‘So what is your job now?’ My grandma asked me.
‘I’m a corporate trainer grandma’, I said.
She looked at me perplexed and asked: ‘what does it mean?’.
Hesitantly I answered: ’when we have new people joining our company, I welcome them and I deliver a few weeks of training to them, explaining what their job is and how to do it’.
‘Ah, a teacher!’ She replied.
‘Not exactly’, I said as I moved uncomfortably in my chair. ‘It’s kinda different from one another.
‘Well,’ she said. ‘If people ask what you do, I will tell them you are a teacher’.
It was 2015, and we were sitting in my grandparents' bright kitchen. I was promoted to a new role as a corporate trainer a few months before and was so happy and excited about getting it. I worked towards this goal for about a year before I achieved it. But once I became a trainer, and introduced myself to people in social or professional gatherings, I noticed it was rather challenging to explain what my role was , with all its responsibilities. In defence of my grandmother, she was not the only one who didn’t “get it”.
I didn’t see it from the very beginning, but over time I started noticing that a trainer’s job, my job, was misunderstood in our organisation.
My colleagues kept telling me things like: ‘Being a trainer is such an easy job! I wish this would be my job!’. Or : ‘You are so lucky you finished an onboarding group, and now you have nothing to do until the next one.’
Other times I would get questions like: ‘Isn’t it better if people learn from more experienced colleagues how to do the job?’. Aa as well as statements such as: ‘the training doesn’t cover all the information we have to deal with, and is a waste of time’.
Slightly different, but equally aggravating were the times I would get training requests at the drop of a hat. The request might state: ‘we have no incoming volumes and the team has nothing to do, so they might as well get some training about something’.
Through the occasional frustration, I tried to remember that none of these responses was ill-intended. But it made me feel like I worked in a position which was undervalued. All my hard work “behind the scenes” of delivering an onboarding phase had gone unrecognised and unnoticed. And in essence, nobody knew exactly what my job was, what responsibilities it included, what was its scope, and what was its purpose. And I won’t lie, oftentimes it made me question it myself.
Is being a trainer a vital job? Does it offer enough value? Is learning and development a valid professional sphere?
As this article is capturing my own views and experiences, it is safe to say that I found these questions important (to me). I do believe, however, that the significance of these questions goes well beyond my feelings and personal experiences.
Learning and development is a massive industry, employing (I suspect) tens of thousands of people.
Every year, companies' reports show increasing amounts of money spent on employee learning and development. Reports, such as Linkedin’s learning yearly report, indicate a growing industry with an increased demand for learning professionals.
Going back in time to the beginning of the pandemic, every learning and development professional got a boost of confidence when L&D was deemed a necessity to millions of employees who suddenly found themselves working through “the new normal”. And it started to seem like things were looking up for L&D! Below is a chart displaying results from a survey conducted by Capterra showing that these numbers keep growing in 2022.
At the same time though, with such a big and expensive industry, one might think there would be a bit more clarity on what can be expected of the learning and development function. But in my view, this is still not always the case. Moreover, this unclarity often results in the feeling of learning and development professionals, that we do not have a seat at the table. Sitting at the table is the goal of many movements and organisations which are aspiring to achieve recognition and influence. In my opinion, if L&D is not well defined, and more importantly- well explained, its unique value cannot be demonstrated and proven. This results in it being pushed to the sidelines in some organisations, and due to that, having limited influence on decision-makers.
Since based on my experience, it was tricky to give a good definition for learning and development, I decided to reach out to others and see if together we can come up with a holistic explanation.
I reached out to ex-colleagues of mine from different companies I worked at. Some of them have experience working in L&D functions and backgrounds, and some do not.
My question was straightforward and seemed as if it came out of a textbook:
In your own words, how would you define Learning and development?
I got a bit nervous when quite a few of them asked me to think about it for a couple of hours or even days. But, they slowly started to get back to me with their definitions and insights. Have a look at the answers they provided:
So learning & development becomes one of the highest ROI activities an individual and organisation can invest in. Being creative, having more focus, anticipating risks, creatively solving problems and executing effectively are all built upon knowledge and a growth mindset.
*She even drew a little diagram so I will understand :D
By looking at the different answers I could see a few repeating themes, and also a few differences. Here is a summary of the key points I am taking away from these insightful responses.
After all this, I am sure you can’t wait to read the definition of learning and development. The thing is, in the process of my research I learned that there is no one definition which will capture it all. And I learnt that it’s actually fine!
The definition I will be using going forward is this:
Learning and development is a key stakeholder involved in the development and growth of people and organisations, and it is doing so by enabling and empowering people to learn.
Fast forward a few years, and I was no longer a trainer. I was leading the learning and development needs of a startup company, with many different responsibilities, a lot of growth and many learnings. Over the summer I went back home for a visit, and of course, I was lucky enough to meet my grandmother. As I expected, she popped that question again. But I felt a lot more ready to answer it this time!
‘So what is your job now?’ My grandma asked me.
‘I am a learning and development lead, grandma’, I answered.
‘And what does it mean?’ She asked.
‘It means that I am responsible for managing all the learning and development needs of the company I work for, and making sure that people learn, grow and develop in their roles and as people. It also means that the company grows and achieves its goals’.
She looked at me and said: ‘ok. If people ask I will tell them you are a manager’.
Fair enough grandma. Fair enough.
Each Sunday we compile the best L&D resources we find and send them right to your inbox.
Everything we do is out of love for learning & each and every learning & development professional.
Copyright @Offbeat 2022