The Evolving Role of L&D

While it’s not often admitted in large public forums, one-on-one conversations with L&D leaders indicate their nervousness with the archaic skill sets of their teams. Articles about the changing role of L&D are proliferating, and there are even some suggestions of new skill sets that L&D teams need to develop. For example, the Training Manager Competency Model recommends competencies such as strategic alignment, managing technology and evaluating performance. A report from CIPD and Towards Maturity recommends both design skills as well as soft skills to negotiate with business leaders, persuade stakeholders to consider different forms of learning and influence them in adopting modern learning methods.

The need for new L&D roles, such as learning experience designers, learner engagement managers and learning curators, is evident on job sites and in conversations with L&D leaders. What’s worrisome is that while there is widespread acknowledgement of the new L&D skills required, the pace of building or acquiring these new skill sets is slower than businesses’ and learners’ expectations.

It’s an example of cobbler’s children syndrome: L&D teams are spending sleepless nights thinking about how to upskill employees for future-ready skills, yet in some organizations, they are giving little or no thought to their own development.

Believe it or not,  L&D professionals are like typical modern learners: overwhelmed, distracted and (according to research) with less than one percent of the work week available for them to spend on their own training and development. However, also like any other learner, L&D professionals who care about their continuous learning have a personal learning ecosystem comprised of freely available resources that they rely on, including podcasts, blogs, online learning sites, research organizations and networks of learning professionals.

Some L&D colleagues who are avid learners helped curate this list of preferred learning resources. The list is as long and as diverse as that of any other professional keen to stay abreast in his or her role. Their challenge as learners is time and retention and internalization of what they learn.

Becoming the L&D Professional of the Future

Here are some best practices for L&D leaders to develop the skills they need for the future:

1. Cultivate a Discipline of Reading.

Building future-ready skills is like working on a blind spot: You don’t know what you don’t know. Regular reading can familiarize you with emerging concepts, but it takes time. Subscribing to newsletters is an efficient way to skim through new content. Most newsletters also carry a short synopsis of each post or article. Take at least two minutes to glance through the synopsis before you flag the newsletter and bury it in your to-do list.

2. Create a Personal Learning Plan.

Given the pace at which new content is generated, it is easy to overwhelm ourselves. Creating a monthly or quarterly learning plan can help you focus. For example, if you are working next month with a client to create a departmental digital upskilling plan, add topics about digital skills to your personal learning plan. Then, create Google alerts or use another tool to push relevant content to your inbox.

3. Volunteer for Opportunities to Share.

As L&D professionals, we understand the importance of contextualizing learning and finding opportunities to apply it. Yet, when it comes to self-driven learning, we tend to ignore this golden nugget. Sharing what we have learned through blog posts, webinars and discussions with L&D groups helps create opportunities to complete our learning cycle.

Building an L&D Organization of the Future

While we are responsible for our own learning, as L&D leaders, we are also responsible for creating a learning culture within our companies. High-performing organizations have institutionalized some of the following best practices that help their L&D teams stay ahead of the curve.

1. Include Budget for Learning for L&D Professionals.

Creating a budget for investing in learning for the L&D team encourages learning leaders to think through their own learning strategy and plan.

2. Create Learning Communities of Practice.

Establishing communities of practice provides structure and momentum for learning teams across the company to collaborate and connect with each other to explore new ways to address L&D challenges.

3. Host Lunch-and-Learn Sessions.

Informal learning formats such as lunch-and-learn sessions create a nudge for the L&D team to share their learnings and reflect on lessons learned.

4. Host a Partner Showcase.

Many L&D teams organize showcases where they invite their training partners to demonstrate their new products or services and present success stories.

5. Develop an Innovation and Transformation Agenda.

Agreeing on an innovation and transformation agenda at the start of the year is another impetus for L&D teams to push their boundaries and learn new skills.

Learning is always a shared responsibility between the learner and the organization. The learner brings to the table a keen desire to learn. The organization creates the ecosystem that encourages learning and provides access to quality learning resources. When it comes to learning for learning professionals, the challenge is magnified because the two roles are merged. Following these strategies can help your L&D team succeed at both training and learning.