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Emma Christophers


Culture Coordinator

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Brand new start


Good morning,

Ive been part time with a company for six months helping administer a culture engagement survey, and have had positive feedback in my time here. In my time here we've had a increase in engagement from 35% to 75% (which I know is partly because I'm a new flavour!) and a increase in participation rates to 91% (which I am more pleased by).

During this time I've made the suggestion that a Learning and Development department should be on their radar, as we've also grown quite rapidly through an aquistion from 60 staff to almost 350 over the period of a month, with more growth on the horizon.

So now I've been asked to build a L&D dept, and have created a position description to enable that. This hasn't been approved yet and I think I made the error of talking 'too fluffy', too high level and too ambitious, instead of bringing my language to a common level. Not everyone is as passionate about people development as we are!

So my questions here are:

- How would you convince a CEO/Exec board that L&D are critical, especially in a time of extreme change like this? (Or correct me if you think perhaps they're not!)

- If you had to build a L&D dept from scratch, what would be the first three things you would do?

I look forward to some answers!



3 Responses

  1. Start with the end in mind…

    Hi Emma.

    I would consider firstly making sure your own knowledge and skills around building an L&D function are up to date, in terms of capability in building an L&D strategy to go with the department.

    Interview the CEO, exec team to establish what they want from an L&D team, what are their expectations; what do they want to measure and have you report on etc? Same goes for key stakeholders; having first identified them! Identify who can support you, who will be an ambassador and advocate?

    Make sure you know what are the top line critical objectives for the business; how does L&D link in to those; what are the pressure/pain points for the business? To what extent are the senior team bought into L&D and how will they support anything you plan to do, particularly in accepting responsibility for learning transfer.

    You might consider an org-wide TNA to find out what the business thinks they need.

    I'm sure there's lots more you could do too.

    Hope this helps.



  2. What is the ‘Brand’?

    Hi Emma


    My opinion is that such a 'clean-slate' in the design of the L&D department offers the awesome opportunity to establish some key principles from which the department, performance and the eventual organisational culture can grow. Where does the desire lie?


    Are your board and key stakeholders fully bought in? Do they understand the commercial benefit of a structured and well resourced L&D Department? Do you? What is the appetite REALLY like? 


    As Adrian has mentioned, a TNA will be very helpful and will help with engaging the employees around the future of L&D. To help you and your approach with gaining commitment, then nothing can be more helpful than to speak the language and objectives of the business. To thread L&D through the DNA of what the business is aspiring to achieve, to partner with the board to help them identify with the 'future skills and knowledge' and to identify cost effective strategies, innovative solutions and provide ease of access for the workforce will be crucial. 


    To really gain traction, identify what the business wants to change or what it is that they like happen more than what it currently is now. I have a very useful model for such a conversation and this helps with challenging the businesses I work with to be very clear about what it is they're trying to do (and assign a measure to it to ensure maximum return). Not only does this help with establishing credibility and keeping things completely transparent, it will help to demonstrate the commercial value of L&D – supporting future conversations and potential investment,


    Like any new venture as you have here Emma, relationships and advocates are absolutely key – work hard on gaining your sponsors' support (and create some internal fans and allies along the way).

    Good luck!



  3. Agree with previous posters and to add to it….

    Hi emmajean,  I agree with what the previous posters have said particularly around understanding what the Business needs to achieve and linking your offering to that. This includes using the language of the business and not L & D speak.

    To add to that; I would probably de-L&D the job roles and not call them things like trainers or something similar.  I would call them something like performance consultants (just an idea) or something that is meaningful to the business that links into what they want to achieve.

    Along with this, I would make one of the essential activities of the role (and associated skills), the ability to network and build strong working relationships.  The need would be that whoever is in this role spends a good chunk of time socialsing and influencing with key stakeholders. I would add in the ability to work with new and emerging technologies to meet needs in an agile and mobile world so that your offering is available on demand.

    In terms of influencing a CEO if you can show that you are responsive and ready for the digital age; you should be able to show that you are thinking about how to deliver content in the most cost effective ways possible. It's often about the bottom line.

    Hope that helps.


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Emma Christophers

Culture Coordinator

Read more from Emma Christophers

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