Next week I’m going to be at the CIPD’s L&D Show. Taking a quick look down the seminar programme and aside from a lot of great content to learn from, there’s a glaring omission. But it’s not just from the CIPD. It’s also true of other L&D based conferences. Learning and Skills Conference and Learning Live (both organised by the Learning and Performance Institute) are also guilty of it, as are conferences organised by Strategic HR Network. I’m selecting these organisations as I’m aware of them – this is not a slight against any of them.
What’s the one topic no-one is talking about?
How to make a career for yourself in L&D.
And here’s what L&D lays claim to.
Investing in people is the single best activity a business can perform for its people.
Through L&D activities, organisations can improve performance, improve employee engagement and improve retention.
L&D is at the core of all business activity. If a business isn’t learning, it will die.
Hmm. Big claims.
So let’s say I believe those claims.
Let’s say I believe in L&D.
Let’s say I’m a school leaver and I want to break into L&D as a profession.
Who do I sign up with to do that? Because there sure as hell isn’t a vocational qualification for it.
If I’m at university, and decide I want to specialise in learning and development, I have to do a HR degree before I can focus on L&D. Ergo L&D isn’t strong enough on its own to merit its own degree.
I’m an experienced business person, and decide I’d like to pursue a career in L&D. What conversion course can I do to help me do that?
Oh, there’s none of that available?
And instead I have to fumble my way through a maze of learning theories, enter into a trial and error contract with myself about how I might make this happen, and at some stage on this path I may strike lucky.
Generally speaking, people do not seek out being in L&D. I did, but I’m an anomaly. Truly I am. For the majority of people in this profession, they fell into it because:
– they became an expert or specialist in something which was a sought after skill
– a role needed filling and they realised they could do it because you know, they like people
– it was part of their HR qualification and decided this was the nice part of HR
– something else
Let’s put on hold for a moment that there’s no entry point to the profession.
Let’s pretend for a moment there is an entry point to the profession, how do you progress once there?
See in most other professions, once you start in a junior role, there is often a clear path that leads you to becoming more professional, more expert, more experienced and more senior.
Not in L&D though. When I look back over my L&D career, every time I’ve wanted to progress to the next level, there hasn’t been through a natural progression path within the organisation. Every progression has been because I’ve moved organisation to a more senior role.
Cripes. And I know that my story may not be true of everyone, but I would bet it follows most.
And I haven’t even talked about learning the whole gamut of learning theories that help learning take place either via learning sessions, through digital environments or through online collaboration tools.
So there you have it. A rant about the state of L&D as a profession which essentially says, there is no career path, and once you’re in it, everybody’s advice about progression is right, and everybody’s advice is wrong because there’s no agreed standards.