Last Friday, thanks to @DebbieCarter20, I was lucky enough to attend the Training Journal L&D2020 event on “The new L&D skill set – building relationships with the business”. Run by John Baker from Capita and Andy Holmes from Ernst & Young, the focus was on the changing role and skill set of L&D to meet the business challenges of the future.
I don’t want to repeat the training content here though I must say the use of Steps Drama was very effective and engaging. Instead I’d like to share some lasting thoughts and observations.
The L&D Opportunity
The opportunity is for the L&D function to engage more consultatively with the business. I think this need has existed in many organisations for some time. However, there are perhaps good reasons why it’s not happened to date…
- Focus on the transactional delivery of learning & training can create a sense of operational delivery rather than a consultative service.
- Organisational placement in HR or separate from OD can make it harder to get quality time with the right levels in the business.
- L&D roles may have the title “consultant” but it doesn’t mean the incumbent behaves in a consultative manner.
- Some business models may not require a consultative L&D function.
Rather than looking at the rights & wrongs of the status quo, how could a more consultative L&D approach help a particular business? There’s the challenge… to consider that you have to take a more consultative approach. Perhaps being more consultative is not a choice…
What is meant by Consultative L&D?
There’s been a lot of rhetoric on social media about HR getting “a seat at the table” of the leadership team. I have some sympathy for the discussion but also some caution – the value it creates has to be important and manifest. Consultative L&D is not about getting “a seat at the table”.
At its core is the desire and ability to discover the clients’ real business challenges and to help create solutions that deal with them effectively. Perhaps the solution is complex, perhaps it’s simple. Perhaps it’s nothing more than the reframing of a situation to unblock the clients’ limiting assumptions.
Developing Consultative L&D
Developing Consultative L&D is not about organisational placement. It’s about building the strength of relationship between L&D and the business. It’s about L&D increasing its focus on helping the business achieve. It’s about being a trusted advisor, not an elevated service function.
Those with the innate ability & interest in being consultative already stand out in how they hold themselves today…
- Their main motivator and measure of success will be their ability & desire to build strong & meaningful relationships with the business.
- They take time to understand the drivers of the business. The stresses, strains, tensions & opportunities.
- There’s probably strength of character that defines those innovators & early adopters of a consultative approach. Perhaps they are Positive Deviants.
- The chances are that they’ve already well & truly proven the value of a consultative approach to the business.
Those innovators & early adopters may have made the change largely by themselves. Others who might want/need to become more consultative but haven’t yet are going to need more support and encouragement to make the transition. Perhaps they will even need permission.
I think it’s just as important to understand who in your L&D function does not want to work in a consultative way with the business. How does that help or hinder the business?
The Future of L&D
The future of L&D is investing in the ongoing learning & development of the L&D function itself. This goes way beyond the traditional gathering of accreditations & tools.
What comes to mind is mentoring, sponsorship, advocacy, role models, coaching, and yes, training… What about sharing of practices & even resources between organisations? Just think of internal coaches and the further value that could be gained by exchanging between two organisations.
So the development & support of more consultative practices is perhaps just one aspect.
There’s no golden ticket but here’s the most important question…
Who is going to make it happen?