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Teresa Ewington

The Writer

Head of Training

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It’s time L&D took its own medicine


L&D people need to learn the skills they help other people learn, says Teresa Ewington.

So a recent survey said that 2014 was the year L&D wanted to work on their own skills and innovate more. There were lots of other conclusions, but these two stood out to me. L&D people create tons of learning opportunities for their customers. But how many of those opportunities do they take for themselves? And who do they get them from? There are three things I think we could all be doing this year to really make a difference to our businesses (and our own careers).

Don’t learn more L&D stuff, learn something else

Stick ROI, design or mobile learning into your search engine and you’ll be thrown a stack of options to pick through. Truth is, these are the bread and butter of what we do, not the filling. Let’s face it: information on L&D isn’t hard to find. You know the L&D theory and how to translate that into something real and usable. And so do your colleagues. You’ve got the L&D bit covered.

The filling needs to be something completely different from what we see and use every day. Something that’ll bring new skills, not just more knowledge. Think of a filling that’s less cheese and tomato and more bang bang chicken.

I’m talking about things like influencing, negotiating, marketing, selling and even peacekeeping. Nothing that lists training professionals among the target audience. I think the skills that help us do what we do aren’t found in courses with L&D titles – they’re hardcore business and people skills. From the kind of courses we’ve probably built for other people but rarely go on ourselves.

We can’t train ourselves

Mostly because we get the game. And we’re too nice to each other. And we’re not great at putting ourselves first. We need testing and challenging by a supplier who doesn’t care what our job title says. Someone who isn’t caught up in the company politics. Look for partners who, like you, have become specialists in their field. You’ll love their passion and want to learn from their experience.

Come to Switzerland

I remember a chat last year with some L&D folk at the Learning Technologies conference. We were talking about having to be bilingual. There’s our strange L&D speak, full of ‘skills vacuums’, ‘talent strategies’, ‘learning objectives’ and so on. And then there’s the vastness of corporate jargon. Our job has become working with both these languages at the same time. But what if we didn’t do that anymore in the places these words meet?

So instead of holding onto our L&D language, or using baffling business-speak that people pretend to understand, let’s get onto neutral ground. The place where everyone knows what we’re talking about. Imagine we didn’t talk about 'presentation skills', but 'presenting your way'? 'Getting your message across', not 'communication skills'? You read it once and you understand what it’s about. How cool would that be?

Let’s play this one out. If you’re at your desk, go ahead and pull up your internal course catalogue. What have you called your courses? Imagine they were choices on a board; do they sound appetising? When I tried this three years ago, I swapped the title ‘time management’ for ‘getting the job done’. The course was oversubscribed for the whole year inside two weeks. That’s because what they needed to get out of the course was in the title. The words related more to their challenges. Simple, but brilliantly effective.

So, don’t make your sandwiches sound like they come from a chain store. You’ve worked for more than that. Before you know it people will comment on how much nicer everything seems to taste around here. Then you can bring in those influencing skills you just topped up, and you’re away again.

Teresa Ewington is head of training at The Writer, the world’s largest language consultancy, and a former Learning & Development Manager in utilities and policing.

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Teresa Ewington

Head of Training

Read more from Teresa Ewington

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