Key learning and development skills to get you noticed

One of our most popular career articles is HR skills to get you noticed, in which we suggest stand-out details for a generalist HR practitioner’s CV. After that article was published, Personnel Today readers and fans of our Facebook page asked us to apply the same treatment to CVs for those working in learning and development (L&D).

The first point to make is that recruiters and department heads apply a similar commercial scrutiny to applicants for L&D roles as they do to those seeking HR positions.

“The majority of people now see L&D as part of the HR function”, says Jon Terry, lead consultant at Wright Solutions, which handles many L&D appointments.

He says that as L&D professionals move from their former place within the training department (the activities of which are now frequently outsourced) to join organisational development (OD) and HR, they must market themselves as generators of talent, retention and business re-engineering.

“I have noticed that companies are outsourcing delivery because they want to retain knowledge of the business within it. They want internal people who can think outside the box and who are comfortable working with stakeholders and at a senior level. This is where the OD side becomes more important,” says Terry.

Business benefits

The learning activities and qualifications that professionals have undertaken for themselves must also have a relevance to the bottom line.

“We want people who can apply their education and learning in a pragmatic way”, says Irene Stark, group HR director of ATS Euromaster and the 2010 winner of the Personnel Today award for excellence in learning and development.

“For me it’s about commercial nous, which is what businesses need if they are going to challenge and change things.”

So, for example, it is not enough for an applicant to simply say that they have attended a course on organisational development or worked for certification from a professional body. They need to demonstrate how they translated that course into business benefits by changing behaviours and learning.

“Without this background, you just look as though you have been operating in a vacuum”, says Terry.

At training company Belbin, business director Jo Keeler has noticed a similar trend from professionals wanting to be accredited to use its system.

“The one thing that we have noticed is that there is less of an emphasis on professional qualifications and more emphasis on a practical tool that people can use. Job applicants need to be able to answer questions on what they learned and what they got out of it.”

Stark says that no one should be deterred if their career didn’t start in L&D.

“Our current head of learning and development has run a call centre and been in operational management,” she says. “The other has come from a sales background.”

She adds that applicants who have come from operational jobs will find that they have credibility and the opportunity to translate their experiences and learning into practice.

Return on investment

Applicants for L&D roles are also expected to tackle return on investment (ROI). “Really good learning and development people can work out what to measure, and show the way for ROI,” says Stark. “You may have seen people coming up with a formula, but if you are going to be an L&D person, then pin it down.”

So what sort of career path is left for L&D people who are at their most confident when facilitating programmes or being engaged directly in helping employees with their personal development, rather than pursuing the bottom line?

Stark recommends that these skills are directed toward careers in personal coaching. “They are very effective there”, she says.

Her final advice is that L&D professionals conduct a personal skills audit. “If you have self-awareness then you can understand your own development,” she says.

Your CV should include examples of:

Commercial acumen – Without it you just look like someone operating in a vacuum, says Jon Terry.

Relevant skills and learning – Show that you have practical tools, says Irene Stark.

How you add value – Demonstrate how you have been a generator of income, sales retention or other measurable items.

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