Who’s overlapping who?

Over coffee the other day, a one Rob Jones posed a question – what do I think is the overlap with OD and L&D? It’s one of those broader questions that raises it’s head as the workplace continues to evolve and relationships with departments become more entwined and create fuzziness. Like where does Internal Communications sit? Are they a Marketing function? Are they a Content Strategy function? Are they an OD function? Are they an HR function?

Well I guess the place to start in answering a question like this is to first define what do the two functions do. OD – organisational development – is about ensuring the organisation is doing a range of activities that help it run more efficiently. I think this looks like: having teams work together on achieving projects, creating a collaborative atmosphere where creation and innovation can happen, enabling people in the workplace to be successful by removing barriers to success, having a set of work practices that are meaningful to the business and don’t impede the success of the business.

L&D is about developing the skills of people in the workplace so they can be effective in their jobs. For me that means: apportioning budget to learning activities that make sense, creating plans that meet the needs of the organisation, creating a schedule of internal learning activities that people can engage with, producing responsive learning solutions that are not limited to face to face sessions, and finding ways to be effective business partners.

With the above in mind, we then find that we’re at that interesting fuzzy place I mentioned above, and a little closer to answering Rob’s question. Does L&D form part of OD activities? Yes. Does OD need to deliver using L&D resources? Sometimes, yes. The overlap happens because of the similar skillsets required for both roles. As experienced professionals, there are some common skills which are:
– the ability to listen, ask questions and really get to the heart of the matter
– the ability to develop solutions which meet the needs of the organisation
– the ability to deliver, facilitate and implement solutions in an array of organisational settings
– the ability to develop relationships with key people in the business to help you and them be successful
– the ability to encourage, motivate, coach and enthuse others into action for the organisation

Over my professional career, I’ve learned that where I’ve focused on providing L&D solutions, I’ve also ended up producing OD solutions. Where that’s happened it’s been more because of happen-stance as opposed to a deliberate action on my part. In recent times, I have actively sought to be involved in large scale projects which are more OD focused. And what I’ve come to realise is that although I may not have the full OD set of badges required, my L&D career and prior education in occupational psychology certainly provide me with a very strong portfolio of success.

What do you reckon, Rob, have I started to provide an answer?

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology. Book now to attend and learn more.

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

5 thoughts on “Who’s overlapping who?”

  1. Hi Sukh –
    Thanks for this! I think this is a very current topic. The conversation is very much in place, and like yourself, I found there is an overlap between the two, especially the minute L&D solutions are truly strategic.

    What I have found, however, that in the professional community that surrounds people functions, there is somewhat of ivory-towering effect of each of the functions: HR is HR; OD is OD; L&D is L&D. The three rarely really work together and are very precious about their own contribution. They often replicate each other efforts, sometimes duplicate systems without considering sharing information or the implications of solutions they put in place have on other people functions.
    Just as an example, how many organisations do you know who have a talent programme that’s disconnected from the L&D function? (I know too many.)

    To borrow the words of a visionary – I have a dream! A place where HR, L&D and OD collaborate fully, share information and solutions fully and create a powerful, strategic people function that delivers real business impact.

    1. Hi Shani, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      I think you’re right about the ivory tower effect with respect to the various functions you’ve mentioned there. I think one of the encouraging things that I’ve come across in my networks on Twitter, through the blog and communities like #connectinghr, is that there a growing number of people who are very willing to not let these types of behaviour continue. It’s not helpful to organisations when this happens and needs a strong team to be able to lead them out of these patterns.

      I share that dream!

  2. Good post Sukh. It is probably a failing of mine that I am impatient with the L&D – OD distinction and debate. I started off my career as an operational line manager, nothing to do with HR at all. Except that I managed a lot of people. If I put my ops manager hat back on, my reaction is “what on earth is this debate about?”. What are all these myriad support function roles?
    Since then I’ve ignored the differences in L&D/OD and just got on with learning my trade and trying to make a difference. Probably I should pay more attention and deliberately build up OD job titles on my cv.
    However maybe that’s one reason why at the moment I’ve chosen to work in a smaller organisation. I don’t have to worry about these distinctions. I’m the only person doing an L&D/OD role so I can just get on and do stuff thats needed without worry about which box I’m meant to stay in. Plus I can get very involved with HR strategy in general.
    That all sounds like its all about me. It’s not. I’m just saying in a clumsy way that I am unconvinced about the relevance of these words and that I dislike silos.

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