What do you need to know as a modern day L&Der?

I’ve been speaking with and mentoring some people over recent months in helping them think about how to get into the world of L&D. Two in particular stand out for me as people who want to get into L&D, but aren’t part of this world. One’s even taken time to get on and complete a CIPD qualification to have better credibility and knowledge about L&D practice.

There are some things that if you want to progress your career in L&D – through various internal roles – you do need to know and be able to do.

Training and Facilitation

It sounds obvious, but these are both important parts of being in L&D. You have to have experience of being with a group of people and leading them through content, and enabling discussion to happen. You also have to know how to engage a group, do things like ‘read the room’, understand how to respond to reactions of all sorts, and learn the skill of training and facilitation.

LMS Administration / Utilisation

The LMS is kind of the cornerstone of being able to have a well functioning L&D function. Yes they’re cumbersome, they’re rigid and they’re poorly designed. They’re also highly efficient at administering training courses, being resource centres for content and digital resources, can be a home for e-learning, and sending out automated emails. With some better understanding of UX and design principles, we can help people use LMS’s better.

So, you know, don’t throw the bath water out. Or the baby. Never throw babies.

Blended programmes

At some stage, you’re going to have to demonstrate you not only understand what a blended programme looks like, but how you design one, how you facilitate it and how you report on it. It’s arguably not how modern programmes should be designed, or delivered, but they’re a thing. And in the absence of less advanced and more modern solutions, it’ll work.

E-learning design and standards

People hate e-learning. But they hate it because for the longest time it wasn’t well designed. You can design e-learning which is highly engaging, content rich, and focused on performance improvement. If you’re part of this world, you’re going to need to be able to understand the importance of SCORM standards, and maybe even xAPI. Don’t believe you can do this? Check out the stuff from Fuse Universal or GoodPractice.

Digital solutions / Social technologies

I’ve got to be cautious at this point. You don’t need to have experience of these things. If you do, all the better, and you’ll be that much further ahead. Things like:

  • Video production
  • Blogging
  • Communities of practise
  • Social networks
  • Collaboration tools

These things help L&D be better. They’re not essential, but they help.


You don’t have to know theories or models like we used to. You have to know what the different theories and models help us understand about learning and about performance improvement, but you don’t need to know them inside out. You most definitely need to know how to discern weak models and theories from the ones which have strength of insight and strength of a credible evidence base.

Also, this is where it’s really useful to build connections with suppliers and practitioners who do know these things really well. Again, just be careful of not being sold snake oil.

(For me, if I hear anyone in their ‘pitch’, ‘proposal’ or anything similar mention things like 55-38-7 of body language, NLP, Learning Styles, I will become heightened to the possibility they are not as progressive as they could be for me and for the organisations I work with. Feel free to ask me why.)

Business Partnering / Performance Consultancy

For me, this is a core part of the modern skillset needed by L&Ders. Never forget that L&D is as much a business function as is Marketing, Finance and Operations. As such, we need to understand the language of the business and help them understand the language of L&D. It’s a tango, and if it’s not, then you’re doing a breakdance with people spectating. Talk with business leaders. Establish yourself as one of them. Understand their drivers, and from that you can design solutions which help them get there better/quicker/more efficiently.

Modern L&D solutions

This is a hard one to grasp well and prove the value of. Modern L&D solutions are things like resources and not courses. They’re things like curation of content. Things like experiences and not training. Things like social collaboration and project work. If you can gain experience of doing these things, and what that means for L&D, you’re much further along the spectrum of what good L&D looks like than most people.

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.

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