Why we need L&D more than ever before

13 Jan
January 13, 2015

L&D has come in for some major criticism over the years – much of it valid – but perhaps now we need L&D more than ever before.

I was reading a couple of recent blog posts by Don Taylor which really made me think – part of one of the posts is reproduced below:

“…10 hours earlier, I had been in conversation with Todd Tauber, Tom Gram and Guy Wallace about the changing nature of work and the impact on the workplace and the L&D department. Todd summed up the conversation succinctly:

@tomgram1 @DonaldHTaylor @guywwallace I agree learning is essential. But L&D is not.

— todd tauber (@toddtauber) December 18, 2014

For me these comments are two faces of the same coin. There is an ideal state of learning integrated into the workplace that successful organisations will head towards. Those that do not integrate individual and organisational learning practices into their daily working life will lose competitive advantage and fail.

What is L&D’s role in this? It can ignore the change, facilitate it, or even lead it, but the change is happening.

Our response, and our fate, are in our own hands.”

Why we need L&D more than ever

According to the tweet from Todd Tauber, ‘learning is essential but L&D is not.’ This is an interesting position which I think is mistaken, and here’s why.

If we hold the belief that learning is essential but L&D isn’t then how about the following:

  • Food is essential but farming is not
  • Health is essential but hospitals are not
  • Money is essential but banks are not
  • Electricity is essential but utility companies are not

Clearly the argument doesn’t stack up and this is because the farmers and banks and utility companies all provide an exceptionally valuable service in that they organise vital resources so we can all benefit. We may not like the banks but having cash machines on every high street is a function of their ability to organise these vital resources. It’s the same with farmers – yes, we can grow our own vegetables and raise some chickens – but we can’t do it on the scale or efficiency of the professionals.

And this is why we need L&D. I believe that L&D offers an unrivalled opportunity to organise the vital and scarce resources of learning better than we can on our own. Sure, we can all log in to our favourite MOOC or read a wide range of blogs – but it is a great L&D team that can rally and organise resources for the benefit of us all.

I saw a recent Google Hangout with Elliott Masie and Don Taylor, $$ CITATION $$ Elliott was asked what the top three issues were within L&D. He responded with:

  • Personalisation
  • Compression, and
  • Mapping to competencies

In a supporting and telling comment, Don then asked, “How are we putting together the right learning for people?” We are doing this through the use of great L&D teams – and this is why we need L&D more than ever before.

In future posts I’ll explore Elliott’s top three issues – all of which require L&D to be successful.


There’s clearly a lot more to this post than I’ve written here but it’s worthy of further thought – in a world where there’s just so much ‘DIY learning’ it can be easy to forget why we need L&D – but let’s not.

4 replies
  1. Peter Leather says:

    To build on your analogies –
    we do need banks – but we don’t like the banks we’ve got now and the way they operate at the moment
    we do need utility companies – but we don’t like the utility companies we’ve got now and the way they operate at the moment
    etc etc

    so we need L&D teams but we don’t like the the way they operate at the moment – the pace of change in learning has left many (most?) existing L&D teams with a credibility / capability problem.

    Those who are closer enough to the “visionaries” within the industry probably see enough to give L&D a chance to deliver the brave new world (and its hard to think of a nicer more well meaning bunch of people than the L&D visionaries).

    But don’t the majority of business people still see the same old training department and training providers from which they conclude they don’t need them. It surely can only be solved by raising both expectations and standards in the industry as a whole – or maybe just a re-branding to brush over the cracks;-)

  2. Jonathan Kettleborough says:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your comments. I like the way you’ve developed the analogies and I agree with your logic – much of which I’ve touched upon in past blogs.

    I also agree with your point regarding the raising of expectations – which is far more than the re-brand or renaming of the department – which as you so rightly said will merely brush over the cracks.

    In the coming weeks I’ll be developing the themes from this post a little more – so watch this space!

  3. Sharon Gander says:

    Jonathan, I like the fact that you called someone on the assumption that an activity is important but the infrastructure providing it is not. We have infrastructures for a purpose though, as Peter implies, the purpose can change and the actualities of the day-to-day processes, procedures, and infrastructure deliverables solidify when they should be morphing.

    In the case of L&D functions, they need to better understand:
    * how individuals learn
    * how organizations learn
    * what creates barriers to learning
    * how to show that their services overcome barriers to enhance learning that meets organizational needs for an ever-changing workforce (a.k.a., workforce development)

    Memory, retention, demonstrated change, We need to understand the science of learning and how learning solutions (whether for individuals or groups) impact what is learned. This is a very b-i-g stretch for most L&D functions, but it is the future if they want to viable.

    Nice job opening a hot topic.

  4. Jonathan Kettleborough says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for the comment – some really useful food for though!


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