Embracing Change: The L&D Leader’s Perspective

by | Nov 5, 2015 | Articles

Dave Buglass, Head of Capability and Learning at Tesco Bank ‘The most significant question for an HR professional to ask a business leader is, “How can I help you deliver what’s really important to the business?”’

“For the last 20 years, I have worked in all aspects of learning and development, specialising in the evolution of technology-based training through computer-based training all the way through to current digital learning spaces.

Through that time, I have experienced a lot of change personally and in the business environment around me, especially in the finance sector where I have spent all of my career to date. One thing that has remained constant throughout is my passion for driving people performance and seeing individuals improve and do better. My one I regret, if I had one, is that I have also been part of a profession that hasn’t always been in a position to fully activate the people power around me.

But things are changing.

Since I first engaged with the very first Towards Maturity Benchmark in 2003, I have seen a lot of changes. The work environment shifted for everyone when the recession hit with force. Now it has changed again. In a new climate of relative stability, staff have more options to explore new career opportunities of their own; they are more promiscuous about moving roles than ever before. The technology that surrounds us has changed dramatically and is more readily available than ever before. It is now an integral feature of how we live our lives, embedded into the way that we work, travel, shop and communicate. In short, more than ever before, ‘we work the way we live’.

Yet, it is disappointing to see in the 2015 Industry Benchmark Report that L&D professionals are still playing it safe; failing to fully adapt to the new world of work and learning. There is real irony in the fact that whilst we have access to more technology than ever before, only 19% of L&D budget has been allocated to investment in learning technologies – a figure that has been static for 3 years, despite the increasingly technical environment we live and work in.

Technology has evolved, our internal customers have evolved, but can we honestly say that as a profession, we have done as much as we could have in order to evolve ourselves and reinvent our purpose?

Furthermore, the technologies in use by the majority of L&D professionals are the same, possibly slightly newer models of the technologies we were all using back in 2003.

Today, we have more opportunities, with more integrated, simple and technical environments to create that one-click buying experience for consumers. That simple consumer experience is the ability to find what we want and access it easily. When it comes to supporting staff, out of all the functions in HR, L&D has the potential to be the most consumer-centric, but when 7 out of 10 do not even know how their staff learn what they need to do their jobs today, we are clearly missing an opportunity.

It is time to change.

The question in 2015 is no longer about how should we deliver training more efficiently to a wider audience but how do we as organisations actually improve the experience of our people? How do we make L&D more insignificant and make the colleague more important?

I am excited that the Top Deck organisations understand this. The 2015 Benchmark Report clearly shows that the top performing organisations are not talking about what the next big technology, framework or model might do for them; they are busy translating their people strategy into a business strategy and using the new opportunities to transform the learning experience of those around them, rather than merely automating it.

The Top Deck organisations show us that the most significant question for an HR professional to ask a business leader is, “How can I help you deliver what’s really important to the business?” Forget the training – a new approach requires boldness and it is good to see that this courage is not just for those that are well resourced. The top performing organisations in this study come from all sectors and range in sizes. It is their relationship with the business and the understanding of their role to support performance that sets them apart.

These priorities automatically lead to more integrated approaches to building performance and staff engagement that have been reflected in my own career. My role today is no longer purely about learning, it is also about colleague retention and reward. This creates an opportunity to build a seamless experience for colleagues that is more consumer-centric. Colleagues don’t care about policy, process, or the next big training initiative. They care about achieving their potential, overcoming their challenges and realising their opportunities.

Top Deck Organisations show that employee engagement and productivity improves when the silos between business functions, HR and Learning come down and we work together to help staff achieve common goals.

The 2015 Towards Maturity Industry Benchmark Report reveals that the factor hindering our progress in the L&D and HR industry is a lack of communication. When we fail to tell a story that resonates with our audience, it results in a blinkered view of what learning can achieve for the business, clouded by experiences of the past. It is time to move out of a world of risk and management, into a world of performance and behaviour improvement.

I welcome the clear call to action that this report gives to business leaders, learning leaders and to those in the industry as a whole, to think and act differently.

The evidence presented is clear – a consumer-focused, technology-enabled learning strategy builds business performance and employee engagement. But if we continue to do what we have always done, many will continue to fall short of their full potential.

The 2015 Towards Maturity Industry Benchmark Report calls on business leaders to embrace change by demanding more. Demand that your people professionals deliver value, not just courses; that they work together to support focused, business objectives.

The role of today’s people professionals is about understanding and supporting our colleagues. It is about providing positive experiences that help them at their point of need, helping them make better decisions and actively learn through life’s experiences. This report creates a clear pathway for business leaders, L&D and HR professionals to embrace that change, providing proven evidence about the next steps to take, wherever they are on their journey.”

Dave Buglass

Head of Organisational Capability and Development
Tesco Bank


See how your organisation can embrace change in order to improve performance – download the 2015-16 Industry Benchmark Report

Dave Buglass is currently Head of Capability and Development at Tesco Bank. He is the current holder of L&D Professional of the Year for both HR Network Scotland and Training Journal, as well as the holder of the Chief Learning Officer award for the LPI. An original participant in the 2003 Towards Maturity Benchmark, his organisation is also one of the Top Deck Companies in the 2015 Benchmark. Colleagues believe the bank is a great company.


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