Liggy Webb on the future of workplace learning

12 Dec 2017 By Emily Burt

The bestselling author ponders the power of personal resilience at work, and where L&D goes next

Liggy Webb

A bestselling author and ‘behavioural agility consultant’, Liggy Webb has worked with organisations as diverse as the Refugee Council, the NHS, Walt Disney and Ralph Lauren. Ahead of the release of her forthcoming book, Personal Agility, she explains what resilience really means and why it’s the key to business growth, as well as the role of L&D in a fast-changing world.

What makes resilience such an important professional and personal characteristic?

I used to think resilience described mental toughness. However, I have since learned – through research and interviews, leading workshops and the stories people have shared with me – that it’s more a series of behaviours designed to proactively equip people in coping with the world we are living in. Resilience means taking personal responsibility to become more empowered, having an open growth mindset, embracing change and cultivating a positive mental attitude. This can be challenging but, given the amount of change and uncertainty in the world, people must be equipped to be confident and resourceful.

How can we be more resilient and adaptive in the ways we are professionally learning and developing?

Futurologist Alvin Toffler said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” I think we all have tendencies to become fixed in our mindsets, and in how we learn – particularly in education, where we are taught that everything we learn will be relevant for the rest of our lives.

Good learning is about understanding habits (because a significant percentage of the things we do are habitual) and developing the ability to scrutinise our behaviours. For L&D professionals, this also means taking a facilitative approach to delivering learning, giving their colleagues the confidence they need to progress.

You work with L&D departments to help change mindsets. How do you think the digital landscape will influence what they do?

The fashionable aspects of L&D are always driven by some sort of commercial element. More than 20 years ago, a great deal of emphasis shifted towards e-learning, but no one had thought it through, so it alienated quite a few people.

For some, the digital approach to learning is very challenging – we must respect and understand that everyone has different motivations for learning at work. Today, there’s a broad idea that getting people into a classroom is antiquated, but I believe there is great value in getting people together face to face. As an L&D professional, recognising that the wisdom in the room is often important, and becoming ‘the guide on the side’ as opposed to ‘the sage on the stage’, helps positively engage people.

It’s also worth remembering that in the age of fake news we desperately need to work on our critical thinking. The internet is information, not wisdom, and it’s worth equipping people with the critical thinking skills they need to disseminate and work out that wisdom for themselves. That’s another crucial responsibility of L&D, to guide people towards what is credible and relevant, and encourage a thirst and enthusiasm for continual personal growth and learning.

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