Your Olympic Training Dream Team: 5 Emerging Roles for L&D Pros

shutterstockThe 2018 Winter Games are underway! Today, Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium welcomed athletes from across the globe in its opening ceremony, all proudly waving their nation’s flag and decked out in their official team uniforms. Years of preparation, focus, and hard work have earned these individuals a chance to compete in South Korea, and their efforts are an inspiration to us all. These athletes and the Games themselves are also a fantastic reminder of the vital role of training in becoming an expert at anything, whether on the ski slopes, the ice rink, or the corporate L&D team.

While you may not receive a gold medal for your contributions this year, you can win the minds and the respect of your peers, learners, and leadership team. Yes, there are challenges, but like any athlete in training you can overcome them by adapting, becoming more agile, more flexible, and stronger in how you perform.

It goes without saying that the world of corporate learning is rapidly changing and has undergone significant upheaval in the past several years. But, you can rise above the storm and transcend the transformations in technology, culture, and the workplace in general by evolving how you view your role and those of your L&D peers.

Today, to build an Olympic-quality L&D dream team, you’ll need to consider some new and emerging roles and who in your department might best take them on. Keep in mind that it’s not one-and-done; you may need to play multiple parts. Even if you have to play all of the following roles to some extent or another, you’ll be growing, improving, and shifting your approach to meet the new needs of the modern learning workplace.

Five emerging roles for the progressive L&D pro:

  • Connected community cultivator. Humans are social creatures. We’re wired to thrive in communities and learning is no exception to this universal truth. Today’s L&D professionals are in a position to spearhead opportunities to build learning communities. Whether leveraging the LMS or other technology forum, you can encourage ongoing learning among employees, customers, partners, and any other groups who would benefit from an interactive training/coaching environment. Communities also support the “pull not push” trend, where learners can proactively seek new information, whether formal or informal, and continue to expand their understanding of their job, their coworkers, and the organization. I’ve also seen the term “learning concierge” pop up in recent articles, which seems an apt metaphor for framing aspects of this new role.
  • Content curation guru. L&D pros can officially stop reinventing the wheel now. If the content exists and is high quality and engaging, why create it yourself? As we’ve advised repeatedly, take advantage of the excellent content libraries available (such as Litmos Heroes) to save yourself a ton of time and effort. Beyond that, hone your skills at validating existing learning materials, making sure they’re still relevant, and communicating their existence to those who need to know. For more info, see “Seven Ways to Get Your Content Curation Groove On,” “Five Ways Your Content Creation Can Win the Day,” and “The Push toward Content Curation.”
  • Strategic business whiz. As more and more companies strive to connect learning with performance outcomes, you really need to sharpen your analytical skills and become more adept at working toward strategic business goals. Plus, the more you link your work to business metrics, the more you can prove value to the organization. Many L&D pros have shied away from this role in the past because we didn’t have the tools or technology to track outcomes as well as we can today. Now, it’s incumbent on us to understand the needs of the business and interact with key stakeholders.
  • Someone with a sales hat. Most learning professionals cringe at the idea of having to “sell” their programs, but there’s just no way around it in today’s business culture. If you want anything from more budget to more visibility to more successful learning outcomes, you’ll need to sell the value upstream. It’s critical to have the support of the C-suite to underscore the importance of training throughout the organization. If you can earn top-down backing, you’ll actually change the culture (if you’re not there yet) to a “culture of learning,” where L&D is seen as a vital, strategic function that drives employees and the business forward.
  • The invisible man. According to Deloitte, “Invisible is the term we use to describe L&D’s role in reuniting work and learning. Moving away from content creation, facilitation, and delivery, forward-thinking organizations (with the help of like-minded learning technology providers and vendors) are focusing instead on enabling learning or performance improvement wherever and whenever it occurs in the organization.” While this may seem contradictory to being the “learning concierge,” it’s worth adding to the list because in the “pull-not-push” world, L&D pros no longer need to be the dreaded enforcers of boring training who cause people to dive under their desks upon approach. Essentially, you can slip into the background as people self-serve as needed. Just remember NOT to remain invisible when you play the other four roles above; make yourself very visible for those!