L&D - evolving roles, enhancing skills

01 April 2015
Published: April 2015
Organisations and individuals are operating in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. L&D professionals have a unique role to play in supporting them, but only if we are equipped to operate in the same VUCA world. We need to understand need, respond faster and think beyond the course. But how should L&D roles be organised and L&D professionals be equipped for change?
This report forms the second part of a CIPD programme of research exploring changing L&D roles and capabilities. It looks at the extent to which L&D is changing and draws on benchmarking data from 600 L&D leaders in the Towards Maturity benchmark study, alongside case study research.
This research demonstrates that mature practice within the top performing L&D teams leads to significant business benefits. Change is possible, but we need to expand it beyond a minority of organisations and instigate wider movement across the profession. The report explores four key areas to challenge the thinking of the L&D profession – its relationships, roles and responsibilities for the future – and provides a foundation for L&D leaders to drive evidence based change.
Ultimately, to thrive as an L&D profession, we need to evolve roles and enhance skills to drive organisational performance. This requires action from every L&D practitioner, to build capability in your function and gain stakeholder commitment for learning transformation.

Key areas

  • The significant pace of change in the external environment is requiring stronger alignment between L&D activity and business and learner needs.
  • Organisations need to maximise the resources they have to enhance effectiveness.
  • Limited resources are not necessarily a barrier and can actually help to drive innovation and greater business alignment.
  • L&D can operate successfully, whether the function reports to the business or HR, as long as there are clear connections between the different functions and agreement on L&D’s purpose.
  • L&D roles are evolving, but not always at the pace needed.
  • There are signs that roles are becoming increasingly multifaceted, with this set to continue in future, necessitating a blend of skills and capabilities.
  • In this context agility and versatility are essential, as L&D professionals need to play multiple roles.
  • A key shift is a move away from learning delivery to performance consultancy, underpinned by the need for L&D to be aligned to the business and deliver tangible organisational and individual impact.
  • There is also increasingly a need for L&D to support social learning.
  • In order to maximise resources and evolve roles to best meet business needs, L&D must address key skill gaps. These primarily include business and commercial understanding, facilitation of social learning and technological capability, alongside skills that enable robust diagnosis and the development or curation of the right solutions.
  • Forward-thinking L&D teams are realising that in order to impact the business, they must first invest in their own capability.
  • Methods used to develop skills range from formal development programmes to mentoring and informal knowledge-sharing.
  • L&D needs to continue to evolve and adapt in response to key drivers of change in the external environment.
  • Actively scanning the horizon to anticipate change should therefore be a key priority for L&D professionals.
  • But understanding how wider changes may influence L&D requires greater analytical capability to use and interpret evidence and data.
  • Insight gathered can be used to help make decisions about L&D resources, the focus of roles and which skills are developed. It can also be used as a tool to engage others in L&D change.
Download the full report below