It is fair to say that for many, 2020 has been the year of learning with a huge uptake in personal development through online learning opportunities.  

2021 is already a year of uncertainty, but from a learning perspective, we can make some assumptions. 

During the IPMA Global Best Practice week that replaced this year’s Congress, I spoke to Change Leaders about how learning and working trends are shaping our future, and how they can ensure that their organisations achieve a return on investment from this update in development. 

Looking at data from organisations looking to understand innovation, it is clear to see that Leaders see the value in new ways of operating, but few companies truly support that through their culture. 

When it comes to learning, this is a worrying set of statistics because without considering new ways of operating, organisations will not benefit from the skills that their teams are gaining and applying.

Learning Deficits

To understand this in more detail we need to interrogate some of the common learning trends and take a new perspective – one that looks for the deficits as well as the well-known benefits.

It is true that most trainers will ensure that their training course contains different methods of learning and testing for that learning to ensure that different learning styles are accommodated. But if we combine these perspectives with the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve we can see the problem that organisations have in identifying and managing return on investment from the good work that their teams are doing.

This is a problem because PMO services and PPM ways of working that were historically out of reach because organisations were missing skills internally are now in many ways attainable thanks to the rise we have seen in people taking responsibility for their own development – if levered in the right way.

Capitalising on Learning

During my session at the IPMA Global Best Practice week, I talked about the benefits of Change Leaders introducing Project-Based Learning into their organisations.

“Project-Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.”

Whether the learner has taken it upon themselves to learn something new, or the organisation has mandated it, ensuring that learners are given the headspace and time to bring their new knowledge to life in the real world is one of the most effective ways to get true Return on Investment.

This is why our Wellingtone PMO Training Academy courses include not just training designed to support learners of all styles, but also mentoring post-course to support learners in taking their learning and adapting it to the challenges or opportunities faced by their PMO or PPM community.

The Flip Side

Although this all sounds an extremely favourable situation for organisations, like all coins, there is another side to the tale – a cautionary tale.

This cautionary tale is detailed more precisely in my article ‘Why Professional Development is important for Project and PMO Professionals’. That article deals with the growth of opinion-based training that is offered in many cases for free (or very cheap), and the subsequent rise in ‘experts’.

As an organisation embarking on a new professionalism and development journey, it is imperative that the quality of learning is assessed. This step in the process must be in place for true PPM Maturity to be reached in the areas that require attention.

Learning Trends for 2021

Looking at the research developed by companies such as Udemy there are some clear trends emerging for 2021.

Learning & Development Programmes in organisations are still lacking in the way that they engage with teams and individuals, and how they support them for the long haul.

Udemy found that 43% of respondents are not satisfied with their organisational approach.

It is important that when embarking on developing this value enabler within an organisation in 2021, that it is seen as a strategic activity and that teams and individuals are provided with everything they need to grow professionally; as opposed to many organisational approaches which the existence of a programme allows them to ‘tick a box’ and people are too busy to partake.

Proving it is important to ensure that the value and effectiveness of a learning & development programme are identified and communicated. In the same research, RoI was identified as one of the top three obstacles in 2020 to obtaining sign off for training.

In 2021 we need to be better at seeing the value of professional and personal growth of teams and individuals, and Project-based Learning is one of the stepping stones to doing this well.

Total Wellness is a topic we have been talking about for some time at Wellingtone. We believe that personal growth is as important to the technical skill required to ‘do the job’. As see this in PMI Pulse of the Profession research 2020 which should that Leadership and Business Skills are quickly catching up with Technical skills when respondents were asked about the importance of skills.

Organisations need to prioritise the wellness of their employees in 2021 which will drive their personal growth in competencies such as business acumen, independence, and strategic thinking.

Virtual Working is not going away so as organisations develop their approach to learning & development for PMO and PPM Professionals they should take care that the human side of the training experience is taken into consideration.

Simply overlaying slides with voice is not going to work for many learners. A more hands-on approach by providers needs to be sought to ensure that the session(s) feel like a training experience and not just a long virtual meeting.

At Wellingtone we have developed our own Remote-Live format for training which encompasses the importance of the training experience:

  • A real-life trainer with a real-life whiteboard (old school we know!)
  • A training survival kit sent to the delegates in advance (to avoid digital overload)
  • Mentoring touchpoints for free with the trainer after the course (to ensure that the knowledge transfer has been successful not just to the individual but also to the organisation)

Data-Based Roles are on the rise, with technology and information being passed collaboratively and digitally, organisations should ensure that their approaches are modern, effective for the culture, and trained.

So many teams have failed to support individuals in the transition to remote working, and as a result, we see many facing a crisis of confidence; in both communicating effectively and managing their role due to the lack of understanding of ways of working in this brave new world.

What next?

2021 will continue to throw our industry curveballs. However, we have already seen a rise in maturity assessments and new roadmaps being developed that include more of the people side of change. This is a positive trend with teams looking at how they can lever newfound skills to drive maturity in their PPM practice and the organisation as a whole.

If you want to discuss your ideas on how to bring innovative ways of learning into your organisation why not book an appointment in our Dr PMO Clinic which is completely free and will give you a chance to speak to our PMO Specialists.

If you want to know more about the research used for this article, you will find the links below: