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  • Writer's pictureIrina Ketkin

Making Big Impact as a One-Person L&D

Hey there, all you solo L&D warriors! 🌟 Ever feel like you're juggling a dozen tasks, but not sure which one to tackle first? You're not alone, and we're here to help. Picture this: you're the one-person army in your Learning and Development department, tasked with molding the future of your company's talent. No pressure, right? But fear not! We've got a jam-packed guide that'll make you the ultimate L&D superhero, cape optional.

Ready to find out how to make a big splash with limited resources? Keep reading to become the L&D legend you were born to be! 🚀

Table of contents:

1. Identifying Areas of Focus

“If everything is important, then nothing is.” This famous quote from Patrick Lencioni is at the heart of what you must do if you’re a solo L&D warrior. Figure out what is most important and then focus on that. If it’s leadership development, then run those workshops like your life depended on it. If it’s coaching, then make those coaching sessions the talk of the water cooler.

The easiest way to figure out what to focus on is by conducting a learning needs analysis. Once you know what the business wants, you can align the L&D offering with business goals. If it’s market share increases, help the business understand the market by facilitating competitive analysis workshops. If it’s a bigger focus on the customer, train employees in outstanding customer handling.

Knowing what you are focusing on may not be enough. You also need to set realistic goals for yourself, considering your time and capability restrictions. Check out these unrealistic goals and some suggested alternatives:

Unrealistic goals

Realistic alternatives

Train everyone in the company on 10 new skills within a month.

Identify 2-3 core skills that align with business goals and aim to train all relevant employees over 6-12 months.

Achieve 100% employee participation in voluntary training programs.

Aim for a 60-80% participation rate in voluntary training programs through incentives and clear communication.

Instantly boost overall employee productivity by 50% through a single training program.

Launch a pilot program aimed at boosting specific aspects of employee productivity, and aim for a 5-10% improvement as a start.

Implement a cutting-edge LMS (Learning Management System) within a week.

Plan a 3-6 month timeline to research, choose, and implement a new LMS.

Replace all in-person training with VR (Virtual Reality) modules immediately.

Begin by incorporating VR into one or two key training modules and assess effectiveness before expanding further.

Eliminate all employee performance issues through training alone.

Use training as a part of a multi-pronged approach to improving performance, which may also include mentoring, performance reviews, and job aids.

Make every employee an expert in their field within a year.

Create a long-term professional development plan for employees with multiple levels of expertise milestones.

Launch 20 new training courses within a single quarter.

Roll out 2-4 new well-designed, impactful training courses per quarter.

Ensure that 100% of employees rate all training as 'Highly Satisfactory.'

Aim for at least 70-80% of employees to rate training as 'Satisfactory' or above, and make adjustments based on feedback.

Reduce L&D costs to zero by using only free resources.

Balance budget considerations with value; look for high-quality but cost-effective resources to supplement in-house training.

If you need any help setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals, download our free Goal-setting template.

2. Self-Assessment

Let’s assume that you already know what to focus on. But chances are you’re not good at everything. Now, it’s time to find out what your strengths and development areas are. For this, you can use a very simple SWOT analysis. Start by figuring out what your strengths are. Are you good at data analysis, facilitating training or managing stakeholders? Leverage these skills to your advantage. As for the things you need to improve – make them a priority in your personal development plan.

3. Building Relationships with Stakeholders

There is a popular catchphrase: “It’s not about what you know but who you know”. Use that to the full – build relationships with people who can champion your efforts, who have complimentary skills and vendors with expertise that’s missing in-house.

The first thing to do is to identify your key stakeholders. These include department heads, management, employees and other members of HR. Know who the decision-makers are, as well as who influences them. Identify people within the organization who understand the value of L&D and are willing to vouch for your initiatives. Build relationships with these individuals before you need something. Get to know the heads or representatives from various departments so that you understand their needs, concerns, and how L&D can support them.

Secondly, you need to find the most effective strategies for communicating with them. Be ready to explain how your L&D initiatives align with the organization’s strategic goals. Use data and examples when possible. Different stakeholders have different concerns. Tailor your arguments to address the specific benefits relevant to each group or individual. Keep stakeholders in the loop with regular progress updates, both when things are going well and when they're not.

Finally, consider some tips for navigating organizational politics and getting buy-in and support for your L&D initiatives:

  • Use Metrics: Collect data to show the effectiveness of your programs. This could be performance, productivity, employee retention, or customer satisfaction metrics, among others.

