#cipdLDShow #C1 – The Strategic Skills of the future L&D Professional

My third session on day one at the #cipdLDShow was a talk by Robert Ashcroft of Santander with a case study of how his business is focusing their L&D strategy.

I was really looking forward to this session when I first saw it appear on the #cipdLDShow programme as the subject matter ‘Strategic skills of the future L&D professional’ is such a subjective topic. I have a view on this which includes the need to be technology-centric, future-focused and outcomes-driven. But I wasn’t at all expecting Robert to approach the direction of the l&d function that he heads up, in the way in which he has.

Robert started his session talking about his two young children and how their ability to learn tech has forced him to focus on how he himself, retains relevance, and relevance was at the heart of Robert’s discussion. How will his offering and that of the l&d function within Santander be relevant to the habits of its users, to achieve real immersion, something which Robert was keen to stress was in the hearts and minds sense, than that of immersion through VR or the like.

The Santander L&D strategy is focusing more on learning lessons from the entertainment industry, namely the film and TV sector mixed with the technological developments in the large retailers. Amazon Prime, Netflix and Facebook were often cited as examples of businesses that have a model that is extremely palatable to the user. User Experience, a term not mentioned once by Robert as I assumed it is simply a given that this is important, puts familiarisation at its core. What are consumers used to when they watch content from Netflix and Amazon Prime? ‘Click, Watch, Go’ and that is the same ethos that Robert is embracing at Santander. Minimal fuss and maximum ease of use.

Robert explains that contrary to what Spock says in Star Trek, emotions are fundamental to human behaviour and decision-making, and as such the content needs to connect on an emotional level to its users. And measuring that impact is obviously important too, and something Robert is looking to measure using similar tools as the entertainment industry.

Taking the entertainment inspiration a step further, Robert explained how he thinks of l&d content in the same way as we consume entertainment content; with boxsets, season structure and individual episodes, allowing users to take snippets or cram a box-set in one sitting.

Robert talked about affordability and explained how technology is far more affordable than it has been in previous years meaning that businesses can be more creative with learning content. However he also commented that the Santander strategy is to engage with professional providers to deliver this work for them, but with them.

In terms of skills, Robert is focusing his strategy on engaging with media skills through coders, producers and writers to create engaging content that l&d professionals or providers have historically been responsible for. His view is that by using the experts, which again he believes is more affordable than it has been in previous years, means that the content is designed with a different frame of mind. This does not create redundancy amongst his l&d team he was keen to stress; he stated that he still needs his team to focus on lots of traditional/’bread and butter’ l&d work but also wants them to bridge the gap and learn media-related skills.

After Robert’s engaging presentation concluded, the delegates were offered the opportunity to ask questions and it was interesting how some of Robert’s ideas were already being embraced at other businesses, with one delegate commenting on how they are already putting together l&d content with a BAFTA nominated writer, and how BT are trying to use the resources at their disposal to create engaging content.

For balance however, there were some questions around budget, respecting that Santander are a large organisation and smaller businesses won’t have the financial resources to deliver the same type of content.

This was an excellent session, delivered exceptionally well and gave lots of food for thought.