My first brush with L&D was when I was conducting “behavioural training” at a major software giant way back in the early 2000s. Our training company had given us ready-made Powerpoint presentations, pre-printed booklets of exercises and even a trainer’s script which we had to diligently follow. In those days the client company had a system of participants rating the trainer as Red, Green or Yellow – this defined how the trainer would be treated in the sessions ahead. Traffic light rules: Red – no work, Yellow – had to shadow another trainer, Green – allowed to train on his/her own. This actually put the participants, who were assumed uneducated in those disciplines, in the position of assessors of knowledge transfer. But while roaming around the campus, I saw that there was something called a Learning Space where any employee could go and learn whatever they wanted from a regularly updated, guided list of websites. Learning was optional and in the hands of the employee, the HR department merely facilitated.

Probably the most effective change that came about in our profession back then, was the transformation of the T&D department to the L&D department. That simple changing of the letter from T to L, from Training to Learning, spelt a whole new way of looking at how individuals develop themselves.
The last phrase, develop themselves, is the operative one. If Irrfan Khan’s advertisement for self-education is anything to go by, people are consciously working on their upward mobility by taking courses, online and offline, to better themselves. Major universities from all over the globe have put short courses online and most of them are free unless you need a certificate. Courses from Coursera or Udacity or similar websites are available on almost everything worth knowing – while everything else is on Google or Wikipedia. Companies themselves have contributed to this learning wave by putting entire sets of learning material on their intranet servers. So, in this happy situation, where is the problem?

The problem of acceptance

The old T&D mindset is struggling to force fit the new L&D mindset into the traditional, accepted mould. I still go for client meetings where the HR Heads ask me about the Training methods I plan to use, they still refer to “your lectures” and enquire “how many ppts do you use?” They are not very comfortable when I inform them that we don’t have any content to be transferred – but rather an interactive or experiential process where everyone learns what they most need to know. They are uncomfortable with the concept of broad timings and want to know how many minutes will each ‘block’ consist of. And they want to ‘review’ the handouts before the participants get them. A very warped view of the function, in my opinion – why call in an expert if you have the ability to review him?
So, at some risk, let me elaborate on both Learning and Development as well as the task of the Manager who is given this as a key responsibility.

Training isn’t Learning

In my dictionary, there is a very good case for Training – anything that has a set of rules, a non-negotiable process or a prescribed method of doing something, is suitable for the Training intervention. Learning is something that happens over and above what is targeted in training; it takes place whether we like it or not, whether we consciously expected it as an outcome or not; whether the individual pursued it on his/her own or in a group or as a result of some other targeted activity. For example, an individual goes to learn how to weld two rods together – that’s training. During the session, he learns how to explain a process to others, how to dress appropriately, how to be aware of safety procedures, how to deal with his classmates who may not be as quick as he, and even discovers a more efficient way to do something. And this learning tends to stay fixed in his mind a lot longer than merely the prescribed training.

So, the task of the Learning manager would ideally be to match aspirations with opportunity. A good LM would search for learning opportunities and make them easily available to staff. He might then spend a bit of time mapping the staff to the required competencies. Finally, he would advertise the learning opportunity – since without relentless selling nothing works! This sounds really simplistic but opens up several avenues of engagement and research for an otherwise cut-and-dried job.

The D word - Development

I have asked many a T&D executive to define the D word in the context of what they do. I have received many responses which somehow haven’t convinced me that there is really a connection. It’s a combo word like bread-and-butter, peaches-and-cream, training-and-development. When I studied for my Diploma in T&D, I wasn’t any the wiser about the Development function. So, I made my own distinction. On the one hand there is the one-off training program (workshops) which a lot of us conduct, take our money and leave. On the other hand, Development is a sustained time-intensive effort aimed at effecting change in an organization. Development involves a facilitator using base line measurement, creating an ongoing, time-based program for the target group, then actively moving the group from stage A to stage B. In my recent experience I have spent over a year with a single industry, working on their development through learning, tracking individual learning and suggesting ways in which the organization could benefit from developing their employees. I think both management and employees saw the benefits very early and have adopted the process comfortably. Had it been ‘training’ I could have gotten away with a few well-structured workshops or lectures and everyone would have gone back to their old ways.

New requirements, new responsibilities

The L&D manager would then need to focus on understanding the developmental goals of the company at the highest level, locate programs which would help individuals to meet those goals over a period of time, and finally, conduct those programs from end to end. This would not mean that the poor L&D guy would be able to know and do everything, but rather they would be out of office, searching for programs and meeting experts to cater to their organizational needs. And then, recording evidence of achievement. This could entail the measurement of success in various ways, putting into place an Evaluation Model, and perhaps designing a reward system for those daring enough to learn beyond their job roles and deliverables. I currently work with a software development firm where creating or inventing something new is a key requirement – without a focus on learning we could never create the future.

Shifting from HRM to HRD

To make this conversion happen we might face some opposition. Resistance may come from trying to convert a pen-pushing manager into a shop floor action researcher, from moving an executive out of an air-conditioned comfort zone into the ‘marketplace’ to know what happens there, from shifting focus from the files on the HR desk to the discussions in the Board room to understand future vision, from filling out Performance Appraisal forms to proactively analysing the data that they produce, from monitoring and punishing employees to nurturing and motivating individuals. This list will continue to grow as businesses keep evolving and demand more involvement from HR.
In this scenario we need to clearly shift our L&D from the HRM department to the HRD department – from Management to Development. More than managing the process of organizing workshops and training programs, the L&D manager will need to develop a strategy and implement it so that there is a visible output for the individual and the organization.

''(Leslie Francis D’Gama was a high school math and computer teacher, who left to become a corporate trainer and evolved his own facilitative models of training based on world best practices. Today he divides his time between running a successful software development centre and as a self-employed Learning and Development consultant and facilitator. He can be reached at )

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