So you’re new to the profession and need some learning and development tips. You’re in the right place.
After having worked in L&D for a long time, I’ve finally got to grips with that’s important and where the focus should be. In this article I’ll share with you my learning and development tips, or mantras that you should know about.
This article focuses on some of the implicit knowledge of L&D, you know, the stuff that isn’t always obvious. Especially not when you’re new to the career.
Use this list to guide you in what’s important, where to focus your time and your energy.
1. Learning doesn’t fix everything
Unfortunately, in a lot of organisations learning becomes the sticky plaster to fix any issue. This is because it’s perceived as the easier option, to get everyone together, give them information and magically expect behaviour change to happen. If only it were that easy!
In learning and development you’ll spend time trying to establish what is a genuine training need, and you can do this through asking appropriate questions to get to the root cause.
2. A blended approach to learning is best
A blended approach to learning means that you are using a mix of learning interventions. This could be a mix of, digital learning, face to face, and instructional job aids, or any other relevant approach to learning.
This method works best because it appeals to a wider audience and varies the approach to learn. We don’t all learn and retain information the same, so by blending you provide several ways for the information to be retained.
Blending learning also ensures that learning isn’t just a one off, experience – it supports the learning transitioning into the workplace.
3. Learning happens every day, and most of it you won’t facilitate
As learning and development professionals we can assume we are the gatekeeper of learning for our organisation, but in most cases we won’t know about 75% of the learning that takes place. And that’s ok.
You can still make use of the learning you don’t facilitate by drawing upon it and asking learners to reflect on these sessions in coaching, mentoring or group reflective exercises.
4. Sometimes, a performance conversation is all that’s required
As per my first point that learning doesn’t fix everything. Sometimes all that’s needed is an honest conversation between a manager and an employee about their performance. This can be hard for managers, as it means for them a potentially uncomfortable conversation.
When you’re scoping out learning, keep this in your mind and explain to the manager that the learning alone, without a conversation isn’t likely to have an impact. And in fact, the conversation may result in the learning not being needed at all.
5. Engaging with stakeholders throughout learning is crucial
Stakeholders are crucial for success with learning projects, learning and development needs strong relationships with the wider organisation to ensure learning remains a priority.
Identify early on who your key stakeholders are, either generally, or for a specific project (the two may be different). Stakeholders are varied but usually include managers, make sure they’re engaged in learning. Consult with them (and any other stakeholders) and get them on board with the learning, to ensure maximum impact.
6. You will hold many ‘roles’ in learning and development, depending on what you’re doing.
Your role is to be both a consultant, partner to the business, but also a trainer/facilitator and coach. The skills required in all these areas remain similar, but the focus shifts slightly depending on what it is your doing.
You may find that you can interchange between all these different ‘roles’ in every situation. I can often find myself using coaching skills, whilst working with my stakeholders, or equally, consulting in facilitated sessions. The more experienced and comfortable you become, the more fluid it will be.
- Consultant – to assess what the business needs and ask consulting questions to get to the root cause
- Partner – to align with the strategic needs of the business and to help improve performance
- Trainer – For any learning delivery you may be involved in
- Facilitator – For more workshop-based sessions, just facilitating discussion rather than ‘training’
- Coach – To either coach or mentor individuals in their development journeys
7. Consider your evaluation strategy to be able to effectively measure your success
You know you’re doing a great job and making an impact, but you can’t measure it. It’s not uncommon in learning and development for this to be the case.
When only 12% of c-suites are confident that spending money on learning and development is effective its important you get this right to show the organisation your worth and value.
8. Before you commit to any learning need, make sure you’ve gotten to the root cause of why it’s required first
Remember I mentioned earlier about being a consultant? This is where this skill really shines. Your role is to get to the root cause of learning requests, to understand why they need it. You may uncover (more often than you think!) that the request doesn’t actually meet the need in the first place.
The more time you spend scoping out the need for the learning – the more chance you have of it being effective and improving performance at the other end.
9. L&D is not an island, align yourself as close to the business as possible for the best results
Earlier I mentioned about one of L&D’s role is being a partner to the organisation. Align yourself as closely as possible to your senior management team and business strategy so you are delivering the right value that the organisation needs.
On this same point, you can’t fix everything alone. In order to create learning that delivers value and improves performance you need key stakeholders, line managers and learners on-board. Learning and development can’t improve performance in isolation (as much as sometimes we like to think we do!).
10. Ultimately, the role of L&D is to improve performance, if you aren’t doing that then question why
As I’ve said throughout this article, Learning and development’s role is ultimately to improve organisational performance. Whether that be through mandatory training to keep the organisation safe, developing new processes, assessing talent management or delivering development programmes.
I urge you to always look at what you’re doing in your delivering for the organisation and consider, is this really delivering value? Look at your evaluation feedback to see if it is or isn’t. If you aren’t delivering value and improving performance, then take a good hard look at where your focus should be instead.
On the surface, learning and development could be perceived as ‘easy’. Take learning requests and create programmes. But to truly achieve value and improve organisational performance the role needs to be much more than that.
This list of learning and development tips comes from my own years of personal experience within learning and development. You may have different experiences throughout your career, and I’d love to hear more about your learning and development tips too.
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