Five minutes with: Michelle Parry-Slater, L&D director at Kairos Modern Learning

The key lessons learning and development practitioners can take away from this year’s Learning at Work Week

What are your top takeaways from this year’s Learning at Work Week?

The theme of ‘future fit’ is really important to the profession. I love that lens as an approach to L&D. We must all be conscious of sustainability, as that is everyone's issue. We may think in L&D that if we go digital that is sustainable; no flights or cars taking people to a training room and no paper workbooks – that has to be better, right? But digital is not always a sustainable alternative. Recording hours of Teams calls for the occasional rewatch is literally costing the earth. 

I am inspired by the work of Gerry McGovern, who says: "Digital is physical. Digital is not green. Digital costs the earth. Every time I download an email I contribute to global warming. Every time I tweet, do a search, check a webpage, I create pollution. Digital is physical. Those data centres are not in the cloud. They’re on land in massive physical buildings packed full of computers hungry for energy. It seems invisible. It seems cheap and free. It’s not." 

I am pleased that we raise these discussions in learning and that Learning at Work Week (LaWW) has highlighted ‘Create the Future’ as something we all need to get behind.

If you had a crystal ball, what would the future of learning look like?

Sustainability, like accessibility, needs to be a baseline fundamental for all work, not just L&D. If we create sustainable and accessible learning, everyone benefits. I see this as a mindset, which is a shift we can make as L&D-ers straight away. For example, workbooks are a typical production for any course, online or in person. We need to think carefully if we really need them, and, if we do, how do we produce them to be accessible for all, thinking of imagery, colours and format, as well as how they are shared. If we print them we should use minimal ink and recycled paper, and print only for those who need them. Think about what happens to them afterwards – are they used or stored? Or are they recycled? If they are digital, ensure they are eventually deleted so as not to hold space forever. Imagine if we thought that deeply on sustainability for every step in our programmes? The butterfly effect means even small changes really could make a difference.

Why is it so important that we take the momentum from LaWW and carry this through the rest of the year?

Learning is never a one-stop opportunity. We are learning all the time. I see LaWW as a kick start for the year. The themes and resources are available for a year until the next LaWW, so why not use those to fit your own organisational learning rhythm. Every organisation has busier and less busy times, so holding LaWW at your less busy time means it is more likely to get traction and hold momentum. Putting learning into your own yearly rhythm, at the time when internal comms can back you up with an ongoing regular learning drumbeat means momentum can last for quite some time.

What do you think is the one thing L&D practitioners can take from this year’s Create the Future theme and action straight away?

For me, a future focus is the takeaway this year. We must be future-focused practitioners in a world that changes so fast. For example, at the last LaWW we hadn't even heard of ChatGPT, and, in the few short months since its launch, we are already seeing how AI can produce content for us. AI has been around for quite some time, but now that it is in this more readily accessible format, the future is here and now. Who knows what will be around in another year’s time. The world of tech moves fast and we need to keep up, even as active observers.