Before launching my own business, Wondershift, I spent the better part of my career as a leader in the L&D and OD space in Media, and it remains important to me to keep up with trends and expectations of the L&D/OD Leader. The L&D Evolving Roles, Enhancing Skills, CIPD Research Report from April 2015 offered great insight and food for thought. Here is my summary based on the report with my own additions of how to ensure you and your teams remain or become A+ players in the people profession.

  1.  Fiercely choose the best.  We cannot afford B players these days. As Simon Watt from Mattel mapped out so nicely, you need people who can bridge the gap between ‘world-class’ OD and L&D and everyday commercial business. Add in confidence and good common sense and you may just have a winner. Know your criteria matrix, make the time to enlist people from within the business in your hiring process, and make wise decisions based on gut AND data.
  2. Figure out the trends relevant for you and your business. There are many trends these days in the learning space. Some will pass. Some will stick. The question is how best to determine how long you can expect the analytics for each trend to remain accurate. If you are making decisions based on trends that are changing rapidly you may in fact be making decisions that will have no impact now or in the future. Be knowledgeable and aware of trends. Beware of trends; they can turn on you when you least expect it. Create platforms for discussion with your teams, leaders and stakeholders, and extrapolate the impact to your business should trends that catch your eye increase or fall. Practice ‘what if…’ scenario planning so that you are prepared and proactive.
  3. Fully engage in your own capability and skill development. Dr. Seuss was spot on when he said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” If you are going to be a multifaceted and versatile expert in your field then start expanding your world. Read. Intensely observe others. Ask questions. Gather your toolkit. Use established models and create your own. Build your internal and external network. Your ability to understand the root cause of an issue and recommend creative solutions relies on your depth of knowledge and skill for seeing things from different perspectives. This does not happen overnight.
  4. Facilitate & make connections. As an L&D or OD professional you need a wide and varied network inside and outside your organization to truly understand business needs. In addition, your next move may be to simply facilitate a connection to accelerate a solution. The beauty of your role is that you are likely to have a layer of insight into more of the business than the average employee. Pay attention to what you hear. Seek opportunities where you can connect people from different lines of business, different parts of the world, different levels within the company. The power you have to link people could lead to the next best idea.
  5. Focus on outcomes and impact. It is all well and good to do lots of things. Except if you are doing lots of things that have no tangible and observable result. As the article mentions, any successful development results in shift. The desired shift should be clear from the onset when you begin your contracting and consulting with your internal client/stakeholder. If this is not clear, not only will it be hard to measure your success, but also the original point of doing it in the first place may go amiss. Scale back on doing less to get more. Do less with more meaning and impact. Be brave enough to say no when you need to.
  6. Form platforms that enable innovation and new thinking to happen. I love what the Ministry of Defense did with the formation of their Innovation Cell to bring together 3 distinct disciplines to establish a vision of what success looks like, and to recommend routes on how people could best learn to look ahead and create the time to think. These are the platforms we need more of in corporations. It may be three people. It may be ten. The key is to pose real business challenges to a diverse set of people from across the business that can contribute their expertise in a collective and collaborative way. This is not just about throwing people in a room. There is planning and variables to consider including a business sponsor, a secondary platform for sharing recommendations with decision makers, expected outcomes, budget and time considerations. If this is not already happening, take the lead, it is time to start.
  7. Find ways to collect meaningful data, and analyze it for impact. I’ve worked with a lot of companies who love to collect data. Some of it is up to date, some is not. Some of it is used, some is not. Some of it is relevant and some is not. There is the formal collection of data; such as before, during, and after a program or event, or ‘exit’ interview feedback, or at performance time, etc. Then there is the informal data that is being offered to us daily whether we realize it or not. These are the coffee conversations you have with colleagues or the ones you overhear in the lift , the emails you receive when something goes right or goes wrong, and the body language in the back of the room. Are all these tracked for patterns? Imagine if you heightened your awareness and combine the informal and formal data you collect, might it then become more meaningful?
  8. Forge ahead and come up with new names for your department. Perhaps it is time to refresh and revitalize. L&D is getting old, HR is old news, OD seems to have been lost a bit. How about calling yourself the OIL TEAM (Organizational Impact Learning) or OPT (organizational performance team), or BP2 (Brilliant people = business performance). Go on…have a play, refresh, revitalize and see what sticks.