L&D, delivery and procurement

Some weeks back, I tweeted this…

It sparked off an impromptu debate, which Gabriella Driver took part in and after some prompting has agreed to partake in a #blogdebate. I’m sitting on one side of this fence, and she’s on t’other.

I remember several years ago being in the role of an external practitioner providing L&D to Ford Motor Co. as part of their outsourced preferred supplier. It was a truly fascinating role and I got to meet all sorts of people from production line operators to engineers to finance folk to managers at various levels. When delivering and facilitating any number of events I was expected to be the expert, and rightly so. If I didn’t know what I was talking about, how could they have belief that I was helping them achieve their learning needs?

The one big drawback to this role was that I was never part of the consultancy of those needs. That was managed via the internal manager and I had to trust her word that she knew the learning needs of the giant. I could suggest improvements to organisational functioning, and I could suggest follow up activities for learning support, but this was only ever a set of suggestions. After all I was costing Ford, and any suggested further action meant them spending more than they originally intended to.

Fast forward to my most recent roles. In both, I was and am responsible for carrying out that internal role. What’s interested me during this time is my knowledge of all that I’m expected to deliver. There’s merit in seeking external support where it’s required. For example I can’t and won’t train on health and safety or on project management. It makes sense to use external suppliers for those so people receive the required accreditations and certifications.

But when I look at the range of internal needs, I have a full expectation that I’m the one who delivers and facilitates all of that as far as is possible. Of course there are practical problems to that. If I’m spending all of my time focused on delivery and facilitation, then when am I helping meet business requirements via learning solutions? This is the space where I think L&D is stuck and could do much more with. We are moving progressively towards practise that revolves around self-directed learning and we are moving progressively towards using social tools for learning. These help provide the modern L&Der with bandwidth to get on and facilitate learning, and balance that with other learning needs.

For me, there’s something about the credibility I hold, and that credibility is all about the knowledge of the tools and techniques available to implement learning solutions. If I choose to commission a supplier to deliver a learning need, I’m not actually looking at them to provide something unexpected. That’s up to me. I’m the one who should be aware of what constitutes the right learning solution. At least enough to engage with a supplier and seek their input. Together we’re most likely to come up with something impressive, but I want to know more than just the title of a topic before I engage a discussion on how to use it. I want to know the topic and have practised it enough to be aware of it’s usefulness.

This also helps me to keep abreast of the calibre of the supplier. If I know more than them, then why am I asking them to do the work?

Another piece I’m highly mindful of is keeping my skills sharp. If I just get involved with the management and procurement of solutions, then where am I putting into practise all the learning practice I’m preaching? That’s the hot potato right there. Organisational learning and development happens because the L&Der is involved not only strategically, but also in role modelling the required behaviour. Regardless of how effective an external provider may be at delivering the learning need, the internal person is the one who sets the benchmark and helps the organisation meet its many goals.

For the other half of the debate, go see what Gabriella is saying on her blog.


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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.

One thought on “L&D, delivery and procurement”

  1. You are identifying why so many L&D departments are questioning their identity. Like HR, L&D needs to become more of a Strategic Consultancy/Business Partner role, which includes bespoke coaching and facilitation where required. This strategic role has earned the name Organisational Development which focusses much more on big picture, behaviour, engagement and culture, and facilitates learning as part of every ‘business survival’.

    As you say, there is still need for other types of training which is much more easily outsourced. Without the discretion of being involved early on in strategic discussions, OD has no room to develop into a strategic role and reactive L&D will prevail.

    OD/L&D profesionals have a unique ‘learning’ mindset and must insist on the strategic discretion to support organisations in developing a true Learning Culture!

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