Do organisations really believe in Learning & Development?

I’ve been working in Learning & Development for quite a few years now and it has occurred to me during that time, that perhaps organisations could be a little better at really working to embed the learning they provide.

We all know that as an employee, I am responsible for my own learning journey. I am responsible for whatever I want to be curious about and whatever I want to learn. It is my responsibility to ensure that I sign up for whatever courses we have on offer in the curriculum (if indeed we are fortunate enough to work in organisations that have a curriculum!). I attend those courses – some of which I can nominate for myself, some I have to be nominated for and some that are compulsory (I’m looking at you FCA). I don’t usually have to learn anything from them, nor prove these new skills, but I can go along!

With the requirement of mandatory learning in industries such as Financial Services, learning can get a bad rap. All that required “learning” doesn’t allow for time to do some cool, fun, proper developmental stuff – that will actually progress our brains, give us better skills and not just learn how to keep the money laundering under control.

But it’s more than that for me. As employers, why isn’t it a responsibility to ensure your people are developed during their tenure? In any profession (accounting, law, medicine etc) we are expected to undergo CPD (Continued Professional Development) to stay relevant. Yet, we can join a company, work there for many years and not be expected to continue to develop our existing skills, let alone create new ones. There might be “courses” available to us we can choose to do. Diligent people leaders will have discussions with their teams about their own development, but organisationally – where is the expectation that they will invest in you, not just by paying you, but by developing you? Where is the duty of care to ensure that you leave a better version of yourself than when you joined? Obviously you will have the experience of working for a great brand or an industry specialist – but what other learning have you done? Around leadership or self-awareness or developing others or creating an agile environment or future trends for the business and your people…..the list goes on.

If organisations were really serious about ensuring they kept their top talent – not just attracted them, there would be some kind of agreement going in. Expectations would be set around personal and professional development over their time there. If I join an organisation as a permanent employee, wouldn’t it be great to have a conversation focused initially around my development? (I’m a career interim and coach – we don’t count when talking about development…..is that another blog post??)

I have been in plenty of interviews that ask how I keep myself current in certain industries, or around my skillset, but once we join – are companies really having these continued conversations with their talent? I imagine this would look like a bit of a coaching discovery call. You know, identify things like what their goals are; what they want to achieve whilst they are there, where do they want to be in a few years from now, what would success look like? What’s the journey they go on together with their employer to help them reach their goal? How does that benefit the organisation and the individual?

That’s a sizeable conversation and a sizeable investment in time and obviously money. But aren’t our people worth it? And how much more are they worth to you and your teams, when they are not only smarter and more highly skilled, but when they are engaged, content and focused on a shared outcome?

I think it’s time to reframe what we mean by Learning & Development and CERTAINLY time to reframe not just how we identify TALENT (a whole other post!), but how do we keep them in that learning mindset?

Let’s be honest, this is no longer a lifetime kind of commitment by organisations. According to Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis of Amazing If, we are far more likely to have a Squiggly Career than ever before. That is – one that doesn’t necessarily follow a linear path. Future generations are more likely to take roles that interest them and go where they are invested in. We are talking here about having a budget – sure, but in the main, we are talking about sitting down with our people, identifying the skills they have – (the same ones we interviewed them for and hired them for), building on their strengths and helping them out around their challenges.

That sounds like a pretty good investment to me.

Rich and Privileged

We have a sign on the chalkboard in our kitchen that reads “Rich and Privileged” – and it has nothing to do with money....and it has nothing to do with money.

Let me clear something up. We are neither rich, nor privileged in the biblical sense. There is no old money in my family (in fact there is NO money in my family!) and there is no peerage status awaiting either of us.

I was at Tesco on a gorgeous sunny day recently, when I was greeted by some wonderful customer service. One of the men who worked there helped me with my groceries and took me to an empty register.  He didn’t have to do that, but was just being generous. When I got to the counter, I said to the woman who was serving me, “you poor thing, inside here with a jacket on, whilst the sun is shining outside”. She said to me “Oh, I’m not poor darling, not by any standards, I’m rich in SO many things!” She was Jamaican as I found out later, so you can imagine that statement just sounded so much more gorgeous with that beautiful accent!

