that individuals within the organizations are very different and require various learning opportunities, it’s best to have something for everybody.
Just as art has the power to speak to each individual making it a deeply personal experience, learning in today’s corporate environment also has to address each employee in a specific way. Personalizing content to meet specific learner needs leads to increased engagement and retention.
This is where a good LMS comes in as it can create chronological learning paths and also offer optional modules that may be of interest to the user. Learners need flexibility and autonomy so having modules ready to be accessed when and from where they want is a must.
Read more: Why each employee needs a learning path
Content has to be rich, relevant and readily available. Fresh material needs to constantly be added while redundant modules have to be weeded out. The work of a good curator is never done.
Getting user feedback and adapting to demands
Employee results are one measure of a job well done on the part of an L&D specialist. Another is constantly evaluating the entire organizational learning process. It’s important to allow users to rate the materials they access in order to see what they think is helpful and relevant and to figure out the type of content they prefer.
Identifying the programs or content libraries that fit best with an organization’s unique needs can be only done by questioning all the involved parties. Feedback from users, team leaders and managers is crucial to drive individual development and business success.
Sourcing and evaluating learning content may be the latest addition on the L&D ‘to do’ list but it’s by no means the only relevant item. Keeping a constant eye on market developments and adapting to ever changing conditions is compulsory in order to achieve long-term success.
Art curators have to set up displays that will delight and move viewers. L&D specialists have to make available modules that will help develop employee skills, engage and stimulate growth.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.