Appreciative inquiry in L&D will help produce a workforce of the future, experts say

Speakers at the CIPD People Analytics conference talked about reinventing learning to create change in firms and help employees to look forward

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Experts at yesterday's conference got their heads together to discuss reimagining learning and development to create a future workforce.

With an eye on AI and other emerging technologies, they pondered what L&D could look like for analytics specialists in their organisations. 

Here are some ideas that emerged: 

Using appreciative inquiry to drive change 

According to Sonal Patel, head of learning and organisational development at Salford University, analytics offer the unique capacity to understand and interrogate your business in minutiae and the broad picture.

She added that appreciative inquiry is a “basic concept” but the methods are founded on strong assumptions. Patel said appreciative inquiry is a collaborative way to design change that is based on identifying strengths and what works effectively. 

As a result, according to Patel, it requires people to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. "Appreciative inquiry looks at what we’ve already got, what's working, what's good," she said. 

Patel also stated that analytics professionals should "unpick" it to understand why it is positive, successful and working, and apply learning from that to other areas that will improve and make it better.

She also said that by using the appreciative inquiry approach, you may recognise and celebrate the good things in life and share that positive understanding in a more organised and systematic manner.

The need for planning 

Rob Bulman, head of people analytics at Salford University, told HR professionals at the event: "I think you deserve a seat at the strategic table." 

He stated that his approach to planning is based on three pillars: ethics and governance, the environment, and culture. 

Bulman said that it is necessary to have an ethical stance rather than a business standpoint and that the two should be balanced. 

He also explained that, with environmental principles, the question was whether "we have the right technology" and whether it is kept up to date.

He added that it is important to have cross-departmental work going on, plus budgeting and planning for learning and development. 

In terms of culture, Bulman discussed whether all roles are about learning and growth, as well as whether firms are still heading towards predictive analytics - or still asking questions.

Changing the perception of AI in the future of work 

At a session discussing the advance of AI and the future of work, Patel said: "What we recognise is that artificial intelligence and machine learning are now part of the world of work and will become increasingly so.

“So the expectation we have is that our industry expects our students to come into the world of work, being comfortable using these tools to help them to be more effective in their roles,

“It is about changing the perception.”