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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Agreed.  As a cost centre, we need to demonstrate value in every interaction (and I don't meant RoI).  We are always as good as our last interaction to the comercial business.


In my previous and current role, I'm an L&D specialist directly in a key business unit - not part of the central HR team or L&D provision. As I'm part of the business that gives me some immediate credibility with line managers and staff (I'm one of them). It also helps with the commercial focus, demonstrating value aspect.

At the LSG  conference last week, Prof. Chris Bones was championing L&D as OD enabler and driver for business strategy, not just some kind of add on to fill the "developing staff" box in the balanced scorecard.

Hi Tony,


It's interesting to note that as an "embedded" L&D professional you feel you immediately have more credibility.  Perhaps placing L&D professionals directly into the Line of Business is where the real value lies?


I'd be interested to hear what you any others have to say about this.



Our L&D Mangers are embedded in each commercial business unit, attend and contribute to their key business meetings, giving them credibility based on business insight as well as their skill-set, but remain reporting into the L&D department, a part of HRD.  They therefore work across a number of virtual teams, and build strong relationships based on demonstrated value and insight, yet retain a strategic overview of the whole organisation through thier seat at the HRD table.  At least that's the plan,


As I've been working on specialist and discipline specific L&D, being a direct part of that discipline team makes a positive difference. If I was providing the valuable but more generic L&D on leadership/management, it probably wouldn't.


It's not about where you sit in the organisation, its how can you demonstrate you're tuned in and responsive to what the business units want (mostly tactical) and actually need (more strategic). Sitting right in amongst my "end users" I pick up on the buzz, the flow, the issues and the good stuff almost by osmosis.


Downside is it is easy to "go native" and lose a wider perspective and I'm the odd one out in what I do, my background, etc. from the team I'm in. So I do have to work on making that "good odd" not "bad/scary odd" and not being isolated from either my team or the central HR/L&D folk.

HR have the seat at the Company Board table. They know where the business needs to go; pay and rations dealt with they also have to identify the gaps in skills and personnel that exist. If HR just went and recruited from Oxbridge they will probably get well educated dummies who still need to be integrated and set on their way to make the Company its millions and them their fortune. The two can never be separated. We may argue who has the most control, and that's usually HR, but HR fails the board if it hasn't got L&D as a partner. HR needs to know how to separate its apples and pears. L&D gives HR the direction and identifies the gaps in current and future staff. If L&D stands back and has no say at the party then HR risks buying into the wrong skill sets and then L&D can refuse to pick up the pieces. It is a collaboration, but HR needs L&D and L&D needs HR; the business needs both to collaborate effectively. It is the nature of things that the division with access to the Boardroom leads the assault, HR, and so L&D comes under their umbrella. It is down to the effectiveness of that collaboration and the results it achieves which makes L&D deserving of its equal footing.

Hi Malcolm,


You make some great points in your post.  Given what you've said, what specific areas do you think that L&D should focus on within the business i.e. what should be the remit of HR, and what should be the remit of L&D?


Looking forward to hearing your views.



Hello Jonathan,

Specifics are not always easy in this crazy mixed up recessive world of business we find ourselves. However, the remit of L&D is to mould the corporate citizen from the raw material it is given (e.g. a new accountant wont know about widgets sales and do they know about Diversity?). Plonking an accountant in a room doesn't mean they can do the job, so L&D must tailor resources to get the most from that individual and integrate them. L&D provides the gap analysis - on core skills; the cultural training; the development path; the cpd. It also sets the tone for them to influence the future - role building; new ways of working; supporting their initiatives; spotting future gaps. It also stands in judgement with the cheque book, looking at the return on the budget and how to leverage costs. HR in small organisations struggle to attract staff based on the salary differentials and employee propositions, so that might be as far as they go. Larger organisations need HR to be the barometer of "good taste" - the legal responsibilities of directives, law, and corporate responsibilities, the high bar on integration and respect; developing great employee relations, laying on layers of better working practices - like home working, family friendly initiatives and benefits. It uses its judgement and cheque book too. The difference is that it lumps people into large groups when doing the cost benefit analysis (i.e. private health insurance) while L&D has its central pillars and capitals (the departments and their staff knowing the basic rules and governance) and then puts the architrave, frieze and cornice between them - based on what each person or group needs or will hold (the training and knowledge and the corporate responsibility).   In my opinion, although HR is the more influential, for the reasons I have stated before, it is for HR and L&D to be seen as one by the business and inexorably tied and bound, because if they are not both will be left trying to make a silk purse from the proverbial sow's ear.

As an HR professional it is so frustrating to see even here a sense of competition and not collaboration. HR and L&D should be working for the same outcome - a competent, confident and capable workforce which can meet the organisation's needs. We may approach it from different directions but the key in my experience is to talk regularly and to use the skills of both elements to produce that outcome.

And I think it's almost impossible to define the boundaries clearly, and going down that track can be very unproductive and distracting.

Hi Joanne,


As the person who set this whole discussion in motion I thought I'd reply to you ASAP. 


I totally agree that everyone (sales, Ops, HR, L&D, Finance etc.) should all be working together for the benefit of the organisation.  This would be true organisational alignment and by its nature would make sure that the right skills were applied at the right time and in the right way in every circumstance.


Sadly however this is not a recognisable world for many (I'm sure if this is wrong then others will pitch in) and for many (as per the comments so far) organisational life is often about turf wars and who does what and who has the upper hand.  Is this an ultimately destructive path as you pointed out - yes it is, however for a number of people there is a clear difference between HR and L&D and it's a difference that many wish to maintain.  In so many companies it is HR that holds the senior positions and therefore they dictate the tune which suits them best.


Should greater collaboration be an everyday occurrence - oh yes, but sadly this is not the case.  There is therefore an urgent need to rebalance the whole HR/L&D function into one that supports operational excellence rather than today's fads.


From a very personal point of view I feel the CIPD (as the supposedly professional body for us all) has let down so many L&D professionals that this merely highlights and extends many of the divides.  But that's a whole other debate!


Given the old maxim "United we stand, divided we fall" how do others think that HR and L&D can foster greater cooperation both now and in the future.



how do others think that HR and L&D can foster greater cooperation both now and in the future?:


Shared and agreed outcomes, regular updates, conversations and project tracking meetings.  Joanne's frustration is completely understandable - and this is can often be the case on both sides of the HRD function - if indeed it is an HRD function and not simply an HR function (there being so many permutations of how HR/L&D is deployed).  This is why I feel (stated earlier in this thread) that it's helpful for L&D to be within HR(D), and yet have it's consulting practitioners embedded within the key (those that drive the growth) business units - so those shared and agreed organisational goals are front of mind

Joanne makes a good point; but I believe that we need to separate the theory and the practice here. In my view the core issue is that, when "HR"  becomes focused on the need to minimise the enterprise's exposure to both the Contract of Employment Act and other legal issues around service contracts, redundancies and risk avoidance then the synergy between "HR" and "L&D" can become severely dissipated.

We are in a period in which the economy is weak; and the competing needs of HR's focus on right-sizing and L&D's focus on building capability can almost be seen as mutually exclusive. It takes a visionary "HRD Leader" to be able to synergise these two propositions, to ensure that an effective "work smarter" ethic emerges within a leaner and meaner organisation. 



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