Learning and development at work is a tough thing to get right. Not because the people delivering the work in these fields aren’t talented, they certainly are. More so because the changing business world places demands on its workforce that cannot be foreseen. Future planning, future strategies, future proofing? They are lofty ideals, but very difficult to do.
There are companies devoted to identifying trends, and spotting the difference between fads, trends and isolated incidents. And there are red herrings thrown our way that can seem like the next big thing, when in reality it was never anything to worry about. But businesses aren’t tasked with gazing into their crystal balls. They’re tasked with getting their product to market, doing a good job of it, and making a tidy profit along the way. These days, there seems to be a growing development that doing corporate social responsibility is a nice to have, but something that is quite high on the agenda.
When these companies are tasked with just delivering, how can the L&Ders keep up? It’s not easy. Technological advances, advances in emotional understanding, developments in ergonomics, creative and innovative design of work environments, dietary requirements, health and safety, all impact the way we work, and what we bring to work. What is the L&Der meant to focus on?
Well let’s get the basics right. A workforce has to have the required skills to be successful. And that can be as broad as having graduate programmes to induction programmes to management programmes to budget management for external training. Or it can be as simple as having an external provider do all the training you require. But these basics need to happen. If they don’t, the risk to a business becomes evident quickly. Staff will feel they’re not being developed. Staff will feel the business doesn’t know what is required for a good job to happen. Staff will feel their leadership team aren’t considerate of individual needs and ambitions and supporting these. Any and all of these can and do mean churn happens, engagement levels are low and productivity is not high.
If you’ve got that in place, the more advanced L&D activities start to happen. Workshops with internal teams to create team visions and team processes. Facilitation of internal events to allow discussions to happen and learning to be shared. Commissioning of work from external consultants to develop personal skills as an L&Der to deliver more to the business. Regular, consistent and diverse range of topics being delivered to meet mainly personal development goals.
Then you get to more strategic type stuff. Planning for development of the leaders of tomorrow. Attending conferences for highly skilled and intelligent managers and leaders. Organisational development activities involving a cross section of business units and stakeholders. Employee engagement surveys and initiatives. Coaching and facilitation of senior leadership meetings. You know, the sexy stuff.
And beyond that? Employee well-being, flexible working, remote working, recruitment, marketing, operations, project management – all these and more become areas of work that L&D can (and in some cases) do feed into because of the growing remit they provide. What was once a simple training function, has now developed into a discipline that is forever growing, and forever having to provide solutions to the business they are part of in order that all parties have success.
Phew. Best crack on then.