Learning and development (L&D) professionals tend to naturally emphasize the importance of prioritizing learning programs to meet the challenges of today’s ever-changing world – and for good reason! Continuing learning and development opportunities are not only needed but increasingly wanted by employees. Each year, we are faced with new reports that show us that employees are asking for these opportunities, and yet, the number of organizations that actually follow through with their commitments to prioritizing learning and development programs is disappointing.
As L&D professionals, we are tasked with creating the engaging programs that benefit the individuals in our organizations and are continuously “fighting the good fight” to ensure that executives see L&D as an essential function of business operations. In my career, I have worked for companies who value L&D and I have worked for companies that do not. Regardless of which circumstance, I have found that the secret to ensuring that your organization’s leaders prioritize learning for employees is to cultivate a strong, committed and effective L&D Team (even if you are a team of one!)
Based on my experience, I have found that effective L&D teams exhibit the following three key traits:
1 – They Emphasize Exceptional Communication
Never underestimate the power of communication. Being able to effectively communicate with a variety of audiences in a variety of ways, will always be the most important tool in your toolbox. This is a fact of business and an absolute necessity in L&D. If you are like me, you have been accused of “speaking a different language” when it comes to the intricacies of your role; however, every effective team I have been a part of contains individuals who can speak to these complexities in a way that those who are outside of L&D can understand. At the very core, clear communication is the only way that the naysayers and doubters will ever begin to understand the important work that L&D is doing.
Effective L&D Teams are comprised of individuals who clearly communicate the time, level of effort, and complex software used in our roles in a language that executive leaders can understand.
Ideas to communicate even more effectively:
- Look Inward: align first as a team on the priorities, project management approach, and communication strategy you feel will best serve your team and commit to them.
- Look Outward: create clean, easy-to-understand dashboards that showcase to others enough detail about what you and your team are working on without overwhelming executive leadership.
2 – They Seek to Understand
Effective L&D teams are made up of individuals who are avid listeners. They approach conversations with leaders of teams, individual contributors, and other stakeholders with the intent to understand. As L&D professionals, we are often looked at as the “solution” to a problem. It is only when we open ourselves up to learn about the entire system that we can truly develop the measures needed to address the underlying issue behind the problem. This is how we move from responding to leaders asking us to create a training as a temporary solution to integrating L&D into the long-term strategy for organizational success.
As L&D professionals, we need to understand where the most value will come from our training solutions. The most effective L&D teams contain individuals who seek to understand the system as a whole. How do we do it? The best way to listen is to master the art of asking open-ended questions that allow the participant to explore and create solutions with you, as opposed to you creating a solution for them. The best solutions are collaborative and people are more likely to get on board when they have been a part of the creation process.
Ideas to ensure your team is seeking to understand:
- Build a library of open-ended questions that help identify the value in training. Then, leverage those questions as you approach a new or existing training solution.
- Come back as a team and debrief in order to locate where you are finding traction using these new tools. Continuously update your library of questions to best support the leaders in your organization.
3 – They Focus on the Bigger Picture
Effective L&D Teams know that, at the end of the day, L&D’s primary function is to serve the people behind the work. It is our responsibility to create training and development opportunities that strive for an inclusive and supportive workplace where people are inspired and fulfilled, and are willing and able to lend their talents to serve the company’s mission. As L&D professionals, it is important that we find a purpose and motivation to serve those in our workplaces. Anything we create, from a training on the fundamentals of Salesforce to a course for new managers of people, should be based on the concept that there is an individual learning our content who wants to activate their potential.
Ideas to encourage focusing on the bigger picture:
- Create a team mission/purpose that speaks to what you do, why you do it and how it serves organizational goals. Keep it somewhere visible in your workspace -whether it’s on a wall or a screensaver on your computer.
- Create end-user personas for the variety of trainings you will create. This way, even if you are developing eLearning and have no direct contact with participants in the training, you are keeping the human factor alive within your approach to developing a solution.
Learning and Development is a difficult field that is often misunderstood, undervalued and overwhelmed. Effective L&D teams who overcome these obstacles are those that emphasize exceptional communication, seek to understand and focus on the bigger picture.
Bea Raemdonck is Learning and Development professional with experience developing human capital in organizations through online and in person training programs. She currently works as a Manager of Design and Delivery for Verus Global Inc.