Sunday, June 5, 2016

L&D and HR - Better Together

Rachel Burnham writes: The #LDInsight chat question discussed this week was ‘How can L&D support other HR functions eg recruitment, talent management, ER?’ and as is usually the case this generated lots of discussion, thought and some disagreement.  Here is a link to the Storify if you want to find out more.

I was particularly struck again by the difference between those, like myself, who see L&D as a part of HR and those who see L&D as quite distinct and separate from HR.  This issue has come up before on other occasions in #LDInsight chats.   This is familiar territory for me as it is a subject that almost always comes up with each new group that I tutor for the CIPD Certificate in L&D for MOL Learn.  

My experience is that very many people coming into the L&D profession come seeing L&D as different and as distinct from HR.   This is usually because in their organisation L&D (or training) is organised as a separate team from HR, perhaps with few links (or few positive links) with HR and a different focus to their work.  And of course, there are some ‘trainers’ whose work is customer focused, supporting their organisation’s clients to use their products and services effective (eg with specialist software or equipment); and there are other ‘trainers’ from training providers, who sometimes model their approach more from an educational model of delivery.  It is easy to imagine that the whole world mirrors your own experience – I’ve certainly done that and often people starting out in L&D only have limited networks within the L&D profession to challenge that perception.

One of the joys of my work is encouraging conversations between fellow students to explore the differences and similarities between their organisations and how they organise their L&D work, including that relationship with HR.  And in supporting them in developing wider networks amongst the HR profession, including L&Ders, so that they have access to other perspectives and get a deep understanding of the importance of context.  I usually learn lots from this too about different sectors, different organisational cultures, specific niche markets and so on.

Sometimes, though this view of the separateness and distinctiveness of L&D and HR is also held with people with many years of experience of L&D.  I know individuals who cite poor experiences of HR within their organisation or business sector and who identify this as the root of their wish to distance themselves from a bureaucratic and rule-driven HR.  And of course there are undoubtedly HR functions who are like this.  And many HR functions who are not.  There are even some L&D teams, who I might quite like to distance myself from –  content-dumping, over-powerpoint using, push button e-learning compliance chasing, irrelevant to real organisational needs and slow to respond teams.

I think there is real value in seeing L&D as part of HR.  L&D and the other specialisms that make up HR are a bit like a family or group of house mates sharing a house – at our best when we work together.  Sometimes there are disagreements between house mates/family members about X not pulling their weight and doing their share of the cleaning.  Sometimes, the writing on the shopping list is a bit unclear and the wrong items are bought by the designated shopper.   And sometimes, everyone is sat in their own room each watching a TV programme on a different device and not speaking to each other – though in fact everyone is watching the same programme.

In fact, we cannot afford not to work together.  Just think of the damage done to an organisation when recruitment and L&D responsibilities for induction don’t work effectively.  Or when reward policies pull in the opposite direction to the change programme OD is working on. Or when line managers find that HR rules ‘prevent’ them from using ideas developed on a recent L&D programme.

But I would draw the net wider too.  I think we in L&D need to be talking and working with other teams and stakeholders too.  It is increasingly important that we have effective working relationships with IT, given how important technology is to enabling modern workplace learning.  We need to be connecting with Internal Comms – again there are lots of potential overlaps here particularly with engagement and seeing learning opportunities as a campaign rather than a one-off programme.   I also think we need links with teams such as Health & Safety and Compliance/Quality and finance.  Which is, of course, in addition to working alongside operational teams and their managers.

One of the things that I think helps to get this working together, is being clear about where the focus is in L&D.   For me, Mervyn Dinnen nailed it with his tweet in the #LDInsight chat when he said ‘Only one strategy. The business strategy. That’s the one you need to understand and speak.’  We share responsibility for delivering on this with the rest of HR and all the other functions and teams across the organisation.  

In L&D we are starting, at last, to focus more on impact on peformance, not just learning.   And this is something we need to work together on with the rest of HR and across the organisation.  It isn’t something that can be tackled in isolation.  As being our ‘precious’. 

If we focus on the business strategy and performance improvement then we will need to work together.  And we will be better together.

(The title of this blog was tugging at my memory and I realised that ‘Better Together’ is the title of a track by Jack Johnson, so here is the link.  Have rather surprised myself by remembering this piece, as I usually only remember jazz & hymn tunes!  )

Rachel Burnham


Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals become even more effective.  I am particularly interested in blended learning, the uses of social media for learning, evaluation and anything that improves the impact of learning on performance. 

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