The role of the L&D function IS changing.

A recent  press release about Bersin by Deloitte’s new industry study, The Corporate LearningFactbook® 2013: Benchmarks, Trends, and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market included the following finding from the study.

The L&D footprint continues to shrink. Although many training teams added staff during the year, these additions were outpaced by faster growth in learning populations. As a result, the overall “footprint,” or ratio of training staff relative to the learner population continued to decline in many companies. This trend is one sign of the changing role of the L&D function, which no longer is “the place” for learning. Instead, the role of the L&D team is to facilitate and enable learning. L&D teams should build skills in performance consulting, gain expertise in new technologies including social and mobile, and work to cultivate strong learning cultures within their organizations.”

So it looks like we are now beginning to see the type of change in the way L&D function operates, that I, and my colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance, have been talking about for some time now. Here’s my diagram again of some of the new roles I am beginning to see.

Harold Jarche and I are in the process of developing a new series of extended workshops to help learning professionals develop their own skills for these new roles so that they are in a better position to “facilitate and enable learning” in their organisations rather than just “design and deliver training or e-learning”. We’ll keep you posted.


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Jane Hart

Founder at C4LPT
Jane Hart is an independent workplace learning advisor, writer and international speaker, and is the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies. She focuses on helping organisations with Modern Workplace Learning and individuals with Modern Professional Learning workshops. Find out more about Jane at

17 thoughts on “The role of the L&D function IS changing.

  1. Pingback: The role of the L&D function IS changing. | beawaretolearn |

  2. Amir Elion (@amirelion)

    Hi Jane,
    Thanks for the post.
    Indeed L&D must change to remain relevant and in order to make a significant impact.
    I also agree with the directions you depict regarding the performance focused role we should be building and accepting upon ourselves.
    In fact, the theme of the 20th annual Israeli learning conference, of which I’m fortunate to be chairman is “The changing role of learning in organizations”.

    One thing I keep thinking of is how many l&d professionals and leaders realize this, and more critically – are doing something about it. What’s your experience on this point?

    1. Jane Hart

      Amir, thanks for your comment. There are a number who do realise that they need to move from a “design, delivery & management” role to an “enabling & supporting” role, but there are also far too many who think that people only learn when they have been taught or trained, and that learning in other way is inconsequential. But like all shifts in thinking, I’m sure they will move their own thinking to the right over time – especially as they see others doing so. I understand this, because, if you feel happy and comfortable in your job, why would you want to change it!!!?

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  7. Dave Havis

    Hi Jane, I’m encouraged too that these ideas are becoming more mainstream. An increasing number of my L&D acquaintances “get it” too, however the challenge now is that the expectations of the some areas of business that we support remain traditional – we have to work harder to “sell” the “right” solutions. Of course the way to overcome that is to demonstrate success with new techniques and we’ll get there but it’s an interesting dynamic at this point in the evolution of workplace learning. Are other people experiencing anything similar?

    1. Jane Hart

      Hi Dave, in my experience those who are successful at supporting new approaches to workplace learning are not having to “sell” the ideas to the business; rather work teams and groups are coming to them for help, as they recognise the need for continuous knowledge sharing – rather than ad hoc “(e-)training” events to keep their people up-to-date.

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  9. Catherine Lombardozzi

    Jane –

    I really like this conceptualization. I think it can go a long way in helping learning and development leaders to understand the different specialties that might be needed to be able to deliver comprehensive solutions to complex learning needs. We’ve had the training/e-learning skill sets down for a while, and the performance support stream is getting more and more attention as well.

    But I don’t think people realize the developing social collaboration and enabling individuals to manage their own learning plans isn’t as simple as installing tools and talking about possibilities. I think that corporate learning leaders may well embrace the collaboration advisor and community manager roles – especially since investment in enabling social collaboration inside the firewall can be substantial (and we want it to work!). But I think the learning advisor role will be more of a tough sell. Organizations will likely see that stream of effort as something individuals should manage on their own. I’ve often talked about the idea that we need to offer more support on “learning to learn” using new tools, but I think most corporate leaders think that employees will figure out the personal learning environment (not that they call it that) without their support.

    Another comment I want to make is about calling the overarching role “performance consultants.” I think a performance consulting role reaches well beyond these streams of effort – into process consulting, org design, for example. My own preference would be to call that role a learning strategist or learning architect, but I understand the concern that “learning” isn’t what we’re going for as much as “performance” is. Perhaps your chart might indicate those other performance consulting areas of practice off to the side, or the role could be a learning and performance consultant. Just a thought.

    Very helpful graphic all around! It gives me more food for thought in looking at what I call learning environment design and the role of curator that’s being talked about so often these days.

    — Catherine

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