Managing Professional Growth – Trends that may transform or even eliminate the L&D function within in the near future!

Two strands of conversations have contributed towards writing this article – the first was with Srinivasa Addepalli of Globalgyan on designing leadership development interventions, and the second was exploring an aggregator model of coaching with G Pratap of Maersk, over the past few weeks.


For most firms, the ‘Make/Grow Talent or Buy Talent’ polarity in strategic human resource management has been an intense debate.


Companies that choose to invest into the first polarity (Grow Talent) are saddled with several consequences – the strategic task of anticipating and identifying emergent competencies and knowledge, in sourcing and deploying these competencies across current talent through designated learning interventions with mixed success, and in retaining the newly upgraded talent. Often this primary task – of ‘Grow Talent’, gets owned and deployed through the Learning and Development Function or the Talent Management Function.


There have been several challenges on this front, given that these days we are witnessing a rise in the autonomous, aware and networked professionals all over:


  1. Can the L&D function anticipate and identify emergent core competencies efficiently?


Or is it more plausible that the task of anticipating and identifying competencies and growth be owned up by the professional today? Would the latter be more efficient in a networked world, governed by self interest and fears of obsolescence as well as demonstrate more ownership of her own learning agenda?


  1. Can the function source, design, and deploy interventions to transfer these competencies to its employees effectively?


Or is there an emergence of learning and coaching platforms across the world, offering certified and innovative learning solutions that would be more effective and efficient in the long run?


There are some trends are critical to understand before one gets to take a stance on the two questions stated above:


  1. There is a rise in diversity across management layers – this diversity makes it difficult to go by standard batch processing when it comes to learning and development. The target audience is steadily becoming an eclectic array of individuals – each demanding a personalized growth agenda.


  1. For most global organizations, centralization of the learning development function means delays, commoditized interventions, and broader brush strokes. How often does one see a country HR head burdened with a learning model that is alien to her context, culture, and geography.


  1. There are institutions, universities, international coaches, and training organizations that are more creative in deployment of their offerings – the models of learning include classroom learning, webinars, skype calls, and telephonic coaching. These are tested models and one has access to relative effectiveness across the internet.


  1. The increased effectiveness of learning delivery models has been reinforced through innovative financing models.


  1. Lastly and most significantly, there is a growing awareness of what one seeks to learn – an average young employee is far more discerning of what he or she needs, and more energized to accessing these learning needs.


These trends predict that in the modern market place, the average employee is becoming not just aware but is owning his or her own developmental agenda, and is seeking choices that go beyond an internal training program.


That day is not far away when every organization would offer a learning and development allowance to each employee, and expect the latter to make investments in self and thus consequently in the organization. And for every penny thus utilized, high performers may negotiate a larger share of the pie.


And in the same vein, there would be a growth of learning platforms that would make their business to offer emergent learning, followed by certifications and effectiveness. It would be up to these entities to reach out to various segments of learning managers, and design learning contracts in the networked world today.


And that leaves the L&D function to perhaps transform into a market research and a consulting division – offering choices, roadmaps, and diagnostics. Except that the new L&D function would be far ‘leaner’ with no operational costs of administering interventions or in executing training or in coordination with businesses, hectic negotiations to push a training timetable, and hours and days in determining learning effectiveness – tasks that burden the function to a large extent today.


Many years ago, employers started giving allowances to employees to make their own choices – on the cars that they would like to use, computers that they would like to invest in, houses that they would like to live in, and … perhaps the day is not far away – learning and coaching that they would like to invest in.