Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Help L&D Transition to T&D

I was reading 'Is it a dead-end for L&D professionals?' thoughts shared by Mathew Kuruvilla. In August, I had blogged on 8 Tips for the Training Department, but after reading this post I got an opportunity to understand things from the other side of the table. Mathew mentions:

“Unless L&D professionals evolve to a more strategic role in the organization, it’s going to be dead end for them. L&D will always be treated as a support function to HR.”

If you are just filling in the training calender with courses no one needs, it is surely a dead end for these L&D professionals. When you read Mathew's thoughts, you will know exactly what the L&D needs to do to ensure that move to a more strategic role. What I am more interested is how can learning consultants help make this transition from L&D to T&D (Talent and Development)? What are the challenges that learning consultants face? How can these be overcome? Let us take this one at a time.

How can learning consultants help L&D transition to T&D?
For every project, start with a contextual inquiry. I have seen that contextual inquiry gives you a wider access into the organization. It gives a clear picture as to what gaps exist and these gaps may not necessarily be training related. We have suggested process changes, structural changes, training, and so on to address these gaps. Assessment centers also help the L&D departments understand the existing competencies and the areas of focus (if any). This will help identify the key needs to help the employees grow.

What I truly appreciate in Mathew's interview was his 3-E mechanism: Education, Exposure, and Experience. This truly helps the employee grow in a more holistic fashion. Most times, we end up giving extra attention to just one of these aspects. These make the person who they are and therefore, it is important to understand this. Most L&D professionals consider their employees as a 'clean slate'. I have often heard my cousin from the IT industry grumble that he needs to take a compliance course every year because of a US law. He mentioned that the scenarios are tweaked but the same thing is presented year after year. Imagine the effect of this on motivation! Why not have a a simple check to ensure that the person still remembers what was taught. It is less painful for the employee and we have done our job of keeping the US government happy.

The crux of the matter is that training decisions have to be strategic decisions. How will the employees benefit from this? Do they really need it? What am I hoping to achieve? If only more L&D professionals think like Mathew does.

What are the challenges that learning consultants face? How can these be overcome?
The article touches on the challenges that L&D professionals face. But what challenges do learning consultants face?
1. We are treated more like vendors who execute training rather than consultants who provide suggestions. We know our work best and that's why we do it. Make your opinions count. Make them trust you to make the right suggestions. Be extremely transparent. Don't think about your pocket, think about success. Work as an extended team.
2. We do not have access to the real learners. If your clients trust you, they will open the doors and give you all the access you need. If they know why you are suggesting a particular task, they will understand that you have only their interests at heart.
3. Clients underestimate the importance of training. Give them holistic learning, not just training. Support them while they implement the training. Give them ideas and solutions to make learning a habit, to encourage transfer of knowledge. Your task does not end with implementation. You are an extended team that supports them when they need it. You do your work right and your clients will see the difference for themselves.

Can we really help L&D professionals make this transition to T&D role? Are you going to stand by and watch them make this transition or are you going to make your presence and importance felt by helping them? I am quite sure there is a lot more to this. Please add to this or share your thoughts or critique mine.