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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One simple question ..... is this an L&D problem or a management problem?
It's a bit of both, but more one than the other, which one is the greater part of the problem will depend on the organisation concerned. I'm minded to always lay the challenge at the feet of management, since middle management in particular are usually the greatest internal barrier to organisational success - and L&D exists solely to help individuals and organisations succeed (or at least that's my hope).

In my experience, where L&D is subordinate to HR it rarely thrives, in fact quite the reverse. HR is a schizophrenic function, with two strongly developed characters, one transactional/operational in nature, the other strategic (or at least it likes to think it is). I don't see much evidence of these two characters working in unison. Usually one of these characters is stronger, and neither is a particularly doting sibling to L&D.

Good point Paul, well put.  For L&D to function effectively, communication between the two (L&D and HR) has to be open and frequent.  It can be patchy, even when this has been openly discussed - that's certainly true in our environment.

Thanks to everyone for their comments so far.  To summarise:

  • L&D works across the whole organisation; it is not just focused on one specific area (although there may well be people who specialise)
  • L&D is part of the DNA of an organisation
  • L&D can constitute many things however it's about the development of the people to ensure the organisation reaches its goals (this could mean that learning for just learning's sake won't be supported by some organisations)
  • L&D is not about getting people into the organisation or making sure they abide by the rules - that's HR's role
  • L&D and HR are not naturally comfortable bedfellows
  • Despite all we talk about L&D there isn't a commonly held or understood position of what this is

Thanks again for all your comments and I'll add additional summaries as the conversation grows.



Great discussion and topic Jonathan,


L&D for me is a separate entity to HR, as many have said.  HR has delusions of grandeur but should actually be concerned with the operational and transactional roles.


However, L&D also needs to be embedded.  It needs to be up there in the heights of strategy making, but also down in the detail of everyday life.  If it's not being lived by it's practitioners, it's not that valuable (think top down learning programs).

So I think that it needs to be alongside the organisation.  If you think of an org chart, it should be one solid block, from top to bottom on the left hand side (or right hand side if you prefer).  It should touch every level, operate at every place and influence all.  It should be the energiser of the company, the place that freely gives ideas and helps motivate the staff.


Looking at it this way, it doesn't matter what reports where.  What matters is that a deep passion to help people be better is permeated right throughout the organisation.  From the board, to the cleaners.

Andy, I think it's a bit harsh to say that HR has delusions of grandeur. I've yet to meet the HR practitioner who can raise their eyes above the horizon of operational resource management to aspire to anything remotely 'grand' in aspiration, delusional or not.

In the knowledge economy, learning has to part of the culture and DNA of an organisation from top to bottom. For me, the ability to change behaviour and apply learning and knowledge is the ultimate organisational competence and the only sustainable competitive advantage - a Darwinian truism perhaps?



Hi Andy,


As always, some great points.  I particularly like the concept of working "alongside the organisation" and "touching every level."  But above everything else it's the passion you mention that I feel is the key driver to real success.


As the German poet Hebbel said, "Nothing great in the world has ever been achieved without passion."



The outcomes Learning and Development Department (L&D) deliver depends on the size of the organisation and the aspirations of the Senior Leadership Team. The bigger organisations would require the highest level of knowledge, skills and behaviour in order to ensure that strategic objectives are achieved. The smaller firms would have levels of this dependent on their views of the market place and their position within it. Wherever they are on the scale this is delivered through the HR Division where the L&D takes control. L&D are there to facilitate the learning of each individual in achieving their maximum potential through offering great learning and development interventions. L&D are the cement holding the shared Learning responsibility between the individual, their line manager, the business and HR.

L&D must provide a range of different learning and development options in order to suit different learning styles. L&D help staff navigate, connect and find what best suits them. L&D should build and deliver courses (like elearning, conferences and F2F) at all levels of the development trail.  In bigger organisations the ecomonies of scale would mean using in-house delivery tools and staff rather than consultants and outsiders.

L&D Departments are different but you would expect them to manage some kind of Training and Competence Scheme - to enhance the capability as a learning organisation and to provide evidence to senior management, staff and third parties of front line staff - providing clear paths to attaining and maintaining competence to support procedures and performance management processes.

L&D should own the outcomes of the T&C scheme (like Technical Competencies relevant to each Department and role - so staff can determine what needs to be done to reach a specific standard; gaps in knowledge and skills can be identified and managed accordingly; and the continuing competence and capability of the staff being evidenced to Managers and third parties). The bottom line for L&D is to support tenure, career development planning, succession plans and staff movement, supporting at every stage the business' approach to Talent Management.

L&D should centralise the talent management functions of staff, managers and executives, getting economies of scale. It should make development interventions on behalf of the business (depending on where people are in their career, their current skills and the calls of the senior leadership team). In practice that means a lot of touch points and talent conversations with people managers, toolkits for supporting their staff, creating an Learning and Development plan for everyone, career planning, talent conversations (prepared, expect, feedback) and Talent Forums and opportunities to feedback into the centre wherever possible.

HI Malcolm,


You mention some really good issues.  How would you suggest that other people position themselves such that they can drive L&D in the ways you mention?


Would be really great to hear your views.



Excellent thread - and you know my feelings about the subject as do many of my peers and colleagues.  HR and L&D are two entirely separate disciplines and should be treated as such.  So often L&D is a subordinate of HR or in some cases HR business partners have L&D tagged onto the job descriptions.   

Practitioners need to be close to the business, they need to work with the business, they need to have a strategy that aligns itself to the business and works in partnership to develop talent and to enhance learning.  Its all about developing and supporting capability, and as Alan said, it’s all about working smarter and more effectively in a very cost conscious world.

So, yes it’s time L&D stood up and came out from under the umbrella of HR. ‘We Are L&D Professionals Hear Us ROAR!’ – soapbox moment over.

Hi Denise,


I totally agree with the roar, but we have to have something to roar about.  I'm becoming more concerned that the situation exists where people think that organisations owe them a job; and they just don't!


Regardless of what L&D ACTUALLY is, we need to earn the respect and time and ear of senior managers.  We can't just expect that because we are L&D we somehow 'deserve' something.  We have to work hard for it and also demonstrate REAL benefit to the organisation.  As the old proverb says, "Actions speak louder than words."


 . . . . and I'm staying on my soapbox ;-)





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