I agreed with her and told her that there was a sign in my kitchen which has been in our house as long as we have, almost 4 years. This past year hasn’t been our best, certainly not financially and certainly as I haven’t worked for 3 months or more this year. Some of my friends have given me sympathy and are supportive and wonderfully empathetic. Of course it’s tougher living on one wage than it is on two, but good heavens, there are a few million people in the world worse off than me!

Every day of this wonderful life, I am grateful for everything I have. One of my favourite sayings is that I have two legs and I’m breathing, and that’s a jump on some. Every day that my feet hit the ground – well you know what they say – Any day above ground is a good one. I’m fortunate that I have this mindset. It hasn’t always been with me and there are some days it is tested. But I have so many living examples close to me of people who are worse off than me, that I am grateful, just grateful. (Comparing myself to others isn’t the sole purpose for feeling this way, I do still justify and have my own feelings; can recognise and appreciate them for what they are – for all the psychologists reading this!)

Apart from waking up with all my body working, including the breath part – seriously what else could be wrong? I’ve used applied this mindset lately more than ever during the time I have been looking for work. Every day I get up and think it is an opportunity to re-invent myself. Not that I hate the me I already have, but if you can, why not?

Every day I think there are people out there in recruitment land who haven’t heard of me, so it’s my job to change that. It’s a numbers game. I want to get back into something I haven’t done in a while, so I know it is going to take some time. I also haven’t done much Change stuff in the UK (which by the way recruiters, doesn’t actually mean I can’t do it!) I also don’t have a linear CV – it doesn’t read like a straight HR pattern, one HR role into the next.

I’ve been selected for my career roles because of my attitude. I’ve also succeeded at them because of this attitude and that’s a hard thing to put on a CV. I have won jobs due to my attitude and kept them because of the skills I have learned and applied. My old favourite saying “recruit for attitude, train for skill” gets tested when people only look at the skills side of the equation. Something wrong with that standard recruiting model perhaps?

So, given that I already think I’m streets ahead before I get out of bed, the rest of the day can only go well right? To be able to use the internet, make phone calls; to be able to read and write and cook my own food without hunting it; these are things we take for granted every day. In my world, we have smart phones, laptop’s notebooks, tablets – every imaginable way to make contact with people. I live in a city of more than 12.5 million people. A lot of us are out of work. However, a lot of us are far worse off than me.

I’ve always given thanks, way before Oprah made it trendy. I’m still not sure who I’m giving thanks to – (but that’s another post). I just believe we can be thankful for all the things we take for granted.  I won’t go into the people who inspire me every day, they know who they are. And there are millions of people I don’t know who inspire me every day. They aren’t the usual heroes of everyone else.

Even though I am a massive sports addict and I am convinced there is an athlete buried under here somewhere, sports people aren’t the ones who drive me. I’m not saying they aren’t inspiring, but I do get my inspiration from people who just have a great handle on the balance in their lives.

I get my inspiration from people who do jobs they hate, because there is a greater good; from people who have problems in their relationships and fight to keep going; from people who have made massive life decisions and have had massive life decisions thrust upon them. I get motivation from people who are the antithesis to all these things. If we can’t see the truth and beauty in other people, learn from them and adapt those lessons to ourselves, what on earth are we doing here?

Please don’t think I am a Pollyanna, I don’t “DO” this to win points or to write great blog posts! I am optimistic and I am positive – and yes, those two things are different. I believe we can always be more, and I believe we can learn all of these things. One of the remarkable books I have read in my life is Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. To say it changed my life is an understatement.

We are 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. It’s a choice. We choose our reactions, our mental state (mostly), our surroundings. If we don’t like it and it starts to go a bit off course, then we have the power to change it.

A recently appointed mentor of mine (although he may not yet know that!), recited a story to me about going to a circus as a young child. He watched the clown practice and practice and practice juggling. He got it right most of the time, and when he didn’t, nothing happened. No attitude, no despair, no reprimanding himself because he had got it wrong. He just kept going. What a gift, to have obstacles put in your way that will make you fail – and go on regardless.

In my rich and privileged life, I am taking the lessons from the clown and applying them, one day at a time.