The Future of Learning and Teaching

Our digital world is evolving at pace.  As corporate information technology moves further away from being a technology-centric discipline, to one with a much greater focus on human engagement, the skills required of service management professionals will need to evolve.  This evolution will impact our people, their skills and preferences, so as leaders and managers we must consider how best to support the continual professional development of different types of people.

Continual Professional Development

Continual professional development (CPD) is how professionals in all fields maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge, expertise and competence, and develop the personal and industry specific qualities required throughout their professional lives.

Unlike many industries, like medicine or law, IT and service management practitioners are not mandated to undertake training and certifications but on a personal level most would recognise the importance of participating regularly in professional development that is relevant to their scope of practice in order to maintain, update and enhance their knowledge, skills and performance to help them deliver services and valuable outcomes to their customers.  But what role should they play, what role should their employer play and what type of activities should be included within this investment?

Capabilities are the organisations most important asset

The performance of any organisation depends not solely on process models and governance structures but on capabilities as well.  In the latest iteration of ITIL there is a reference to the 4 dimensions, it calls for organisations to consider all aspects of their behaviour; people and organisations, information and technology, value streams and processes and partners and suppliers.  If not, they may become too focused on one area and neglect others.  There are multiple aspects to consider and none of these are sufficient to produce business outcomes when considered in isolation. 

In this blog I want to look at specifically the capability of organisations and people.  It is often said that in an organisation, the people are its most important asset and the development of those people needs to be seen as a career-long journey in which the need to incorporate opportunities to learn far outside the traditional classroom environment is important.  People will change their jobs, move to other careers and rotate across industries and companies.  In addition, the frenetic pace of change in the technology and best practices sector will mean that they must find suitable ways to develop their skills to ensure they remain relevant in their chosen field.

Service focus

Service management staff need skills to allow them to be ‘service focused’.  Services tend to be activity based and outcome rather than output driven.  Whilst outputs are more concrete, outcomes are about a feeling or an experience the recipient has.  To truly deliver a valuable service, people need both knowledge of the requirement and knowledge of the experience of the consumer.

This is where more hands-on approaches to learning can be beneficial.  We know that learning of any kind is highly contextual.  We may be able to learn some principles and general concepts in a classroom, but we only embed the real learning by putting those principles and concepts into action.

In an individual’s day to day working life, learning often occurs almost without knowing.  Taking those opportunities to see, try, make mistakes, repair, and reflect, supported by colleagues, facilitators, mentors, supervisors or coaches; this can create a working environment where learning becomes symbiotic.  Indeed, some of the current service management approaches such as DevOps, Agile, and VeriSM have experiential learning and iteration at their core.

The format of 70-20-10

Learning is about successfully gathering, processing and reflecting upon information.  You may have heard of 70-20-10(1) principles.  If you haven’t, it’s essentially a reference guide or framework for categorising the learning opportunities for an organisation and its staff.  The model extends learning beyond the more formal classroom and structured training environment into the workplace, experimentation, exploration, social interactions and learning by ‘doing’ principles. 

When embracing the 70-20-10 concept the numbers, which represent a percentage of time to be invested, may change depending on what you read, but the concept stays relatively the same; that is that formal training (the 10%) should be only a minor part of organisational learning and performance improvement and that experiential and social learning in the workplace can provide the majority of learning experiences (the 20% and 70%).

In a 70:20:10 environment, building capability becomes more of a responsibility for the individual rather than a centralised, organisational L&D department.  Whilst the organisation still need to ensure a culture of continuous development is supported, the onus falls to the individual to take control of their learning and seize opportunities to learn using multiple access points and modes of learning.  For example:

  • 70% Experiential/on the job-learning and developing through day-to-day tasks, challenges and practice. The largest part of professional development is spent on ‘on-the-job’ training/learning.  This is situation and individual dependent and thus difficult to structure and control (although not impossible, perhaps using tools such as manuals and instructions).  This is about peers, colleagues and managers helping or teaching staff to do their job.  If this is to work well this teaching activity must be deliberate and planned.  Consider the annual performance appraisal and periodic one-to-one sessions between managers and staff, or the use of mentors and coaches to provide a go-to point for feedback and advice.
  • 20% Informal/social, knowledge sharing and exposure through informal gathering such as communities-of-practice, mentoring & coaching, seminars, conferences, reading. This is sometimes also referred to as relationship-based and is particularly relevant in team environments.  Consider how knowledge transfer plays a role here.  This can be facilitated by attending seminars and conferences, reading books, articles and blogs, listening to podcasts and so on.  To make this more tangible, various organisations (like computer societies, project management institutes and for instance AXELOS) have applied CPD points or credits whereby staff or participants need to gather a certain amount of points to reach or maintain a qualification or standard.  Organisations can play a role here and might establish learning pathways, offer a learning management system or some type of resource library, communities-of-practice, collaboration platforms (like Yammer or Sharepoint), user forums, mentoring and so on. 
  • 10% Formal/structured training. This type of educational activity can be relatively easily structured, controlled and centralised.  Employees are sent to courses, records are kept and certification is obtained.  There will likely always be room for this approach.  It becomes most beneficial in a controlled environment where qualifications rely on syllabi and structured learning outcomes.  However, this needs to be considered in context; the concept of a teacher standing in front of a room full of students who listen and respond to direction is increasingly a thing of the past.  Students will increasingly become partners or co-creators of their own learning.  Consider online computer based training (CBT).

