Do as I say, not as I do: Why L&D professionals need more L&D

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27 October 2022
Written by Speak First Linked-in icon

Learning by doing

As the organisers and figureheads of workplace learning, sharing the benefits and advocating training for others, one would expect Learning and Development professionals to be the first in line for their own development opportunities.

However, some surprising statistics caught our eye in the LinkedIn Learning ‘2022 Workplace Learning Report.’ As part of their annual global survey, they found that L&D professionals spent an average of 23% less time learning than people working in other roles, and 35% less time than colleagues in HR teams.1

We should, of course, say that are many L&D professionals who do spend a lot of time actively developing themselves by attending courses, reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts and much more. These statistics show an overall picture, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the individuals who regularly go above and beyond.

And yet, these statistics do show a general trend in the industry, and whether the reason is lack of time, lack of resources or they’re selflessly prioritising others, it creates problems. Organisations are at their best when there’s a genuine learning culture, and that culture can only be genuine when those in charge of creating it also get involved in it themselves.

 

L&D professionals as champions of learning

L&D professionals represent the frontline for workplace learning. Whether they’re designing, delivering or liaising internally or externally, they’re the ones making it all happen. They should be the ones managers can go to when their teams aren’t quite gelling; the ones executives discuss big picture solutions with; and the ones who should be promoting upcoming learning opportunities throughout the organisation.

It's an unfortunate truth that learning during the workday can receive mixed responses, with cries of ‘I don’t have the time,’ and ‘This isn’t relevant to me,’ being regular refrains. It’s the L&D professionals who stand against these noises and make their arguments for why training is a necessary investment of both time and money.

The pro-L&D arguments become weaker when the very people who encourage others to attend these courses aren’t able to find the time in their own busy schedules for training. They need to be very visibly practising what they preach and modelling behaviours to get others to join them.

 

Invest in their own training

Over the last few years, there’s been a steady trend of more and more organisations promoting L&D professionals to C-level. In the same LinkedIn Learning report, 53% of L&D professionals said they were represented at the executive level of their company – up from just 24% in 2020.

During the pandemic, many organisations viewed learning as their best path through the uncertainty and constant change. Strong learning and development programmes were no longer a nice-to-have, instead they represented their best chance at creating an agile workforce that could adapt to lockdown ways of working, and beyond. Suddenly, many L&D leaders were adopted into executive teams.

This additional responsibility and oversight means L&D leaders need upskilling for their new role. Some may find it awkward arranging training for themselves, especially when they’ll know all the other areas of the organisation that would also benefit from learning interventions. But, if anyone else was thrust into a leadership position, it would be reasonable to assume they’d receive training or coaching to develop their skills.

L&D leaders need to be just as willing to organise this for themselves and recognise their own importance in the team. Especially because, as the new additions to the C-suite, they need to prove their worth and value to cement the industry’s long-term future at the upper levels.

 

Make them jacks of all trades

As the ones organising learning interventions for others, L&D professionals should have at least a basic understanding of how the different parts of their organisation function. They certainly don’t have to be an expert, but whether they’re designing programmes themselves, or calling on the help of external providers like us, they should understand how to apply the learning or how to act on specific feedback.

When the Sales Manager asks for a programme to improve customer relations or to refocus selling techniques, the L&D team needs to know what that should look like. Even for the most straightforward soft skills – communication skills, time management, etc. – when the L&D team fully understand their applications, they become much more effective.

 

L&D itself needs to develop too

L&D as an industry is constantly moving and changing, especially in recent years. Many courses became virtual, there are new priorities, a range of diversity and inclusion issues have come to the forefront and organisations have to deal with remote work and Covid repercussions. L&D teams can achieve some amazing things for their people, but only when they’re given the support and tools to do it – in this case, opportunities to learn how to best navigate and leverage these new elements.

Of course, actually organising and delivering training is only half the job. The backbone of a modern L&D strategy should be data analysis, KPIs, performance metrics and skills assessments. L&D teams should have ample training opportunities to master these skills.

Furthermore, the best L&D professionals work hard to have good working relations with people at all levels of their organisation – Communication and Networking skills. They juggle numerous projects at once – Project Management and Personal Effectiveness. They promote and market learning opportunities to colleagues – Influence and Presentation Skills. The list goes on and on.

 

While advocating for others’ learning, L&D teams should be pushing for their own opportunities too. An entire organisation benefits when their Learning and Development professionals are given the full support and tools to succeed, especially with the rise of executive level L&D leaders. It’s not enough to help others, they should be the first ones in line for new opportunities to develop.

 

To learn more about our L&D solutions and how they can help develop your people, take a look at our Learning Solutions.

 

1 LinkedIn Learning (2022) 2022 Workplace Learning Report