What life, this, L&D

Communities. We talk a lot about them. They’re a very regular part of life, both physical and digital. Cycling, church goers, Twitter, cheese lovers, Apple haters, Instagrammers, Vine users, wine lovers, gin haters, and so many more. They help to connect people and give people a sense of purpose. That’s important for people, cos we all enjoy connections. I enjoy them massively, and over the years have found an array of communities that I’ve been part of, left, and found new ones, and it goes on.

There comes an interesting cross-section where sometimes, the communities we’re part of, serve two different needs, and they have a natural friction. We enjoy both, and for some period of time, we dip in and out of each community as it meets our needs. As time goes on, other things start to become known about the other community. They’re like this, or they’re like that. Because I see them like this, or like that, it crafts my view of that world, and I start to think or believe things about them. If I start to interact with individuals from the other group, I may even look for the behaviours I think I don’t like, and reinforce my own beliefs.

We know this. Well, those educated in diversity will know this. It’s called confirmation bias. It is one of the hardest psychological processes to overcome.

I’m seriously attuned to this currently.

For a long time now, there has been this belief amongst a certain subset of L&Ders that HR is their arch enemy. That L&Ders haven’t been able to be the best they can be because HR have stopped them from being so. For a while, I believed that too.

And then I grew up. I started paying attention to what was actually happening in the HR world. I started to learn about things like recruitment, employment law, employee relations, performance management and more. Some of this was learned because I was helping to deliver training on them. Mostly it happened because I was having regular conversations with people from across the business about those topics and they wanted my input. I couldn’t just say “let me ask Bob, cos that’s his area”. That’s now why they’ve asked me. They’ve asked me cos they’re after some advice based on professional knowledge to help them reach a decision. I didn’t wait for HR to impart their knowledge to me, I had to actively seek this information out.

So that’s one thing.

The other part of the belief is that HR doesn’t understand the nature of L&D, and therefore we add little value beyond delivering training courses. That one smarts some. Partly because it’s a perception which has been around a while now, and partly because L&D professionals aren’t helping themselves when they describe a learning objective as “you’ll have fun”.

There’s a simple solution to this. L&OD need to partner better with their HR colleagues to help them see the value in having a specialist with this skillset which is different to just outsourcing a solution. Behaviour breeds expectation, so if a HR pro thinks the L&OD person is useless, there’s a fair chance the L&OD person did something useless. There is also a fair chance the HR pro doesn’t understand the value of a learning intervention.

So that’s another thing.

But actually those things don’t really weigh in to this argument. This isn’t about who is more right and who is more wrong. HR and L&OD are both maturing and developing their professions at an impressive pace.

This is about perception. My beef is with those L&OD pros who hold on to the perception that HR is against them. And it all comes back to the confirmation bias I talked about earlier. These L&Ders will argue until they’re blue in the face that what they argue is right because of their experience, or because of stories they’ve heard, or because that’s the way organisational life is. Here’s other things these L&Ders will tend to argue against too… do we really need to deliver diversity and inclusion training? …if we don’t invest in social learning we’ll be behind the curve …we need complete organisational change to be a more creative and innovative business.

I’m not one for blaming others. It’s a boring tactic, and tiresome. I’m also not one for beating myself up. I’ll accept I may not be developing the right solution to a problem. Importantly though, I’ll take the time to evaluate my own thinking and see how it may be getting in the way of something better. That’s the thing which is stopping these L&D pros from being great.

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.

9 thoughts on “What life, this, L&D”

  1. Thanks Sukh. Two things spring to mind.

    1 – You choose your own attitude
    2 – Can you share more about the impressive pace at which you see L&D and HR developing please?

    Yours curiously – Doug

    1. Hey Doug, good to see you here.

      The Impressive Pace
      – L&D pros have moved from training courses to computer based training to e-learning quite rapidly in past ten years. In last five years movement has grown to more collaborative approaches such as open space, world café and appreciative inquiry, and in the technology space to using social media and technology to facilitate learning.
      – HR pros have the availability of information through organisations like CIPD and XpertHR which allows them to be more on the ball than they ever have been. Some HR pros are in an enviable position of positively influencing the direction of their organisation – examples include Neil Morrison, Alison Chisnell and Dean Royles. They’re demonstrating that new thinking and practice can inform better decision making.

      Hope that helps clarify?

  2. Reblogged this on Organisational Learning and Development and commented:
    another great post by Sukh. I have to admit I am guilty sometimes of bagging HR folk for not understanding L&D, and for being glad at least in my case that we are not part of HR, which does give me a level of freedom when it comes to delivery of outcomes.

    I still think however as I have said on many occasions before L&D is the HR sweet spot.

  3. I don’t beleive there’s a natural enmity between L&D and HR. As you know, many smaller organisations combine the two, and many such “enmities” are VERY man-made, probably down to territory issues. If I say anything more it’ll sound corny so I’ll leave it at that…

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