Do you want to be in L&D?

Look through many HR and training recruitment pages and websites and you’ll see ads for learning and development (L&D) specialists. Many training professionals must wonder what the difference is between what they and L&D types do.

It could be a case of a rose by any other name as, it seems, the training profession is increasingly seeing itself referred to as ‘learning and development specialists’.

This is more than semantics, according to Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development adviser for learning, training and development, Martyn Sloman. He sees a shift in emphasis – one which training professionals should watch.

“A difference is emerging between training and learning and development. L&D is about a broader context: looking far beyond the delivery of classroom events. It’s about recognising what steps are needed to support, direct and facilitate learning at all levels, putting the structures in place, and enthusing those who have to deliver within those structures.”

This shift brings ambiguity in its wake, and job candidates should check an organisation’s intentions before they despatch their CV.

Hay Human Resources’ regional director, Tracey Rimmer, has noticed the breadth of options on the job market. “We find that L&D is one of the broadest job titles that we receive, with clients looking for L&D partners but also managers,” she says.

Her advice is to check. “Ask the recruitment consultant. Check the objectives and reporting line of the role,” she says.

It is difficult to say which sectors are embracing the L&D concept but it seems to be predominantly within the pharmaceutical sector and financial services, says Jonathan Briggs, a manager at HR recruitment specialist Fraser Jones.

He attributes the take-up there to the rapid innovation in those areas and a thirst for knowledge to overcome problems such as the mis-selling of financial information.

Some senior and challenging jobs are on offer here, he says, “particularly in the financial sector, where people are looking for specific experience in regulations and awareness of legislation”.

But, he adds, the market takes a broader view. “They will increasingly recruit from blue chips, but it can be a chicken and egg situation in terms of skills and experience. Which do you get first? And law firms, which always need L&D people to manage their staff’s professional development, recruit from their own sphere.”

Rimmer says organisational change projects and an emphasis on personal learning have created demand for L&D specialists. “The public sector has embraced that area because of the work around the Agenda for Change and is bringing people from commercial areas accordingly,” she says.

Common ground between learning and development jobs is often a remit for analysing the skills base, commissioning or planning programmes to address the skills needs, and linking these elements to organisational change projects. Sometimes the boundaries are blurred with talent management or with those of organisational development.

This is the case for Giles Cockman. He joined automotive aftermarket technical products and service supplier Kent Europe in 2003 as European L&D adviser.

His role is to help the company focus on learning and to help employees learn how to meet market and customer needs.

Cockman says that with strong sponsorship from the managing director and HR director, he established the Kent Academy as an umbrella for all the company’s L&D needs.

He relishes his current job. “The huge motivation for me is that I can see I have an impact on the business with involvement in follow through and application of learning beyond the classroom,” he says.

Salaries for L&D specialists vary widely, says Rimmer. “We get asked to find L&D officers with salaries offered around the £23,000 mark, right up to specialist roles earning around £50,000.”

Fraser Jones’ Briggs says rates of pay are on an upward turn. “HR is a shrinking market of quality candidates,” he says.

Cockman thinks L&D will be a boom area. “A growing interest in self-managed development is fuelling the need for learning and development professionals,” he says. “Businesses are aware of the need to continually refresh skills and knowledge, while employees are encouraged to take personal responsibility for this process. “L&D professionals are a bridge be-tween the two, ensuring that L&D is closely linked with the business.”

Could you be an L&D specialist?

James Riding is senior HR consultant at recruitment agency Astralis. He says candidates who want to call themselves L&D specialists should:

  • Show a broad commercial understanding of how the business works

  • Have experience in organising soft-skills training

  • Demonstrate an understanding of where HR strategy is helping the business as a whole

  • Demonstrate credibility and insight into organisational effectiveness

Giles Cockman adds that they need:

  • To have coaching and facilitation skills

  • To think about the long-term development of people

  • To know how to encourage an organisational culture of self-managed learning

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