  • Show ROI: Wherever possible, translate the benefits of your L&D programs into financial terms to show a positive return on investment.

  • Cross-Functional Teams: Consider creating a cross-departmental committee or working group for L&D to spread ownership and responsibility.

  • Address Concerns Head-On: If you encounter resistance, try to understand the underlying concerns. Are they financial, ideological, or based on misunderstandings? Address these proactively.

  • Pilot Programs: Before rolling out large initiatives, consider implementing a small-scale pilot program to demonstrate efficacy.

  • Choose Your Battles: Not every situation requires a hard push. Understand when to press for your initiatives and when to wait for a more opportune moment.

If all else fails, find a mentor or a coach who’ll be able to help you untangle the complexities of the situation you found yourself in.

4. Leveraging External Resources

Vendors, freelancers, and consultants can help you in a range of different situations. When should you seek external help? Here are some situations where external help can be particularly beneficial:

  • Lack of Expertise: If the training requirement is highly specialized and there's no internal expertise to create an effective program, it's wise to seek external consultants who are experts in the field.

  • Resource Constraints: When you (or if you’re lucky, your small internal team) are stretched thin and can't manage additional projects without sacrificing quality or timelines, bringing in freelancers for short-term engagements can be a solution.

  • Lack of In-House Tools: If you require sophisticated Learning Management Systems (LMS), e-learning platforms, or other tools that you don't possess, vendors specializing in these areas can provide immediate solutions.

  • Scale and Complexity: If your organization is growing quickly and your internal team can’t scale the L&D programs at the same pace, external vendors can help to fill that gap.

  • Global Reach: If you need to roll out training across multiple locations, languages, or cultures, external agencies often have the experience and resources to manage these complexities.

  • Fresh Perspective: Sometimes, an external perspective can bring in fresh ideas and approaches that you hadn't considered, thus enhancing the effectiveness of your programs.

  • Objectivity and Assessment: When you need an unbiased assessment of your L&D programs or organizational capabilities, external consultants can provide a more impartial evaluation compared to an internal team.

  • Financial Considerations: For certain projects, especially those that are short-term or require a unique skill set, it may be more cost-effective to hire external help rather than training or hiring full-time staff.

  • Risk Mitigation (Legal and Compliance Training): Certain types of training, like sexual harassment or workplace safety, often have legal stipulations. In these cases, specialized vendors can ensure that your training is compliant with laws and regulations.

You can also take advantage of online communities and networking. The best place to look for such groups is LinkedIn. The L&D Academy has its own , where everyone is welcome to share useful resources, ask for help or celebrate a success they’ve achieved.

5. Measuring Impact and Showing Value

Although we’ve put this point last on our list, it is by no means last in importance.

Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is vital for defining and measuring success, providing a concrete framework that aligns with your L&D goals. And that of the organization, of course!

Concurrently, you should also be collecting feedback and iterating through various channels like surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews. This gives you actionable insights to tweak and improve your programs with minimal effort but maximum impact.

Finally, don't underestimate the power of case studies and success stories. Showcasing your achievements not only builds credibility but also plays a crucial role in securing future resources for your L&D initiatives.


And there you have it, folks—the ultimate guide to being an unstoppable force in your solo L&D role! 🌟 Let's quickly recap what we've covered:

1. Identifying Areas of Focus: It all starts with prioritizing. Nail down what's crucial for your business and align your L&D initiatives with those key areas.

2. Self-Assessment: Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is the cornerstone of effectiveness. Use a simple SWOT analysis to map out where you shine and where you need some polish.

3. Building Relationships with Stakeholders: Remember, it's not just what you know but who you know. Cultivate those relationships early and often.

4. Leveraging External Resources: Don't hesitate to seek help when you need it. Freelancers, vendors, and consultants can provide valuable expertise and fill in the gaps.

5. Measuring Impact and Showing Value: Last but far from least, keep tabs on your performance. Utilize KPIs, gather feedback, and don't be shy about showcasing your wins.

Being a one-person L&D department might sound daunting, but it's also an incredible opportunity. You get to shape the future of your company's talent while wearing multiple hats—each more fabulous than the last.

So what are you waiting for? Download that Goal-setting, SWOT, and Personal Development Plan templates, fire up those spreadsheets, or schedule that coffee chat with a stakeholder. Your L&D superhero journey starts now. Put on that cape (optional, of course) and make waves that will be felt throughout your organization!

Go forth and conquer, L&D warriors! 🚀


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