The point here is that we need to identify and catalogue the value of the many learning opportunities which often get overlooked.  In a 70-20-10 model 90% of learning is outside of the defined, structured training.  In the modern workforce where time and resources are limited, looking for opportunities to extend capability outside of the traditional classroom and even outside of the working day can be valuable.

Blended Learning

At Kinetic IT our Business Plan includes an alignment goal which is to ‘foster and promote crew engagement and growth’.  This relates to our ongoing work to improve our learning and growth ecosystem.  With a commitment to developing capability within our organisation, we have been working to consider learning solutions that will cater for organisational growth in both crew numbers and geographical locations.

We have worked with ITSM Zone on a number of blended solutions which use the flipped classroom method which aims to incorporate the ‘best of both worlds’: face-to-face for a more personal touch and an opportunity for human interaction, but with ubiquitous access to study aids, training manuals and videos, to aid flexibility.

The flipped classroom(2) describes a reversal of traditional teaching where students gain first exposure to new material, outside of class, via eLearning or self-study, and then class time is used to do the more practical and valuable work of assimilating that knowledge through strategies such as problem-solving, gamification, discussion and debates.  The collaboration with ITSM Zone provided us with high-quality, on-line training videos, which allowed us to optimise trainer development time, reduce costs and focus on the development of the other modules to blend, augment and complete the educational programme.

The key change is that learners don’t just ‘show up’ to the courses and get ‘spoon fed’ the theory in an as-short-amount-of-time-as-possible.  The new approach requires commitment from both staff and their managers to ensure attendance at a series of events, balancing operational commitments with learning and fully incorporating the 70/20/10 principles.

The future of learning

Technology has changed so many things for us that we can’t even imagine our life without some sort of support from it.  Other than simplifying our life, technology also works to replace us.  In the next 20 years, there are going to be jobs which will no longer exist and jobs that we haven’t yet thought about.  This is why continual professional development has become even more important.  Through our lifetimes many of us will be faced with the need to change our careers, re-train and develop new skills.

In addition to this, even if our job role remains the same, there is still a need to adapt to new ways of working as we engage in more complex environments and with a wider network.  The growth in agile and collaborative approaches to work and a push to develop multi-functional teams and alternative working approaches is helping to break down silos across the organisation.

As we embrace our digital future, how and what we teach will need to evolve.  Organisational learning needs to keep pace by acknowledging the multi access points available for gathering and processing information.  The best way for a person to learn depends on the person.  It is well known that people have different leaning styles that work better for them; often a mix such as visual, logical, aural, physical, verbal, kinaesthetic some of which may be dominant.  The classroom only model of teaching and learning is outdated.  The forward-thinking organisation is aware that transformation within the L&D department is necessary.  Experiences that allow collaboration, communication and teamwork often happen beyond classroom walls and we need to facilitate for these experiences in context.   Teachers, trainers, managers, leaders, co-workers, suppliers and others must become facilitators of learning and individuals need to employ more focus and have more control of their own learning journey.  Multi-modal approaches, those that pair different learning experiences, are the future of continual professional development of people and their capabilities.

We should also expect and prepare for a shift towards a more personalised learner experience and teachers of the future must be prepared to be data collectors, as well as analysts, planners, collaborators, curriculum experts, synthesisers, problem-solvers and researchers. 

Implementing the 70-20-10 concept is a good start in realising the opportunities to learn across different approaches.  It embraces both the culture of sharing and acknowledges the huge amount of learning opportunities. It is important not to underestimate these and to develop and extend them in pursuit of more flexible and agile approaches that support the changing work environment.

How can ITSM Zone help?

A move to eLearning can be a cost effective way to train your team in a variety of different certifications and methodologies. Reducing the training cost overhead, minimising time away from the office and incurring no additional expenses in terms of accommodation and travel can provide real benefits to the organisation. We at ITSM Zone are seeing more companies investing in online courses and adding this option to their capability. Whether you have a team that would benefit from certification, or if you are an ATO who wants to add eLearning courses to your portfolio, then we are able to help. 

Michelle Major-Goldsmith

Michelle Major-Goldsmith

Lead Architect-SIAM Professional, Contributing Author-VeriSM, Founder Member- SIAM Fnd, AXELOS WG, itSMF WA-Secretary