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Start a Career in Learning & Development

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Section 2. What is Learning and Development? 

What exactly is L&D?

It is easy to define roles we come across every day – a doctor heals, a lawyer gives legal council, a pilot flies planes. But L&D isn’t as straight forward. 

Let’s try to make sense of it.

The main function of Learning and Development is to impact the organizational and individual learning for the purpose of improving effectiveness and performance.

Simply put, L&D is responsible for any activities that facilitate learning. More precisely, activities that change the behaviours and attitudes, skills, knowledge and understanding of individual employees, whole teams and, by extension, the organisation.  

It's also important to understand what we mean by learning. It can mean many things: from classroom and virtual training, to coaching and mentoring, creating personal development plans and opportunities for social learning, supporting the performance and talent management efforts, managing company-wide knowledge, to creating and curating learning content in the form of articles, blog posts, videos, eLearning courses and many-many others. 

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The purpose of L&D, in a way, informs what the primary responsibilities are – we need to ensure the organisation and the individuals within are learning. This raises three key questions – 

  1. What do people need to learn?

  2. What's the best way for them to learn?

  3. How will we know they have learned it?

These three questions are the defining milestones for any L&D department. It tells us that we need to: 

  1. Analyse the organisation's learning needs, 

  2. Select the most appropriate learning methods, and then 

  3. Measure the impact of our activities on the learners' performance. 

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Example

Here's a typical situation. Suppose the organisation wants to deliver high-quality services. In that case, one of the goals could be to implement three quality control checks to ensure a customer satisfaction score of 85%. Therefore, the role of L&D is to find out what are the learning needs of this business unit, choose the most appropriate learning method(s), implement it and measure the impact. 

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In Practice

A bike manufacturer has set a goal to start producing and selling electric bikes. As L&D, how can you support them? What steps would you take to answer the three key questions? 

1. What do people need to learn?

Suggestions: 

  • Find out what the required knowledge and skills to design, manufacture and sell electric bikes are, do research online, speak to managers and employees from different teams. 

  • Then, measure the current knowledge and skills by asking employees and their managers to evaluate themselves. 

  • Find gaps in desired and existing skills and knowledge.  

2. What's the best way for them to learn?

Suggestions: 

  • Understand how people learn best, ask what has worked in the past and what hasn't. 

  • Look through all current learning offerings and consider which ones would be appropriate. 

  • Design a rough plan for bridging the gap and ask for feedback from employees, their managers, L&D colleagues and/or HR peers.

3. How will we know they have learned it?

Suggestions: 

  • Ask learners to fill in a questionnaire asking for their overall impressions from the learning experience. 

  • Talk to managers about changes in their team members' behaviours, skills, and knowledge. 

  • Keep an eye on the performance metrics of employees, teams and the organisation. 

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