Making things happen

In the world of personality theory, y’all know by now that I’m a big fan of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. A very useful tool for lots of things. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but certainly a very popular personality tool. In that world, I self identify as being an ‘Intuitive’. That is I enjoy seeing connections between things, finding a big picture, and enjoying toying with abstract thinking and theorising.

Moving on to some recent blog posts, I’m drawn to creating firm opinions on what the evolving workplace looks like, and how we in the L&D world can be at the forefront of enabling it to happen. Matt Monge wrote about how in the corporate world, when people in the business approach L&D to run an event, traditional L&Ders will immediate start to mark out their territory and want to control everything that happens. To these L&Ders it’s about control, about making the business see that they’re the ones delivering the idea, and that they’re delivering business value. These L&Ders forget that’s not their role at all. We’re here to facilitate learning as best as possible. That’s my MO. I get out of the way when I see good things about to happen.

Alison Chisnell wrote this evening about the power of saying yes. She achieved an incredible feat of doing the moonwalk in Edinburgh, and in the process with her team raising over £10000 for charity. That’s just all kinds of awesome. *pause for applause* What this helps me to remember is that people want to be successful at work. They don’t want to fail, they don’t want to get poor feedback, they don’t want to have a bad reputation at work. They want praise, they want recognition, they want more. That can come from a lot of places at work, and one of the easiest places it can happen is through L&D. Can I be part of this programme? Yes. Can I sign up to a course? Yes. Can I go on this external event? Yes. That’s my MO too. If it’s possible, and makes a difference to the person standing before me, then I’ll make it happen. There’s no sense in me being a barrier. It defeats the purpose of my role, and of my ambitions.

One of the biggest problems we face in the changing world is evidence. Show me evidence that these things matter. Show me evidence that these things make a difference to the bottom line. Step up Flora, and her blog post about the operation that is Zappos. Here you have a company that does something unique. They treat their people like people. They understand that in order for the business to be successful, you have to trust your workforce to do the right things, and let them get on with it. What I love about this is that we should be out there, as L&Ders evangelising about exactly this kind of culture and these sets of behaviours. Success comes from having a great product, and then having great people be great at what they do.

You can take any of these pieces I’ve mentioned and take learnings from them in different ways. Here’s what I think it means for us in L&D. If I can do the above things, my reputation as an L&Der will precede me throughout the business. People across the business know your name, and what you can help them to achieve, not because you’re a walk over, but because you help make things happen. I’m a big believer that L&Ders are the best at promoting and holding a company’s values up to the light and making them a reality. That’s not just achieved through delivering training, but through things like the above, and more.

>The day L&D gains prominence

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So my chosen career path has been for a while now learning and development. I really enjoy what I do. I’m able to develop sessions for staff to enable them to learn skills they didn’t know they had and then to go out and do. Then based on all that I get to learn more about how business works and offer my insights to how to continue developing new and more interesting sessions that really tap into what the business needs.

The size of the company I’m working at now (circa 400) means I get to really learn about what the business needs. What I love most about it all though is the freedom to develop and learn because the business is open to it. However, as time is passing by I’m noticing more that my learning is increasing about business operations. Eventually I’m guessing this will also develop into finance and the accounting side of a business. But that’s what’s so unique about L&D. You get to truly understand the departments across the agency and develop initiatives that make a difference.

Learning and development has importance for businesses because they understand that you have to invest in your staff and develop them and all that good stuff. What businesses fail to understand though is that L&D can help businesses develop at every level through staff. What do I mean by that? I mean that as an L&D professional it’s my job to understand how X department works. At the same time I’ll understand how Y department works. I can then take that learning and apply some thinking which centres on how to get the two working together effectively. At the end of the day that’s what a good L&D person should be able to do – facilitate essential conversations that improve business effectiveness.

The trouble with this though is that L&D is lumbered with HR. It’s understandable why that’s happened, and it has to sit somewhere so why not HR right? Well it’s right insofar as no-one else in a business has the vested interest that HR does in the development of its workforce. But what needs to happen is L&D needs to be a dedicated function that sits independently of HR. It’s then that L&D will gain the prominence it seeks. If a business can recognise this and support it, it will reap the benefits of having a team of L&D people that only care about one thing. Business effectiveness.

I’ll save for a later blog what should be included in this ninja team of L&D folks. For now though it’s enough to say that until the day HR and L&D are seen as independent but vital parts of a business, L&D will always play the backfoot no matter how good they should about what they do.