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When is it Time to Create a Separate L&D Function?

Sam is an instructional designer. Wherever there is a crisis, every course developer comes to him for expert advice. He has a solution to almost every e-learning problem, but when it comes to client meetings, the project managers bring Helen, not Sam. He is the go-to person for all learning technology problems but not for client relationships. The reason is simple: While they spent time and money training Sam on technology, they didn’t realize that he needs help in other areas as well.

Many human resources (HR) teams make this error: They focus on training rather than overall development. Is there a difference? Doesn’t training lead to development? Not necessarily; training is often just the tip of the development iceberg.

In his book Attracting and Retaining Talent: Becoming an Employer of Choice, Tim Baker argues that the traditional training approach is based almost exclusively on developing employees’ technical skills. Training provides a production-centered approach, and what organizations need is for HR and learning and development (L&D) to focus on person-centered and problem-solving approaches as well.

When HR Alone Is Not Enough

The human resources organization is expected to do many things. It pays salaries, ensures compliance and addresses grievances. It also trains employees, usually through onboarding and on-the-job training. However, it’s not enough to train on job skills; organizations must also identify what motivates employees and align training accordingly. There must be a shared vision on what leaders want and what employees want.

It is easy to underestimate the importance of personal development and its impact on overall performance. However, today’s workforce expects a wide-ranging approach to development beyond the traditional reliance on technical training. The primary motivation for an organization to invest in personal development is to enhance the personal qualities and skills that will have a positive impact on overall work.

The Mental Models of HR and L&D

It’s important to dig deeper and broaden the approach in order to enhance employees’ skills.

There is a difference between how HR professionals think about learning and growth and how L&D professionals think about it. The usual approach to training is a narrow interpretation of learning and development. It’s important to dig deeper and broaden the approach in order to enhance employees’ skills and help them become intrinsically motivated to work.

These differences demonstrate how organizations should structure their learning initiatives. You can debate the benefits of either approach, but there can be no debate that we should focus on employees’ growth and retention. There is no arguing with a holistic approach toward human development.

The Hybrid Solution

We are living in the “Conceptual Age,” according to author Daniel Pink — the age of “a whole new mind,” where design thinking is as important as analytics and where higher-order thinking and creative problem-solving are the basis of business growth. Is technical training sufficient for this age, or do we need a hybrid solution to train and prepare the Sams of the world?

Modern L&D and HR teams must operate as a hybrid function. In this model, L&D develops professional and leadership development programs, sets and enforces standards, and manages learning platforms and tools. HR develops and deploys technical training and, often, the delivery of enterprise programs. This structure allows for better connections with business units, enables more personalized learning and development, and meets the needs of the business.

The Next Steps

According to a 2015 survey by CIPD (formerly known as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), “in over two-fifths of organizations L&D is a specialist function/role within the HR department and in one-fifth it is part of generalist HR activities. In just under two-fifths L&D activities are split between HR and another area of the business, or are completely separate from the HR function.” It’s becoming necessary to differentiate between HR and L&D; organizations must ensure that employees can see results with the continuous upgrade of their skills and efficiency.

Though it shouldn’t matter which department manages the learning and development function, unless HR departments can support the expanded personal development needs of employees, it’s time to hand over the reins to the L&D.

(This article originally appeared in Training Industry)

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