It was just over two weeks ago that I had the pleasure to meet up with an L&D manager of one our Dutch banks. We talked, as we’re both fond of doing, about the future of learning and the developments within her department and in our mutual field. I came out of our meeting, feeling both impressed by the scope of her drive and worried about the direction yet another company is taking.

What I’m witnessing in the Netherlands within a wide range of companies, is the streamlining of learning through internal academies. I see L&D moving away from ‘built to order’ to ‘adapt to requirements’. It’s a fresh operationally excellent take on our field and without any doubt it will accelerate the onboarding of people into jobs and roles. I just have one major issue with this - best - practice.

This academic (my spin on ‘Academy’ is an intended pun) perspective on learning and onboarding is fine when our companies operate in a more or less static environment. Static in terms of competitors, market and technology. The moment our environments become fluid and VUCA they require our companies to adapt with agility. In case of banks for example, technology will transform physical banking outlets into mobile service offerings. The former financial advisors and sales reps will see their numbers rapidly declining and companies will be faced with layoffs, outplacements or internal transfers. Academies that only have job related learning offerings in place, will be in trouble. Will they be able to cope with rapid transitions such as these? Will people get an opportunity to find meaningful work within the company, or does it have to resort to massive layoffs?

As we’re witnessing the impact of transformative trends like SMAC, I’m proposing to cast our learning net a little wider. I would be cheering if companies would embrace not only a job-related perspective on learning, but also a creative and transformative perspective. Creativity is one of the few areas where humans outperform machines and yet for a majority of our functions it is not required, at all. And transformative learning will help prevent layoffs by re-skilling people for entirely new fields and roles.

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I wonder if our L&D departments will embrace the unknown and widen their perspectives and offerings on learning. I hope for action before the outcry of society at ever increasing layoffs becomes - even more - apparent. Are you with me?