When thinking about the state of learning and development in businesses, I get both excited and feel despair. There are some very good, very learned, and very skilled L&Ders around. What they help their businesses achieve is impressive. Activities like management and leadership programmes, inductions, elearning, talent development, social learning networks – these are all good things to be taking place. They make me feel like the profession is adding value and helping businesses to really focus on its people.
And then you get businesses that ask their L&Ders to do the wrong things or become involved in the wrong activities. Things like “deliver this training next week”, or “Bob needs assertiveness training, make it happen”, or “Bella needs to feel part of the team, training will help her, right?”. Oh, how I despair at these conversations. They’re just awful. What makes them awful is the absolute lack of understanding of what it means to think about learning and development.
L&D is not restricted to training, or on the job learning, or sourcing an external provider to deliver training. The brilliance of L&D happens when people are brought together to share their fears, share their concerns, talk about new ways of thinking, and do something about it. This is what we are capable of achieving and doing, and this is what makes me excited to be part of this profession. We talk to so many departments about their needs and their day to day language that we develop insight into the business which is quite unique.
We’re given permission to discuss new ways of thinking about work, about projects, about culture and a host of other things because we’re already talking about how to support the business achieve its goals. Beyond this, the best L&Ders I’ve known have started talking with the business about how to develop its thinking on its products, on its services, on its brand, on its recruitment, on its sales because they’ve been part of regular discussions anyway.
Where does this lead? Well, to very interesting challenges, problems and opportunities, the likes of which we wouldn’t have expected. The L&D strategy of the business is largely dependent on the skill of the L&Der to decide what this looks like. The playing field is theirs to determine, and that’s a very interesting place to operate from. As facilitators of knowledge, sharing and collaboration, we can help a business be the best version of itself.
Yes, it helps if the CEO, Exec and senior management team are on board with all this, but when they see how the L&Der is making things happen across the business, it becomes a compelling place to be. You’re starting to be allowed to talk to and direct this group based on your observations and your insight into what the business is achieving, and where they can be engaged in helping more to happen.
This is the excitement of the role and the job which I’m glad to be part of. The parts of where this can fall into despair, is where I hope through sharing and collaboration, we can help and support each other to achieve our best. This is part of my thinking behind wanting to create a community of folk around #ldconnect on Twitter, and for holding our first unconference. There’s ample opportunity for a lot to happen in our profession, and we all have ideas about what we can do to get there, so I hope to help that happen through the community.