What L&D Forgot

Assuming you work for an organization of more than 40 or so employees, you likely have some experience with trainers or Learning & Development departments. When most companies grow and expand their offices, they start to look for support on onboarding and training their workforce. Over the years, companies grow and L&D becomes a less-than-meaningful business area. Subsequently members of that business area are the most unempowered members of the team.

That’s right, I think L&D is an unempowered department. Why? It’s in the social proof - you can go to any e-learning or instructional design event or conference and hear the pained complaints of developers and designers (the producers of the department): their managers don’t give them support, employees hate sitting down to learn, other managers resent them for taking their employees out for learning, the list goes on. I’m going to call this out as learned helplessness. L&D has forgotten their place at the table and actually walked away from it. It’s not that they were never invited - good business owners know that learning is crucial to a successful business.

It’s time to face the music: L&D isn’t working anymore and here’s why:

Overall, these departments fail to effectively integrate their work with the business objectives of the organization. Additionally, they forget to make their training actually answer the real business problem at hand.

Instructional designers and developers have gotten lazy. Don’t get offended - it’s a gross generalization - but it’s mostly true. I’m consistently disappointed at the quality of work I see in the industry; boring slide decks with paragraphs of information, monotone audio, failure to use adult learning theory, and lack of accessible design are all hallmarks of this laziness in the industry.

Designers and departments alike are using tools as a crutch. Overwhelmingly, conference attendees at an event I recently attended wanted to learn about the next best tool and not about the theory-into-practice aspect of what we do (aka, learning how people learn and designing for that). The industry is seeking to replace the work of designing for real learning with a tool that will do it for us.

So what to do, what to do? Well, first, if you’re a part of learning in any way at your organization, consider how you can start to create a learning ecosystem. If you’re not involved with learning, go knock on the door of the person who is an strike up a conversation. These are just a few ways to get started:

Be an organizational leader to get back your seat at the table. Learned helplessness in the industry has made us squeamish about talking numbers, business objectives, and performance. get over it now. Learn what the business needs by asking managers and the C-level. Make a case for training that furthers these business objectives.

Motivate, don’t beg. Think creatively about how you can get learners (employees) in front of a learning experience, be it online or in person. Work on motivating them by understanding what they really want, and use the training as a vehicle to get them there. Don’t whine and beg and complain about not getting support; make your work interesting and you won’t have a problem.

Circle back with business partners: make sure that you’re measuring the outcomes related to the business problems or objectives you’re working on. This is the kicker I see most of the time - measurement is hard, so L&D does the minimum (SCORM or others) but doesn’t actually make use of that data or connect it back to the desired outcomes.

L&D forgot it’s place at the table by forgetting how to meet business objectives. Fix that, and you’re place at the table will be fixed up in a jiffy.

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Posted by Kristen Gallagher

Kristen Gallagher

Photograph by Hailey King

Kristen Gallagher is the founder and CEO of Edify, a learning strategy partner that develops learning strategies and employee onboarding programs for high-growth technical organizations. Kristen has architected and delivered onboarding programs for companies bringing on just one person a quarter to 100+ people a quarter, in just one office and 13+ global offices. Her range of expertise in the science of adult learning, business strategy, knowledge management, and organizational development means that Kristen architects programs that are designed to evolve and scale with rapid changes.

At Edify, we believe that high growth doesn't have to mean high pain. We partner with you to build programs customized to your team to get your new hires up to speed faster and better - and help get them past those critical 6, 12, and 18 month marks. We do what few consultants dare to offer: we actually integrate your IT, HR, and Facilities teams to create a unified onboarding experience for both employees, managers, and administrators. We create onboarding experiences led by the new hire themselves - creating value for their development and their manager. We deliver value across the business by helping you create a business objective-focused and actionable learning & development strategy. We help you pinpoint the challenges your junior and seasoned, but unsupported, managers face in juggling people management and technical management, then we solve for exactly those challenges.

If you're tired of scrambling to onboard your new hires, struggling with the same-old, same-old management challenges, and looking to galvanize your team so they can meet the vision, it's time you looked for a partner like Edify!