I’d really appreciate some help from the LSG Members on this question . . . .


Often you hear and see the terms L&D, L&D professional, Learning and Development etc.  What I’d really like to know is what actually constitutes L&D?  Is a performance appraisal system part of L&D, is talent management part of L&D, what about leadership development?  Where does HR stop and L&D start (or vice versa)?


I’d appreciate hearing from as many members as possible on what you (or your organisation) think L&D actually is.


Thanks in advance.



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Organisational fit is a challenge I have experienced throughout my career in L&D. The conclusion I have reached is that whilst L&D has a role to play across the enterprise, it does not sit comfortably anywhere in conventional organisational structures.

The diverse nature of L&D and it's lack of clear organisational fit is exemplified by the situation I see within my own employer.

IBM has an IT training business, perhaps unsurprisingly entitled 'IBM Training' which straddles the IBM hardware and software brands, it has a consulting practice, that is involved in the full spectrum of human performance consulting activities across all industries and sectors, it has an HR Learning function that supports professional and career development for all job roles/career grades across the enterprise and has even commercialised some of the internal program (Leading@IBM being an example), then there's a managed services business that specialises in HR L&D outsourcing (LMS, learner management, technology/infrastructure), the consulting practice also have their own inward facing quasi HR L&D team that develops and deploys functional learning for the consulting community, then there's the content development team for which I work. 

So for me L&D is weaved throughout the organisations DNA, and is indivisible from the whole, it is not a limb, organ or other discrete part of the whole.

Paul, thanks for this post.  I love the phrase "L&D is weaved throughout the organisations DNA and is indivisble from the whole"  Yes, yes, yes.  Brilliantly put. 



L&D is always a difficult fit as it has to cover all areas of the business. Development of staff is as varied as the tasks they do and the specialisms that they cover.


I believe that we are an integral part of HR as we usually deal with everything from induction onwards and look after the learning needs and development of all staff along the way. Part of this development will be affected by appraisals and how emplyees perform against objectives they have been set. Performance should be part of what we help to improve and often link directly to HR when performance is not as desired.


Along the way we can add to organisation and process changes, helping improve them as well as ensuring that employees are aware of them and what changes they cause.


There is not a definitive answer to what L&D actually is - I would suggest that it is what it needs to be for your organisation and as long as employees are developed and appropriate learning is available that you are them meeting the remit!

To my mind L&D is about developing capability across the organisation - at the function, department, and individual level. It's mission is to enable people to "work smarter" and therefore the key metric to which that applies is workforce planning - a key element within Talent Management. So that means analytics, performance management, and talent management are firmly within L&D's bailiwick.


That leaves resourcing as the fundamental mission of HR (i.e. recruitment, and minimising the impact of the Contract of Employment Act on the enterprise).


In a heavily "silo'ed" organisation, HR and L&D need to be together to manage the consequent politics and domain issues. As cross function collaboration develops, the performance culture evolves, and the wirearchy becomes effective, L&D matures to the extent that it can stand alone.


Fascinating debate - very interesting to see how it evolves!

Hi Alan,


I'd totally agree that Talent Management should be within the L&D remit but I more often than not hear that it's part of HR.  I'd also include coaching which should be within L&D but often sadly isn't.



I believe this comes down to one's perception of Talent Management - is it just for high fliers or across the board? I do believe Josh Bersin's TM model is sound and if an organisation accepts that model it is inconceivable that it should not be part of L&D.


Interestingly, if one accepts this broader definition of L&D, then organisational development also fits there!


As for coaching ...... if the L&D operation accepts responsibility for areas such as integrating learning and work, informal learning, creating a pull environment, user generated content, and collaboration doesn't mentoring and coaching automatically fall out from that?

Hi Alan,

I agree with what you are saying. What I see across some organisations is that if the interaction is directly with people e.g. Coaching then it's considered the domain of HR, whereas if the interaction is through 'something else' e.g. Courses then it's the domain of L&D.

For some organisations the confusion comes when say mentoring is part of a course e.g. Induction as this is a direct interaction with a person in the context of a course!

Perhaps organisations such as IITT can lead the way in providing some clarity and direction on a longer term basis?


Hi Jonathon. 

Lots of good points made already.  For me L&D is, or should encompass, anything (systems, processes, interventions, reward etc) that impacts people and teams in order to help them achieve business and customer goals.  This means L&D permeates all aspects of the business as any business is a system.  The reality is that the reach of any L&D function is limited by the resourcing, culture and perhaps ambition of an organisation. 

As to where HR and L&D boundaries are - this is a classic venn diagram, with a significant amount of overlap .  If both teams are under one enlightened leader, all the aspects you mention are in scope for the multidisciplinary HRD team as, as Alan just said, as the business and function evolves.

One possible source of inspiration to identify the overlap and areas of specialism in that notional venn diagram is the ASTD workplace learning & performance competency model: http://twurl.nl/7qbp0n


The ASTD model is comprehensive, if not complete, in particular I miss anything on learning technology, research and innovation, I also believe that the ASTD specialism of 'Delivering Training' is an outmoded and limiting term, and the Coaching Specialism should be Mentoring & Coaching, but notwithstanding those omissions, it's a good enough model for representing the diversity of L&D's role at all levels.


I note that no UK professional body has anything approaching this comprehensive and mature competency model, a gap in our profession that's been around far too long for no good reason.

Thanks Paul, I hadn't seen this.  Josh Bersin has a useful model he's put up at conference before too.  I believe it's on the slide decks available on this site.

Hi Paul,


As your post suggests It's a shame that despite the number of people involved in L&D there remains no "unified model" of what it is and what it should do.



Hi Simon,

Your comment about the "ambition of an organisation" is spot on. The effectiveness of L&D is so often driven by key individuals who 'open eyes' within an organisation and is a lesson to us all!




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