An exploration of what L&D is for

“See Sukh, I don’t think we do ourselves justice by talking about ourselves as learning professionals. I think we do more than that. That’s why I think we need to talk about being performance consultants.”

“I get you. And I’m not sure we are performance consultants – not as performance is ordinarily defined in business. I can’t advise of financial performance, operational performance, for example. That’s not where I’m at nor do I think is where L&D are at either.”

This was last night’s conversation with David James. We really got into it. A proper debate about how we describe what we do. How we describe what we do is important. It defines us.

And I think there are multiple levels we operate at in our L&D roles.

We are experts in learning design and delivery. Give us content and we’ll pull together a well designed course, deliver it quite well and get positive feedback about the learning experience. That’s what we’re meant to deliver, and in most cases we do. Having had a good learning experience does not equate job improvement or performance improvement/enhancement.

We are experts in learning design using digital technologies. We can pull together content into engaging e-learning, curate digital resources and content in accessible ways, and role model how to share knowledge and insights at the point of need. That’s what we should be doing too. Delivering digital learning can be closer to improving performance, but there are often other barriers to overcome – accessibility of the platform, usability of the platform, relevance of the content.

We are also great at understanding business needs and translating that into learning needs. We can understand the strategy of a business and provide multitude of learning options that will enable the success of that strategy.

I agree with David. We are more than learning professionals.

I’m not convinced we are performance consultants. That’s just not part of the equation we get involved in – or should be involved in.

We influence performance, for sure.

Performance is meant to be managed by the people doing the job. Our role is to help them perform better, but not by being a performance consultant. We don’t do time and motion studies (or the modern equivalents), we don’t measure outputs, we don’t document work processes and identify improvements. If we were being true to the title of performance consulting, we’d be doing those things too.

Which leaves the equation incomplete and I am currently stumped. I’m unsure how to better frame what we do. Learning, yes. Performance, I remain unconvinced. Something else is happening and at play which we enable as L&D.

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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.

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