Transforming L&D: How to Build the Right Skills for Success

by | Aug 17, 2015 | Articles

We grapple with the continuing issue of building skills in the L&D team, offering advice on how to get started and make progress.

Learning and development teams have big aspirations to transform learning and performance in their organisations, but there are big challenges to achieving them. In previous articles we’ve highlighted that the early findings of this year’s Benchmark Study show that most L&D leaders are looking to deliver so much more from their learning interventions than ever before yet most are still failing to deliver.

We have at our disposal a plethora of new technologies, tools and models for learning approaches. Neuroscience has shed new light on how we learn and the web has opened up opportunities for L&D professionals to explore new ideas and connect with those that have made them work. Despite all of this, 3 in 5 L&D leaders say that they are failing to achieve their aspirations because of lack of skills in the L&D team.


Change may well be happening all around us, but we need to embrace change within our L&D teams. There are two reasons why, for the fifth year in a row, lack of skills within our own teams is amongst the top barriers holding us back from achieving our vision. The first reason is fear and the second is the necessity of equipping ourselves to deliver a vision of the future.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

At our very first Finance Benchmark Group meeting, we invited Dave Buglass, Head of L&D at Tesco Bank to share how he had turned L&D around in his organisation. Dave, who has since won the L&D leader of the year award at both the Training Journal and Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) awards, said the one thing that underpinned the success of his new strategy was courage!

It takes courage to challenge the status quo, courage to take action in areas outside of our comfort zone and courage to get the results that others only dream of. We may not acknowledge our own fear of change (putting it down to lack of skill) but it could very well be holding us back.

In a recent guest blog post I went back to the one of the core themes in the best selling change management book Who moved my cheese? to ask L&D leaders, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid.’ I asked this because the top performing L&D teams in our benchmark have the courage of their convictions and are taking action in areas that many of us only talk about.

Equipped for change

Courage comes as we build and practise our own skills in new areas. In our joint report with the CIPD, L&D: Evolving Roles, Enhancing Skills, we identified a range of new skills for a modern L&D team. These include:

  • Social and collaborative learning
  • Online training and delivery
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Content delivery
  • Technology and infrastructure
  • Data analytics
  • Performance consulting
  • Curation
  • And more!

However, the top performing learning teams were not only changing how they approach learning, they were also more likely to have started to bring the skills they need into the team. Yet we find that less than 50% of organisations are investing in continuing professional development and one in 10 still doesn’t know how their teams are building their skills.

Where to start?

I thoroughly recommend taking advantage of some of the L&D skills audit tools out there (the LPI Capability Map is a great example) but it is also important to step back and take a new look at what you want to achieve with your team in the year ahead so that you can build the right skills for the right tasks.

By using the Towards Maturity Benchmark to directly compare your current L&D goals and tactics against a framework established by top performing teams, you can identify the priority areas for the year ahead.

This year, all participants in the benchmark will receive a 16-page Personalised Benchmark Report that not only looks at 24 effective practice benchmark areas that will help you achieve the changes you would like to see in your L&D activities, also provides you with a snapshot of the skills in your team, so that you can see what skills you will need to develop to achieve your goals.

What are the skills like in your L&D team?

Leave us a comment with your thoughts on Laura’s LinkedIn article.

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