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Four attributes of effective, change-friendly L&D departments

Posted 30 June 2016
by Jonathon Peck

I once heard an executive justifying the off-shoring of his corporation’s learning function by saying his company was ‘not in the business of learning’. He went on to add that ‘developing training is like manufacturing sausages, you just need an efficient sausage factory’. All too often, it seems, major decisions about learning functions are made by people who view learning and development in this way, who see training as an overhead, a cost, and not a lever or an investment.

Yet if all they have seen is ‘sausages’, perhaps they are not the people to blame.  Developing a learning organisation culture requires commitment from everyone, including the learning and development (L&D) team. The most effective L&D departments in my experience have the following attributes:

  1. They are tactical in the way they engage with change. This is more than knowing where ‘training’ sits in the change curve. It requires a high degree of calibration between L&D and change in the early stages of OC planning, and the ability to empathise with business impacts at a human level, not just on paper.
  2. They ‘learn from learners’. Sausage factories generate sausage-factory evaluations.  To truly learn from learners, L&D needs to be involved in testing, encouraging (and training) SMEs to co-present training sessions, helping with Hypercare; even assisting with tasks on the floor.  To influence and evaluate change, you need to be part of it, not (just) collecting Likert-scale responses after training sessions.
  3. They have the expertise to innovate and adapt. Being innovative is more than converting all your slides into animations and calling them ‘e-learning’. It’s being able to offer blended learning solutions appropriate to any situation; knowing when to deliver face-to-face rather than online, considering gamification to engage younger participants. There are so many e-learning and m-learning options out there, instructional designers should be able to match them to learning needs and lead their organisations away from a dependence on slides.
  4. They can articulate their basic proposition.  If L&D professionals can’t explain their contribution to the goals and aspirations of their organisation, to its change agenda, to its culture, then it’s not much wonder people start to view them as sausages.
Jonathan Peck is a Melbourne-based L&D consultant with over 25 years’ experience in instructional design.  For many years he ran his own business, supplying teams of trainers and technical writers to corporate clients in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.  He now specialises in L&D Strategy, developing commercial courseware and consulting in instructional design. He is also completing a PhD at RMIT on the impact of Activity Based Work on productivity. If you’d like to know more about Jonathan, visit him on Linked In.

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