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Leaders must provide L&D

It is leaders now, not departments that must provide L&D and perhaps that’s no bad thing.

Picture the scene:

A CEO is poring over the results of the 2019 employee engagement survey. The results have been available for a couple of months but the first two quarters of 2020 have given him one or two other things to respond to.

The results are not good: they suggest his people feel disengaged. It seems that the front line staff don’t feel supported by their team leaders and that the team leaders don’t feel supported by their managers. There are complaints that the performance management system is anything but, with some managers completing a tick-box exercise if they complete anything at all and others exercising overt favouritism with no fear of being questioned.

The CEO decides to go and see the L&D department to discuss creating a programme of learning that might address some of this, but when he arrives at where they used to sit, there is just a collection of empty seats.

A quick Zoom with his HR Manager reminds him that the L&D department was dismantled as one of the company’s post-Covid cost-cutting measures and that other than a few memberships for LinkedIn Learning they now have hardly any resources to provide training or development.

Now, my scenario is imagined and a caricature. I don’t mean to make light of the job losses in L&D that are going to come – because I’ve lived through them too many times in previous crises – but they are coming.

It’s perfectly understandable that organisations will look at L&D activity as ripe for cost-cutting and it happens whenever the economy takes a battering but what I’ve observed of course is that the need does not go away!

Those things that the business looked to L&D to help them fix or improve when it was fully resourced are not going to fix or improve themselves now it’s under resourced.

And, unless we’re careful, we’ll have the same problem the Education sector is facing: a whole generation of people (workers) lacking the necessary development and left struggling.

But this is only if we presuppose that L&D are there to provide training, etc and that nothing can be done without them. Well, who says?

Throughout my long career in the function, the constant refrain has been that managers and leaders need to get some skin in the L&D game, particularly in helping their people prepare for training and interventions and then in debriefing them afterwards.

It seems there is no time like the present.

Leaders must provide L&D … Leaders can provide the learning and development their people need if they adopt a coaching approach.

They don’t need to pursue lengthy courses or qualifications or qualify as a professional coach but they do need to listen and they do need to perfect the art of asking questions. Not the diagnostic type questions they’re used to (who do we blame?) but the thought provoking questions coaches know help people learn from their own experience (what happened to you? What did you notice? What have you learned?)

Even a basic level of coaching ability will provide the leader with tangible benefits

• Development that can be offered on any of 365 days per year
• Development that is provided just in time; and in light of novel problems with no previous solutions
• Development that is already structured to be delivered virtually to people working remotely

Of course leaders should always have been doing this but, like the CEO in my story, they may need some evidence that discussing development once a year is simply not good enough.

And now is time to remember that L&D is a responsibility, not an event.

Matt Somers
Matt Somershttps://www.mattsomers.com/
Matt Somers is a leading voice on training and coaching in the UK publishing Coaching at Work in 2006 and Coaching in a Week in 2016. He holds an MSc in Human Resource Development and is a Fellow of the CIPD.

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