This 2022 Excellence in Practice awards round has again resulted in a wide variety of submissions in terms of global spread, client diversity (governmental, corporate and social profit) and supplier diversity (in-house L&D departments, business schools and alternative providers).
While this variation is not necessarily reflected in the award-winning subset of cases, it truly enriched the debates of the jury and contributed to a privileged view of trends in L&D practices. As ever, we can only thank all applicants for formalising their experiences and for their readiness to share and discuss on the EFMD website, this Global Focus Supplement and the 2022 Executive Development Conference. We applaud the effort, throughout the last few challenging years, to continue to deliver with impact.
Multi-perspective on digitalisation
This year’s cases have shown an interesting multi-perspective on digitalisation: not only how organisations have adapted or their businesses have evolved due to technology, but also how their learning and development first went digital. External events, notably the pandemic, have played a key role in the fast forward we have witnessed in this respect. But when looking into the set of practices documented this year, there are a few remarkable elements to explore. Let’s just examine some of them.
First of all, there are a number of instances where the use of technology has led to large(r)-group interventions, bigger cohorts and even complete populations being addressed. One can only try to guess why. Is it because technology has enabled this or because this is more economical, with the need to maximise the recovery of costs? Or perhaps it is the desire to attract the attention and attempt to boost the morale of as many people as possible in these troubled times? Or did the (forced) leap forward in technical capability give us the extended reach we always wanted but hadn’t previously had the time or resources to fully explore?
Diversity of participants
Large volumes of participants or cohorts have also given rise to a growing spread and diversity of participants. Varying academic backgrounds, levels of seniority, career stages and functions; even mixing internal hires and external talents. Several formats addressing this heterogeneity were put in place in the sample of cases we received this year. Some worked using a funnel approach with minimal selection criteria at the start, but with each subsequent stage only made available to a smaller group – thus providing more opportunities for those who were truly motivated and engaged. Others worked with common offers intertwined with parallel programmes for different populations – combining technical and managerial talents for instance. Another format, made possible by the introduction of platforms, offered a common trunk and a portfolio of complementary content allowing for individual self-managed journeys.
Regarding diversity, it is interesting to note that a growing number of cases deliberately looked to addressing gender diversity and/or strengthening local talent (the latter most notably in African situated cases).
It is especially interesting to peruse the experiential or experimental practices throughout the documented projects where participants and teams are challenged to apply what they have learned to solve real-world problems, thus coupling individual learning and organisational change ambitions. Here again a variety of formats were used, from personal action plans and team projects to action-learning projects, and although not immediately evident, some went (partially) virtual on this.
Maintaining the social aspect of L&D
Probably one of the greatest difficulties during contact-restricted times has been maintaining the social aspect of learning and development. How to build a learning community and talent network; how to create opportunities for peer-to-peer exchange, mentoring and coaching? There has been the need for accelerated learning in recent years to employ technological support in these matters e.g. for virtual action learning sets, video self-presentations, virtual coaching sessions, mentoring with seniors and experts from within organisations.
Both the experiential part as well as the social part of L&D interventions have undergone some forced experiments on going virtual i.e. digital. And it is probably these aspects which have provided an invaluable live lab of exploration, where we as professionals can utilise and carry forward our newly acquired skills into the future.
This is part of a wider debate, which started with the 2022 Executive Development Conference, where we can explore the continuing consequences of this digital-first wave with people in organisations, as well as its implications on learning and development. We hope to see and hear from as many of you as possible and look forward to reading your submissions for the 2023 Excellence in Practice Awards.
See other articles from Excellence in Practice 2022.