Brandon Carson

  • Director of Learning
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Author of ‘Learning in the Age of Immediacy’

Profile

Brandon Carson is a strategic business leader with a proven record in learning and organizational development, instructional design, leadership training, curriculum development, orientation programs, sales training and performance consulting.

An Interview with Brandon

Day to day work is where the impact can be seen so starkly. We are in a transition period when it comes to employee experience vs. customer experience and too often the systems collide and/or don’t support each other. There’s no company on earth right now that’s not looking at their internal systems from back to front and determining what to update, replace, and/or augment. This represents a wholesale transformation of the enterprise and is quite disruptive for employees at all levels. In fact, there’s no level of employee that won’t interact with technology to get their job done from now on.

Corporate L&D is at a key inflection point. Employees need more upskilling/reskilling, leaders need more evidence of where L&D’s value lies, L&D leaders need to embrace the changes the digital age is bringing and more proactively plan for ensuring the workforce can execute on the digital strategies all businesses are now formulating. I see the next five years being more disruptive for L&D than the last 50. It is not a time for complacency or the status quo.

As an industry we are having much needed conversations about what our key focus areas need to be in both the short-term and in the long-term. Most agree that L&D needs to determine how to best become more data-informed and leverage appropriate data to guide its prioritization and decision-making process. I would argue that every L&D function should have a Learning Analytics/Measurement role on its team. Additionally, focusing on actual results and key metrics from the business is critical. We should always speak the language of business and forego most internal “learning metrics” terminology as key indicators of value. Longer term, we need to re-evaluate how L&D teams are structured, where they sit in the enterprise and what their span of control entails. Too often, we’re not engaged in workplace environment design, too often we’re not having conversations about how to embed learning into the actual work environment and systems while they’re being constructed, and too often we’re not appropriately engaged in employee health and wellness strategies. Finally, we should position L&D as the primary center of transformation for the enterprise as the digital age unfolds, because it should be our responsibility to ensure that the human workforce, the machine-based workforce, the intelligent systems, and the workplace environment are designed to be in sync with each other. This is a critical element of being successful through the transition to the digital age. We are undergoing the largest IT migration in the history of that industry as we move to the cloud and adopt digital technology across the spectrum of all business activity. This is a massive overhaul affecting ALL business processes and L&D needs to play a key role in the success of this transition.
The current human migration is affecting us all immensely and is one of the key forces of change fueling the digital age. We are urbanizing like no other time in history as more and more of us move to cities. The second force of change is based on demographics – as older workers retire, the younger workforce is taking the lead and has different expectations about work. For the ME, these two forces are pivotal: the ME has the highest urbanization rate and the youngest demographic on earth. Both of these forces combined provide challenges to business in how they construct meaningful work environments and how they scale to accommodate the massive urbanization.
I’ve touched on a few of them so far. The five forces are the cloud, mobile technology, workplace automation, big data and the internet of everything. These at first seem like disparate technologies, but different combinations of them are revolutionizing business and in tandem our workforces. We all need to understand how they integrate into our enterprises to drive products, solutions and the customer experience.
Well, the impact overall is broad because like I said, every business activity is affected. The main challenge for L&D right now is to formulate strategies for reskilling and upskilling to ensure the workforce can execute on the rapid changes coming to the workplace. The bigger challenge (and opportunity) is to balance the evolution: if you move to0 fast in reskilling you’re likely to cause chaos and confusion for the workforce, if you move too slow, you adversely impact the business. It’s a delicate time for L&D and its strategy to support the business as well as the workforce.
Employees expect technology to be integrated into how they learn how to do their job, but they also expect there to be a human element in their development as well. The key conversation for L&D right now is how do you move a portion of the learning into the workstream itself, into systems and the environment? How do you support the workforce across all their moments of need (shameless plug for Bob Mosher), and how do you provide world-class, experiential learning for those moments where face-to-face matters the most? You cannot devise a learning strategy that doesn’t accommodate multiple methods of delivery because you now must meet the workforce where they are. The old days of calling people into classrooms as the only delivery method are just no longer scalable and economically efficient, however, there’s still a definite need for the human element to be there as well.
This is a great theme, especially currently in our transition to the digital age. What L&D must do is aggregate technology to deliver meaningful learning experiences, but also keep the humanity in workforce development as well. It’s easy to blind ourselves with the promise of technology, but central to our efforts is to understand how we build capability in the human workforce and how best do we create and advance the idea of a learning culture. I believe L&D is the primary conduit to driving that culture of learning, but it involves leaders at all levels to envision how to elevate the very idea of capability, development, and opportunity for the workforce. As the demographics change, employee expectations also change, and we must keep up with what matters most to the workforce so that we can build elements into our learning and work systems that advance the culture of learning.
Well, leaders are always the ones to advance the company culture. They don’t necessarily create the culture, that belongs to all, but they are key to keeping it alive. I believe L&D also should play a pivotal role in aiding the transition all businesses are undergoing. To certain degrees, it’s an uncomfortable time for many employees as they try and navigate the complexity of the digital age. One thing is certain: work is not going to get LESS complex. If anything, it’s going to get more complex over the next several years.
I see AI as being a major component in business transformation, but I also think there is a lot of hype around it right now. What’s important is to understand the technologies that make up AI and to know how they will impact the business in both the short- and long-term. Additionally, it’s key to determine how to leverage AI to drive new learning methods and opportunities for the audiences L&D supports, especially hyper-personalized learning.
L&D needs to grow its technology acumen as well as ensuring it’s appropriately aligned to the key metrics, priorities and needs of the business. L&D needs a “seat at the table” at the highest levels so it can understand what the strategic vision is so it can formulate the appropriate strategies for workforce learning. The third key element for learning leaders is to deeply understand how people learn so that the combination of technology acumen, business acumen and learning acumen can come together to truly offer world-class learning and development opportunities for the workforce.
About Brandon Carson:

Brandon Carson is a strategic business leader with a proven record in learning and organizational development, instructional design, leadership training, curriculum development, orientation programs, sales training and performance consulting. Brandon is a transformational and forward looking leader focused on aligning business and human capital strategies to achieve desired outcomes. As Director of Learning at Delta Air Lines, he is responsible for learning and development for the company’s global airport operations. As a practitioner, educator, and business leader, Brandon has developed extensive expertise in the areas of talent management, leadership development, technical and compliance training, influence and change management, and innovative pedagogical design. Brandon holds a M.Ed in Educational Technology, a BA in Business, and certification in advanced analysis.