The Irish of Institute of Training and Development (IITD) Conference is one of the hottest learning and training events in Ireland.

The theme for this years' event was 'Future of Learning' and included sessions on brain-friendly learning and generational learning. It was a great opportunity to join hundreds of L&D professionals and explore the changing landscape of learning and development. Here's what we learned.


The day kicked off with Gerard O'Neill from Amárach Research highlighting that with younger generations coming of working age, behaviours and attitudes to work are changing. Where previous generations would have had more of a focus on the career path, increasingly there is a shift towards greater work-life balance with 58% of people that Amárach surveyed stating they would prefer the same pay with fewer working hours than more pay with the same hours.

Research shared by Gerard also showed that 51% of employees surveyed say they need to learn new skills to remain employed in 5 years due to the rapid pace of change in today's world suggesting that employers must provide environments where learning is encouraged. Interestingly, 38% of people surveyed said that they would change jobs for the same pay if they were offered training reinforcing the need for employers to nurture talent to retain it through ongoing employee training and development.


A thought-provoking seminar was delivered by Baroness Susan Greenfield on neuroscience, what it can tell us about the workings of the brain and its impact on learning, development and understanding - thankfully computers are not likely to replace humans anytime soon due to the differences between fluid and crystalline intelligence and how individual experiences and human consciousness shape the way we think about and interpret experiences.

Baroness Greenfield discussed the concept of neuroplasticity where, as we learn, the brain builds branches and connections over time giving us a deeper understanding and an individual cognitive take on objects, events or skills, however, the concept of 'use it or lose it' means that what we have learnt degrades over time if unused. This emphasises the importance of ongoing learning and development to ensure skills and knowledge are not lost if unused.


Baroness Greenfield also noted that enriched experiences and sequential exercises (with a beginning, middle and end) have been shown to increase branches in the brain, improving our ability to understand rather than just know, also highlighting the role that stories have in engaging and embedding learning.


The final seminar of the day had Professor David Collings and Dr John McMackin presenting findings from their report 'Enabling the Workforce of the Future: The Role of Learning and Development' where they explored how learning and development will change in the future and to what extent organisations are prepared for this change.

They highlighted that the 'future of work' is already here and having an impact with L&D leaders having to manage between current skills requirements and future needs.

Digitisation, AI and robotics featured throughout the day and Professor Collings and Dr McMackin highlighted examples where technology and people are creating positive differences with the example of cancer detection in lymph nodes where when AI and pathologist detection was used together, the error rate in cancer detection was reduced to 0.5% from 7.5% and 3.5% respectively.

It was also highlighted in the report that whilst AI will impact all companies and industries to some degree, employers are increasingly looking at upskilling the workforce to ensure they have the skills to embrace these changes.

Collings and McMackin demonstrated that ownership of learning and development has shifted with more progressive organisations emphasising a partnership approach between L&D and line managers in driving the learning and development process. Additionally, evidence was found of a movement away from standardised learning pathways with an increasing emphasis of individualised learning and with this shift, new challenges are presented for learning and development in terms of technology and organisation to deliver truly individualised learning pathways to employees.

A clear outcome of the research was that very few organisations are prepared for the future of work however Collings and McMackin outlined 6 key steps that organisations can be taking to respond proactively including establishing a skills baseline, assessing the impact of change, aligning L&D teams and resources and planning and implementing against a future L&D vision.

6 stage process future of work.png (1)

One of the main take-away's from the conference affirmed that L&D is vital to the growth and success of people as individuals as well as to businesses.

We left the IITD conference inspired and energised about the year ahead. We are looking forward to addressing the learning challenges raised and applying our learnings to our work.

Until next year...

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