Is L&D too transactional? Reflections on Learning Technologies 2023

Entelechy playing cards and brochures on a table

In this final reflection on Learning Technologies, we explore the role of the Learning and Development professional within a business.

The article's title feels judgemental, doesn’t it? The idea of being “too” anything is seen as a critique. Add to this, we have used the word “transactional”, which suggests that L&D professionals might act more like procurement agents than leaders in learning.

It is fair to say that this question is not only a consequence of selling at Learning Technologies. It’s true that many people visited us with a set shopping list given to them by the business that fulfilled an existing need. Yet, the challenge was also born from a learning-leader round table conversation where there was frustration at an L&D leader’s ability to influence genuine business transformation.

What it looks like from a distance

Talking with many learning leaders over the past three years has given us a sense of the role that might not be accurate. Our question is likely unfair.

From our distant position, it feels like L&D is given a series of gaps and concerns that need to be addressed and are then tasked, like a drive-thru MacDonalds, to produce the appropriate menu of fast fixes.

It is possible that this is how it is meant to work. Entelechy comprises of a group of entrepreneurs who like to dynamically lead the way to the solution for the future. We choose not to work on a project-by-project basis; we constantly look at the overarching mission and how to drive a complete strategy forward. It is sometimes frustrating how we are not grounded in the present and dealing with the daily realities of delivering on business promises.

Yet, this also suggests that this visionary mindset doesn’t describe the learning and development leaders in the workplace. From what we have gleaned, this is far from true. However, we do find that these many visionaries and pioneers in L&D struggle to gain influence and visibility within large organisations. The last thing the people we have spoken to want is to dish up a diet of unfulfilling fayre that fills the belly but does nothing to nourish the organisation.

A challenge!

We at Entelechy are the sort of people who like to challenge and disrupt – and we like to encourage it in others. Call us troublemakers, though we prefer mavericks. We feel it is time to move away from the piecemeal design of learning strategies that deliver on immediate concerns. While this is still important, we challenge learning leaders to knock on the door of the C-suite and demand to be heard.

Learning leaders must be at the forefront of business transformation in an era where the changing demands on the workforce are an existential threat to business performance. Learning leaders must fulfil their responsibility to look into the future to create a sustainable solution for people's development in an ever-changing world. They then must assert the need to be at the core of this initiative across the whole business – driving the direction and not merely responding to it.

Are we deluded or just wrong?

Our reflection on Learning Technologies is challenging. You might think we are deluded to believe that learning leaders could have this sort of influence, and you might think we are just plain wrong about the transactional nature of L&D today.

Alternatively, you might feel there is a grain of truth here, and the challenge of transforming a business excites you.

What is your next action to help you embody your potential as a learning leader?

Contact us with your thoughts; we want to listen, learn, and evolve our view of the sector. Challenge us back; we love it when people do—email [email protected].