learning organization

From Trainer to the Learning Organization: the Future of Corporate Learning

Original article can be found here.

learning organization

What makes a good trainer? What are the keys to success for corporate learning? How can learning adapt to the digital transformation without going astray?

I reached out to an expert in the field to answer these questions! Jean-Roch Houllier, international and digital learning director of the Thales Learning Hub – the University of the Thales group – as well as Academic Development Director at PMI France and professor, explains what the role of the trainer of the future will be and digital technology’s potential for the field. 

“Everyone Is a Potential Contributor” 

For Jean-Roch Houllier, everyone within a company is a potential trainer. What matters most is not to be the absolute expert on a subject: “sometimes it’s better to have an expert who’s not a Nobel Prizewinner but who really has a pedagogical mastery to ensure that a real transfer of knowledge is taking place.”

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In other words, if a good “mastery of the content” is required, other dimensions help make someone a good trainer: curiosity for the changes in the world around us, as well as what Houllier refers to as this “pedagogical mastery and the ability to arouse interest and to engage learners.”

A trainer’s added value thus often lies elsewhere than in his or her mere ability to produce content. The question of how the training takes place is crucial to “ensure a more efficient transfer of knowledge.” 

By “revisiting the trainer’s experience and by giving this pedagogical mastery to our experts so they are more at ease in the room and make sure the transfer of knowledge is efficient,” Thales manages to rely on the company’s native experts who “share their knowledge with their colleagues” in numerous training programs. It’s what Jean-Roch Houllier refers to as “Thales teaches Thales.”

Training programs are thus very “Thales colored,” and this specificity brings a lot in terms of learner engagement.

“The more our contents speak the Thales language, the more they are acclaimed by the learners, because speaking the Thales language is a differentiator compared to generic offers that we can now find anywhere”

By relying on internal experts, this “Thales teaches Thales” approach also allows “a contribution and bi-directionality principle in the creation or co-creation of knowledge.” This idea of “co-creation” emphasizes the collaborative and participatory aspect of learning – extremely important to Houllier and at the basis of his definition of the learning organization.  

Learning Journeys and Trainer of the Future

For Houllier, this vision of the learning organization also requires to “put the learner at the core of the system. ”

Towards that goal, Thales worked on the “redesigning of our programs, that we transformed into leaning journeys” in order to “offer and design unique learning experiences.”

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This vision of training as a “learning journey” allows both to “put the learner at the core of the system” and to feed the participatory and collaborative aspect described by Houllier. It also combines individualized moments with collective ones under different forms, with “face-to-face, distance, synchronous or asynchronous learning.” It means thinking about training through multiple geographies and temporalities, “thinking about the journey as being multifaceted and not limited for instance to a face-to-face geography in a training room.” 

It’s about making sure that “each individual is aware and actor of his or her own training and of what he or she wants to do” 

This impacts the trainer’s role. In order to foster this idea of the learner as actor of his or her own learning journey as well as the importance of collaboration, the trainer’s role is evolving towards a “facilitator” figure, made possible by the fact that he or she belongs to the same company as the learners. 

According to this idea, the trainer encourages learners, helps them to “learn how to learn” and to develop their own critical mind. It’s about “guiding the learner towards content with added value” in a world “ubiquitous knowledge” where, Houllier explains, “there are no omniscient individuals anymore.” 

The role of the person Jean-Roch Houllier calls “inspiring facilitator” is thus to “offer learners diverse means of learning individually or collectively.” 

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He summarizes all these attributes of the trainer of the future in a book written with Michel Barabel, soon to be published by Dunod. He identifies 6 pillars:

  1. To be curious and be informed about pedagogy, in particular “to be aware of the last findings of the neurosciences
  2. To be aware of the evolution of digital technology
  3. To be an “alert watcher,” meaning to identify contents with added value
  4. To be a “learning journey” architect
  5. To be an “empowerer,” meaning “to give tools to the learners so they do by themselves
  6. To be an “inspiring facilitator,” which implies developing “a more active, interactive and above all more participatory pedagogy.”

Digital Technology: a “Catalyst for Potential”

In this perspective of “travel journeys” created by trainers who’ve become facilitators, Houllier explains that digital technology “opens widely the space for opportunity” as its development brings new, promising tools to the design of learning journeys.

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In that sense, digital technology “harnessed to the benefit of pedagogy” and thought of as “a means rather than an end” gives unprecedented tools in order to “create multifaceted learning journeys, with different geographies and temporalities.”

We can “thanks to digital technology create journeys whose geography and temporality are unlocked, multiple, and with moments sometimes intimate, sometimes collective. Eventually, we find with technology an idea of duality between individual and collective that we want to foster in our journeys.”

Beyond this potential at the level of everyone’s training, digital technology becomes a “catalyst for potential,”indirectly contributing to “the digital transformation of the company.” 

By working as a “transformational booster of the way employees work everyday,” digital technology can also become a means of realizing this vision of the learning organization and thus allow businesses to be prepared for this new era to come