It used to be the case in L&D that if you could train well, could design a good training session and had half decent facilitation skills you’d do pretty well in your role.
And as L&D started to grow in its breadth of roles and what it could deliver, that skillset became part of a host of others that needed to be developed too.
Instructional Design became an important skill as it became clear that e-learning could be more than just click next PPT screens. It became really important to understand how to design e-learning, how to create engaging digital content, and how to have a good user experience of learning.
Budget management became important too. Normally overseen by an operational manager, L&D needed to understand how to have commercial conversations about buying a range of learning provisions from outsourced training to using freelance consultants to buying e-learning to buying an LMS. It’s not a natural skill for many in the profession who just want to design and deliver training.
You had to learn how to create a strategy for L&D for the business. That was just never part of the skillset we were taught or learned about. Yet it’s vital for business operations and establishes your credibility as an L&D leader and as a business leader as someone who wants to provide L&D for the organisation. Add to that writing business cases too and again it’s a set of skills that don’t come naturally to a group who prefer to do work in workshops and design learning interventions.
We had to become proficient at using and becoming confident with systems like an LMS and what it can and can’t do. What reporting can it produce? How much can it automate for learning administration processes? How easy is it for people to find courses and book on? What other systems does it need to interact with and what security concerns does that raise? All sets of questions that you didn’t know you needed to know the answers to. And if you’re buying in a system for your organisation and never done that before how do you even know where to start?
It became important to learn how to be an internal consultant in the business and not just order takers for training courses. How are you building networks and connections with business leaders? What is their opinion about L&D and how can you influence them? When business leaders ask for training how are you helping them explore a range of options and designing the right set of solutions? What conversations are you having internally that help you identify yet to be identified as business and learning needs?
And it became even more challenging to be comfortable with the models and theories available about learning or about the human condition. Go to any learning conference and you’ll be hard pressed to make good decisions about working with particular suppliers or vendors because arguably they offer similar products just with their own angle on what works. And add to that the evidence base for many of those models and theories will either be non-existent, minimal or anecdotal at best. That’s not good enough for a profession meant to be focused on improving workplace performance.
This is only some of the expanded world of L&D that is now relevant and business as usual for many organisations. I come across many in the profession who are great at being facilitators but don’t want to know about or be involved in these other aspects of the role. I’d argue that if you want to develop a career in L&D the above are important elements to either gain better understanding of or gain actual experience in.