The Nice To Have And The Need To Have

L&D traditionally has been seen as the ‘nice to have’ department in an organisation, not necessarily the ‘need to have’, and it’s really taking the biscuit.

I make no bones about it, I absolutely love working in L&D, the passion to help people become who they want to be is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and I am in *the* loveliest warmest sector of industry.

But that’s the problem, sometimes we are just too lovely.

Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute that we transform ourselves into Disney villains here, but instead, we wise up.

Our sector of industry is the one that receives at times the most cuts, largely because we are so undervalued, we are seen at the nice to have, not the operationally imperative people that we truly are.

I’ve said it many times before… Good L&D can make a company, and bad L&D can break a company. And we need to start understanding our power and owning it. And it starts here. And it starts now.

Here are four steps to changing how L&D and your role is viewed:

Firstly, start putting yourself at the front of the queue. Professionally develop yourself. Identify what training and content you need to be the best that you can be. It’s ok to say I don’t have that skill/qualification/knowledge, because you’re in the business to knowing how to get it. We are always the last people in the professional development queue, if at all. We need to be at the front, or how else are we meant to develop everybody else? I don’t mean just genning up on only L&D, but also communication, marketing, negotiation etc. skills. You are your organisation’s trail blazer, so you need to set the spark off within you first.

Secondly, with your developed communication skills start networking hard, and outside of your department and into your organisation. Understand your organisation and it’s people more. Get to know the business, operational, marketing, etc. managers and their teams. Conversations about personal development need to take place frequently and outside the realms of an annual appraisal. Put your newly developed knowledge and skills to use. Here you can identify their objectives and the needs they have to meet them. Be proactive, not reactive.

Thirdly, acquire a copy of your organisation’s five year plan which should be updated annually. With your newly developed business skills read it cover to cover, fill it with notes from your discussions with managers and teams and identify the gaps between the forecast and the reality. How do the people within your organisation need to develop to meet the targets and objectives in the strategy?

Finally, capitalise on your developed negotiation skills with your networked research and set a meeting with your HR Director with your annotated businessplan in hand. Utilising your marketing and sales skills pitch to them your plan to help your organisation to reach the goals set by the C-Suite, and negotiate what seems to be a simple cut and paste that could sow the seed to the start of a change in culture towards L&D becoming a need to have… negotiate that the personal development section of your organisation’s annual appraisal document be cut from the bottom and pasted to the top *before* the objectives section. If staff aren’t developed how are they meant to achieve their objectives? That one action is seemingly insignificant, yet changes the direction of every appraisal discussion moving forward and thus turning around the culture of an organisation to an empowered one that puts its staff first. Isn’t that a great company that your HR Director would relish attracting talent into?

You are the most important person in your organisation and you *need* to see yourself as more than a nice to have. The industry needs us, the industry needs you.

Then when the importance of your role is recognised you can reward yourself with a much deserved cuppa, and a nice biscuit.

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