This post was originally written for the Training Journal. I wanted to share it here too.
The news has been full of information lately about what businesses are likely to face in 2012. Doom and gloom is abound all round and it’s going to be a tough slog. There’s no doubting that business and organisations alike in the coming year will face possibly one of the hardest years in recent history. There is very little positive in this messaging. Unemployment is up, in particular youth unemployment has hit above 1 million of for the first time. Retail industries are facing less spending from customers. Borrowing and lending from banks is becoming more restrictive. Older generations are facing having to work longer to have a comfortable life in their later years. Charities and not-for-profits are facing squeezes on a number of fronts.
This is good news for learning and development. Wait, what? How did I get to that conclusion? Let’s consider what learning and development is about. It used to be the case that your internal trainer was there to develop training courses to give the workforce the skills they needed to do the job. Well 20 years later, and the trainer evolved into an L&Der. This L&D professional isn’t just focused on training. It’s about looking at all aspects of a person’s time with a company, when they need that learning, how they receive it, and what they’re able to do with it.
We know this, right? Well, I’m not so sure. I think we’ve got so used to using L&D suppliers to help deliver on our business objectives, that we’re at danger of doing ourselves out of a very important role. In times of hardship and austerity, one of the key motivating factors a business needs to cultivate and nurture is the learning and development they provide for their teams. By farming out various pieces of work and delivery to our training partners, we’ve forgotten that we are fully capable, in ourselves, of delivering the proposition. Yes this means a re-think of what L&D is meant to be achieving. And that’s not an easy change in mindset.
The key thing is we forget we can enable and make things happen. There are a number of experts right now sitting there with a mountain of knowledge in those marvellous brains of theirs. And they’re waiting to share it all. They just don’t know they’re waiting to do that. Not until an L&Der comes along, gets them together and starts giving them the forum to make it happen. And what needs to take place in those discussions? Well, remember those product innovations you’ve always said you needed to do? Or that new marketing strategy you need to look at? Or how you get the leadership team to work together? Or how to keep people engaged in the business? All these and more are the exact conversations that need to be happening right now.
I’m a believer in collaboration and achieving more in numbers. Only a few people have the drive, vision and ambition to achieve great results on their own. In every other case, collaboration comes trumps, and as L&Ders, we are the best placed people in an organisation to make it happen. We understand the culture of the business, we understand group dynamics, we understand how to use tools and techniques to get people thinking and we understand the business objectives. The opportunities in the coming year are plentiful, and we should be at the core of making them realities.