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Nigel Paine

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Who says you have a great L&D department?


Nigel Paine outlines four ways to rate your L&D department.

Unfortunately it is usually the head who tells me how brilliant his or her learning and development operation is. ‘Evidence, please?’ I ask in my curmudgeonly way. The best I get is a mumble about budgets being sustained, or customer satisfaction being high. The worst is a blank stare. If you can’t prove it, don’t expect anyone else to do that for you!
A great way to spend an hour in this dark and gloomy January -when most of us are confined to base- is to ask yourself just that question. How can I find out just how good my operation is? And with whom should I share the evidence and the conclusions?
And there are two ways to focus on this which are not mutually exclusive. The first is to bench mark: Rate yourself against others; the second is to try to quantify the business impact your operation makes. What would happen if you weren’t there? Particularly in money or market terms.
You don’t need a barrage of data to emerge from your hour of deliberation. And it is unlikely that you will develop a great plan. But you might just come up with a few new year’s resolutions. Here are some I prepared earlier:

1. Get close to some great L and D operations in other companies

Ask to share data. Set your sights high and go for the best. Rarely is one organisation the whole answer. You might need two or three. Work out a way to contact them. Use your network; use Business Schools or just find out who the key people are and email them. Make that a really important objective for 2010.

2. Secondly get out that piece of paper and start to doodle

List your organisation’s key performance indicators and business objectives and try to work out the potential contribution that L and D makes to their success. It might be very a functional contribution ‘without those core skills..’ or it might be more esoteric: that attitude, that perspective, that leadership competency. But write them all down. Once you get going you should be able to come up with loads. 

3. Take your list and prioritise the ones you can get some data on, or represent really critical contributions. 

Then estimate what percentage their success is down to you and your department. It may be 20%, it could be as high as 60%. Once you have a reasonable guess, try to work out how you will get a more accurate figure. A great task in January for the whole team is to put that into practice.

4. Once you have a pretty clear idea of just how good you are. 

Tell a few more people (like the Director of HR or the CEO) and tell everyone what your target for this year will be in terms of improving on the figures you have collected. ‘We reckon we are this good, but by the end of the year we will be this much better.’
What a great way to start the year: in tune with the business, with a demanding and value-added objective and a whole team grounded in reality. Good luck with all that.
Nigel Paine is a coach, mentor, writer, broadcaster and keynote speaker of international acclaim. He is currently working in Europe, Brazil,  the US and Australia on a variety of assignments, that hinge around making work more creative, innovative and aspirational and making workplaces more conversational, team-based and knowledge sharing. You can read his blog at or follow him on Twitter.

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