Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Innovating the L&D Business Partner role


  I ran a webinar for Citrix on Monday focusing on the role of the L&D Business Partner (and how this can be enabled through Online Training, including GoToWebinar which I was using).

I covered two main things:

  • The need to focus on what L&D is providing – on the outcomes of L&D activities – and how this links to both human, and increasingly, social capital.  I suggested this focus on people shifts the conversation in organisations and within the L&D business partnering relationship as well.
  • The need to focus on how L&D meets these challenges.  Here, I think the focus on people requires and enables a more human approach to learning strategy – one which recognises – and responds – to what we increasingly know about the way that people learn.


I suggested that combining these two needs results in a more complex picture (because L&D can’t just provide courses which align with the required human and social capital requirements).  So for example, one of the things that L&D can do is to sponsor and role model personal ownership of learning linked to these capital needs.


The archive of the webinar is available here.


Apologies if I didn’t get onto your questions, but I didn’t expect anything like the number that I had.  I will come back and post my answers to all these questions here within the next 2 weeks (and apologies that I am unlikely to be any quicker than this).


In the meanwhile, I have been pleased to see one attendee, Mark Lawrence, blogging on his experience at, and learning from, the webinar at Learning Intelligence.

Mark notes that:

‘Yesterday, I attended a virtual webinar from Jon Ingham, entitled "Enhancing the Role of the L&D Business Partner" (see his Blog, here).  On the whole, there was a lot of interest from the assembled audience upon how we define the term Business Partner, and consequently, what role should be played.  In short, however, Jon, with his usual eloquence, proceeded to explain how Learning organisations needed to partner with business stakeholders, to anticipate and resolve requirements - from planning events, to deploying tools, to supplying information.  Summarised by one attendee at the end of the session, the question was asked "How do we move L&D from a support function to a business partner?”

The answer is simple: Innovate, educate and create new value.


I agree with this need for innovation – in fact that is the focus of my next webinar on 12 July.

You can book for this webinar here.


Mark goes on to discuss my points about the need to change the language in organisations:

‘Jon Ingham also touched on this, when he discussed a slide attributed to Prof Gary Hamel, that people do not respond, emotionally, to many business buzzwords of today: for example, why interface with someone, when you can talk?  (Did you ever go to the pub, to "touch base" with your friends...??)’


Absolutely!  However, I suspect I don’t fully agree with Mark on his next point:

‘Metrics and dashboards are all very well, but without ensuring that stakeholders understand the messages, they will continue to consider a learning organisation as a drain on resources.  Only when learning organisations talk to stakeholders in terms that they both expect and understand, will true partnership become a reality.’


Yes, we do need to speak to stakeholders in way they both expect and understand, but we need to be careful about this.  Firstly, I think there’s a widespread belief that L&D’s stakeholders mainly speak the language of numbers, and particularly of Finance, and that’s the way we need to speak as well.

I think we need to look beneath this.  Our stakeholders are people first, and business people with a focus on rational, analytical thinking second (which is what I meant by my reference to a focus on people).  We need to appeal to the first of these aspects much more than we do.

Secondly, and this links with the point above as well, it’s not always about communicating within existing expectations, but we often need to influence and change these expectations too.  That’s part of the learning and change journey many if not most of our organisations require.

The key need is to speak in a way that will have impact, even if' it’s in a way that’s not expected.  See my posts on trust, love and equality!



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  • jon  [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com


1 comment:

  1. Hi Jon - thanks for taking the time to appraise my thoughts and for responding here. All discussion is great for learning! I think my point about the final para is to ensure that our innovation and creative efforts are not lost on disinterested stakeholders: yes, we absolutely need to use our expertise and credibility to move forward, but we mustn't alienate our stakeholders, insodoing. Be as technical and deep as you can be, or need to be, but bare in mind that you need to engage with people who may not have that same level of expertise. Cheers, MARK


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