Top 5 Steps for L&D in 2013

How to grasp current opportunities to prove L&D business impact and propel L&D to its rightful seat at the C-table.

By Ara Ohanian, Chief Happiness Officer and CEO, CERTPOINT Systems

With 21st century technologies changing the way we think and learn, it’s not surprising that we find ourselves at a tipping point for change. 2012 saw Facebook’s 1 billionth user, and the world was gripped by a Korean artist-turned-global-phenomenon, thanks to YouTube. So how can we grasp these compelling opportunities to prove L&D business impact and propel L&D to its rightful seat at the C-table? I see five key steps to success in the year ahead:

1. Prediction: Social learning takes center stage.

Social will be must-have, not nice to have. It will move from a peripheral to an integral part of knowledge learning.

I see three types of companies adopting social learning: The first are those that have adopted it without a specific business purpose. They will fail. The second are those that have adopted it as a technology for chatter rather than as an intelligent balance of dialogue with performance support. They, too, will fail. The third type of company introduces social learning with a specific purpose in mind—these are the ones that will benefit.

Take global retailer Carrefour, which has implemented a social learning pilot at several stores to drive business growth. The program has enabled workers to identify skills they want to develop and then find experts to help them do so. Preliminary results have been impressive, with pilot stores reporting a 267 percent increase in sales of specific product lines. Source:

Closer to home, Home Depot has an employee social community site with nearly 50,000 users posting more than 5,000 times a day collectively. This massive, interactive environment has increased learning and collaboration among employees across thousands of locations on product and store management tips, higher level of communication with senior management, and creation of expert communities around key products and services.

As Mark Oehlert of the U.S. Department of Defense said at the time the U.S. military considered banning social networking: “We trust our soldiers with live ammunition. I think we can trust them with Facebook.”

2. Prediction: L&D professionals evolve from teachers to curators.

Seth Godin astutely observed in The Curation Chronicles, “We don’t have an information shortage, we have an attention shortage.”

In 2012, we have seen social curation take off on the Web with Pinterestreaching 40 million users and new curation platforms such as Pearltrees, Storify, and ShortFormgaining visibility.

The good news is that these new technologies, spurring on the easy spread of information and conversation, are encouraging us to move from the restrictive understanding of what L&D once was in the past to a much more positive view that mirrors more accurately how people really learn—through a combination of means, and, importantly through conversation and questioning. The result of these conversations and storytelling is user-generated content. It’s often produced quickly and often with a great deal of impact. It’s my view that L&D’s role is no longer to create training materials, rather it is to provide the circumstances in which conversations can be held and stories can be told, and to filter and share the best with the organization. In short, we need to become the curators.

3. Prediction: L&D moves from traditional lessons to contextual intelligence.

Just as modern learning technologies allow us to curate rather than create and allow people to learn from each other naturally, they also allow us to escape the confines of the classroom and traditional courses. Learning technologies effortlessly facilitate learning by being embedded into people’s daily work—permitting us to learn in context rather than in a sterile classroom environment.

Certpoint Systems’ own clients, both U.S. and international, are finding the need for product knowledge that goes beyond what a product is and does. Often, the question is about the specific application of a product in a specific situation. Given the endless permutations of how products are used, learning and remembering is not always an option. But, the ability to turn to someone who has been in a similar situation is priceless. Product innovation is too fast for “prescribed” learning—social learning scales the conversation to bring thousands of relevant conversations at the right time.

4. Prediction: Leader understanding is critical mass.

Slowly, business leadership is coming to understand the impact of knowledge sharing on business performance—helped recently by McKinsey’sstudythat reported the untapped business value of social technologies across the U.S. economy at $1.3 trillion. As a result, we can expect a tipping point to be reached in 2013, where social technologies become the norm for general business use. When we reach that point, I predict an escalation in organizations using rapid knowledge transfer to improve performance. This could be likened to The 100 Monkeys Effect or the shift from early adopter to early majority status of Rogers’ Innovation Diffusion Curve. The move to knowledge sharing is no different from how workforce behavior changed to adopt new ways of working with technology advances from telephone to fax to e-mail to the Web.

5. Prediction: The true Learning & Development professional emerges.

2013 will see the emergence of L&D professionals who are truly focused on the effect they produce on business. I see the L&D professional progressing through three states of evolution. Yesterday’s professionals were concerned with pushing out information through courses. Today’s hybrid uses a blend of push techniques and technological pull techniques to share information and stimulate conversations. Tomorrow’s L&D professionals will step back from full focus on content creation and delivery, seeing it as a single strand of responsibility. They will see their role expand to include building systems where employees learn from each other, and, crafting filtering systems for the best information for a particular need to be located as quickly as possible. This new role will involve a combination of creative thinking, collaboration with the business, and focus on speed and delivery against business objectives.

Ara Ohanian is Chief Happiness Officer and CEO of CERTPOINT Systems. CERTPOINT is a privately held global corporation with worldwide offices in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. It was founded to help large corporations transform business critical knowledge into measurable results.For more information, visit

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