There are many ways to build a learning services team; however, there are two key capabilities at the core of learning services today: consulting and design. With economic and digital disruption ever-pressing, multidisciplinary teams need to respond faster and cocreate solutions with their clients, all the while producing a high-quality output.

A learning services team needs a team lead who can bring both a mentoring and a coaching approach to building overall team capability. These leaders must make cultivating desired behaviors a priority by establishing a structure for team members to regularly demonstrate, observe and ingrain the desired behaviors. Of all behaviors, a service-oriented mindset using consulting and design skills is key. A customer service orientation addresses both the learner and the business client who has a problem to address.

For example, learners may need to build knowledge and skills in a new business methodology, which addresses the learner requirements. The business requirement is centered around the use of that methodology to help scale delivery of services to clients around the world in a consistent, measurable way. These requirements are different, but both need to be well understood by learning service providers.

Gone are the days when learning designers could sit down with stakeholders and conduct interviews one on one or send out surveys to understand requirements. There is not enough time for this approach anymore, which is the primary reason consulting is more important than ever in learning services.

Another way to build a strong learning services team is to incentivize teach-back opportunities among team members using showcases or other knowledge-sharing activities, supported by a teach-back assignment roster that rotates around the team. Encourage these self-directed efforts to share knowledge, and make team members accountable for organizing their own teach-backs — but ensure there’s something in it for them to do so. Recognition and visibility to leadership are great incentives.

That said, what’s really critical to a learning service team’s success is the people who join the team in the first place. Managers need to ensure that hiring practices target people with backgrounds in the subject matter area they’re serving, or time to productivity will suffer.

Learning managers must also set team performance goals that are partly driven by the organization and partly self-directed so that teams feel empowered to be innovative and take reasonable risks. This approach helps team members develop a growth mindset and understand not only what the organization needs from them but also what they can do to stretch themselves in a way that will benefit the organization.

Ultimately, a learning services team structure and culture must nurture a strong consultative approach with a design-led mindset. Then, they can create unique experiences that will also have a business impact.

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