My First Months in L&D
Oyindamola Odekunle is a Learning and Development specialist with two years of professional experience. She started her career in a multinational company in Nigeria where she embarked on several learning projects. She made the move from Lagos, Nigeria to Jersey where she lives with her lovely husband and works as Learning and development specialist at Channel Islands Cooperative Society Limited.
In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, baking, DIY and watching movies.
1. Discovering passion for L&D
I found my love for learning and development about three years ago, while I was employed as an experience center officer in a commercial bank. My job was a client-facing role, but my colleagues often asked me for help with learning one thing or another. I usually volunteered assistance– as much as I could. Sometimes this meant listening to their concerns, helped them with online research to contribute some knowledge, and sharing relevant learning resources whenever I could. I also ensured to follow-up with these people to ensure completion of their learning journeys and discuss further on the impact. I realized that this active role in people’s development gave me more fulfilment than what I was employed to do at the time, and so began my transition.
I appreciate that while many people are ready to switch careers and follow their passions, several constraints (especially financial constraints in my region of the world) mitigate against this ambition. I must admit, from my experience, finding one's passion requires much consideration, attention to what makes you happy, and occasionally support from family members and mentors. I was lucky to have a great support structure that encouraged me to venture into the unknown territory of human resources. I started my L&D journey by volunteering for NGOs focused on human capital development and participating in pro-bono recruitment and training exercises. These helped me build experience while I was studying towards my professional certification in human resources. Armed with both theoretical and practical exposure to the HR space, I was ready to embrace a head-on dive into a field I was passionate about.
2. The First L&D Job
It has been almost three years since I made the courageous decision to follow my passion for Human Capital Development. However, my major career break came when I joined an award winning multi-national company in November 2021. Finally, I had the opportunity I had been waiting for, and it was such a thrilling adventure. As expected, this new job also came with its own challenges such as volunteering and taking up L&D pro-bono tasks in order to learn about the role.
It was imperative to hit the ground running when I joined the organization because a new team lead was scheduled to start two months after I did. I had to learn quickly and, on the job, and relied heavily on self-guidance through reading, watching videos online, and asking a lot of questions, despite being a newcomer at a big company. It did not help that I also had loads of work to complete within the first few months such as my induction program, completion of mandatory courses, monitoring the Learning Management System and reporting. However, it was wonderful to work with a teammate who patiently explained the procedures to me, and we jointly managed the team for the few months before the new manager started We took initiative by successfully completing the year's training programs, the major training was for the Mangers for on How to hold difficult conversations. We also worked on the Learning Needs Analysis for the coming year without any direct supervision.
3. Lessons Learnt
3.1 Be familiar with the business, people, and culture of the company
I took the effort to understand the culture of the firm while I was learning and working on deliverables. I gained the confidence to speak up politely, to ask as many questions as I could, to take initiative, and to treat every employee as if they were customers who needed to be attended to, valued, and respected since the customer always comes first.
Additionally, I discovered that having meetings with executives and decision-makers is an essential component of my job as a learning and development professional because it allowed us to create the strategic actions and objectives for the upcoming year without stress. I also gained an understanding of the need to work as a team to accomplish shared goals with all other teams inside the firm.
I came to the realization that it was essential for me to comprehend the operations of the organization I work for. I took time to build relationship with team members, Head of Departments, and the Executives. You might not be able to suggest the appropriate training, instructors, materials, and mentors for the workers if you don’t know what the organization does. To earn the stakeholders' trust, it was crucial that I conducted my research.
3.2 Comprehend the objectives of the company and obtain stakeholder buy-in
My department, unlike certain other departments and L&D in other firms, was a cost cent er rather than a profit center. Therefore, it was crucial to win the decision-makers' trust by demonstrating that I was not employed by the company to squander resources on learning programs that are ineffective, but rather to contribute towards achieving the organization’s goals.
I was able to pick up skills like negotiation and improvisation, and I especially saw the value in beginning each job with the end in mind. Therefore, the first thing I needed to accomplish was to comprehend the objectives that must be met for each work. It is often said that abuse is inevitable when a thing's purpose is unclear, and nothing rings truer in L&D. I made it a point of duty to understand the purpose of each learning intervention and the impact before we embarked on the learning interventions. The expected impact of each learning intervention became a shared vision which helped me remain focused.
My initial few months were designated for completing the year's management training and the Learning Needs Analysis. Even though I was aware of the objectives, it was crucial for me to obtain consent from, and if needed, provide updates to the stakeholders. This brings to mind a Nigerian proverb, "Follow only the person that knows the road."
In hindsight, giving the decision-makers information about what resources are being spent, how, and when, was a sensible move Because I was able build relationship with the decision makers and got more clarity on each projects. I am aware of the importance of accountability in my personal life, but in the first few months of my employment as an L&D professional, I discovered the importance of accountability to all stakeholders.
Additionally, I am aware that assessing the impact of learning initiatives is important for securing and maintaining the support of stakeholders. To do this, you must demonstrate the value of each learning project in a language that decision-makers can understand. For example, by measuring the Learning Return on Investment and presenting this to the decision-makers. Measuring Learning ROI
3.3 Documentation is important
If not for the organization's documentation culture, my first few months would have been a nightmare. Due to the codified system of processes and procedures for important jobs and activities, I was able to accomplish a lot. Having access to the documentation, which I followed exactly, together with assistance from my teammate and online education, was helpful. It enabled me to monitor the projects' progress and to plan my next move. For instance, I learnt how many times the mandatory and statutory trainings were to be carried out in a year, the deadline periods, the step-by-step approach to administer the training and how to get feedback at the end of each training.
The lesson I took away from this is that an excellent L&D professional should be able to document the specifics of the projects and completed tasks, as this may be used as a learning resource for a team member, mentee, or even a group of learning and development professionals in the future. Although procedures may vary from one organization to another, some fundamental skills such as presentation skills, effective communication, emotional intelligence and Data analytics are transferable across the board
Through effective record-keeping, I was able to understand how things were done in the past and then challenge the status quo. For example, I Identified that the onboarding process is manually conducted and it takes a lot of the productive time of all the parties involved, I was able to champion the automation of the process. I also made it my personal goal to record every project I completed before leaving the company, and I am sure my predecessor is benefiting from this today.
These are the invaluable lessons I discovered during my first few months in my L&D work, and I continue to build upon them every day. One wonderful aspect of the learning and development field is that you must prioritize your own growth. For this reason, I was pleased to find that Irina’s YouTube content included personal learning as part of what a day in the life of L&D professional should look like. Wish me luck as I continue to learn how to evaluate data and automate processes.