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Equipping learners for the future requires more external awareness

2 Nov 2017 By Barry Johnson

L&D practitioners need a deeper understanding of how PESTLE factors are shaping their learners’ priorities

We know that the current rate of industrial change is rapid and will accelerate. Accompanying the basic changes in technology, robotics and artificial intelligence are the digital changes that are affecting every aspect of every organisation, as well as fundamental changes to global society.

L&D professionals used to have two key skills. The first was their subject-matter expertise, which will undoubtedly be affected by this revolution – as will the skill of helping learners to learn, which is changing thanks to fresh neuroscience findings.

There is also a growing requirement of learning to capitalise on external changes – be they political, economic, sociological, legal or environmental. This cluster is referred to as PESTLE.

PESTLE is not a new concept, but what may be new is its application in targeted learning situations and during the changes in the skills, knowledge, behaviours and attitudes that will affect organisations. It remains to be seen if these changes will be superficial or profound, positive or negative.

What is PESTLE?

While your subject-matter expertise may not be directly affected by all the PESTLE elements, one or many of them may affect the working and social environment of your learners. Most of the elements will influence the wider operations of your employer, which may change the skills, knowledge, behaviours and attitudes expected of your learners.

Political: Tax policy; environmental regulations; trade restrictions and reform; subsidies and tariffs. 

Economic: Economic growth/decline; interest; exchange, inflation and wage rates; working hours; unemployment (this is likely to be a major factor in areas affected by robotics and artificial intelligence); credit availability. 

Sociological: Cultural norms and expectations; organisational structures and boundaries; management attitudes and boundaries of managers’ responsibilities; workers’ responsibilities; health consciousness; age distribution; career attitudes; health and safety. 

Technological: New technologies are continually emerging, and the rate of change itself is increasing. How will this directly affect learners’ skills, knowledge, behaviour and attitudes, work boundaries, competition and the organisation’s products or services? 

Legal: Changes to employment legislation; access to materials; quotas; resources; imports/exports; taxation. 

Environmental: Global warming and the increased need to switch to sustainable resources; ethical sourcing (locally, nationally and internationally). 

By understanding these factors, your learners can gain insight into the influences that may affect their working and social environment. It will enable learners to assess any opportunities, limitations and risks specific to their skill area, profession, organisation or industry.

Without such understanding your learners will face a lack of comprehension of business decisions and planning, people strategies and workforce management, product development, organisational change, industrial turbulence and why some change is affecting them.

Barry Johnson is a non-executive director at Learning Partners

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