Learning Professionals: Your Opportunities Are Everywhere

As a workplace learning professional, your role spans many business areas, and that presents more opportunities for important interactions than any other role in your organization.

By Jason L. James, Jr.

Workplace learning professionals constantly are making something out of nothing so, of course, your opportunities are everywhere. Workplace learning professionals are perhaps the most masterful opportunity creators—especially when it comes to learning and development. There’s the obvious classroom learning, e-learning, and WebEx delivery of training. But what else is there besides the obvious training delivery methods? There are countless opportunities to practice informal learning, sell and market the training opportunities at your organization, and help people to understand the peripheral pieces to training delivery.

A couple of quick scenarios come to mind:

1. It is 12:30 p.m. on a cool Thursday afternoon. I just finished delivering an awesome class about effective listening to a group of managers. On my way to grab a bite, I spot two managers I know who could have benefited from the learning session. While on line to order our usual salads, we exchange pleasantries, but it doesn’t have to end there. I say, “Joe and Mary, I just delivered this great class about effective listening to some of your peers, and I think there’s some content that will be beneficial to you. I’m not sure if you knew the course was going on, but I’m delivering it again next Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. If your schedule is open that day, let me know, and I’ll get you in the class. If not, there’s an e-learning module that covers many of the same concepts that you can take anytime.”

Now let’s pause.

There are a couple of things to note here: I did shameless plug my class, and that’s OK because where there’s no audience, there’s no class. I also offered my managers the ability to attend the live delivery and alternate e-learning module. The latter is the big-ticket item because perhaps they didn’t attend the previous session or register for the upcoming session because they simply didn’t know about it. Sound familiar? Believe it or not, everyone—even good-intentioned employees—doesn’t always read your announcements for upcoming training opportunities. This is a solid reminder to not assume people just know about it and a reminder that having a conversation can help build relationships and subsequently fill up your classes.

Let’s hit the play button.

Joe says, “Jason, I’m sure you sent a note out about the training. I’m always talking to my team about continuously learning, and I need to take that same advice. Can you sign me up for next Thursday?”

Mary says, “I can’t make next week’s sessions, but in the meantime, I’m going to complete the e-learning module. And please keep me in mind for your next live session.”

I reply, “Joe, I’ll take care of you when I get back to my desk, and, Mary, you know I’ll let you know about any upcoming trainings; I always do. You both enjoy your lunch, I need to eat in a hurry and prepare for my 2 to 4 p.m. credit and debit refresher session.”

The second part of that conversation would not have occurred had we just exchange hellos, ordered our salads, and went our separate ways. This is a good reminder that face-to-face communication can have great results.

2. I’m leaving a meeting in the conference room at 11 a.m. and heading back to my desk to complete some project work for the remainder of the day. I walk by a colleague’s office, she notices me, peeks her head out of her door, and flags me down. “Jason, I know development planning and goal setting begins in less than three weeks. I want to understand the available development resources and how I can use them to support the development of my staff. Can you help?”

I reply, “I have a few a minutes to show you some things now, Dannie. Let’s get to your computer so that we can get into the LMS (Learning Management System—not ‘Like My Status’).”

Let’s hit the pause button again.

I actually had time today to spend a few moments with Dannie. I was able to help her navigate the LMS to find many development opportunities she wasn’t aware of. We navigated to the professional development library and to the full array of e-learning courses. We talked briefly about the organizational strategic goals, how she can use those goals to devise departmental goals along with the other managers in her group, and how those can translate into individual employee goals. While we were doing this navigation and discussion, she also found some courses that grabbed her interest, and she registered for them on the spot. One of the courses she registered for was my upcoming time management course. It was a big win all the way around!

Let’s hit play one more time.

Dannie says, “I had no idea all of this was available, Jason. I’m going to make it a point to be more in touch with the Training department so I can keep a pulse on new offerings. Thanks so much for your help.”

I say, “Dannie, any time—it’s my pleasure. We do a great job at making sure we market and announce our trainings, but nothing beats a conversation like this. It looks like you’re all set to help your department and direct staff plan out your learning goals.”

Great results were generated from taking less than 30 minutes to help Dannie with her training needs. Dannie is poised to move forward with development planning, and I have a hunch she’ll tell someone else about the positive experience she had with a member of the Training department.

As workplace learning professionals, we have to realize that we are much more than talking heads. We’re even much more than learning delivery and design experts. We are the messengers of learning, sales and marketing personnel (in our own rights), the hype-men/hype-women of learning and development, and the beacon of light on that knowledge hill of hope.

A Couple of Tips:

  1. Update your status messages to reflect your upcoming training programs.
  2. Put a note about your upcoming training programs on your internal social networking site.
  3. Have on-purpose and intentional development conversations.
  4. Instead of “How are you today?” we could ask, “What have you recently learned about or what course did you most recently attend?”
  5. Remind key people who will pass the word along about your upcoming training programs.

While I can’t guarantee an immediate and automatic increase in training activity, I would bet the house that you know more people and more people know you simply because you’re a workplace learning professional. Your role spans many business areas, and that presents more opportunities for important interactions than any other role in your organization. Give it a chance; use your role as an opportunity to “get the word out.”

Jason L. James, Jr., is a vice president and senior training consultant with a global financial services company. He is a third-year doctorate student in a Doctorate of Education, Organizational Learning & Innovation program. He can be reached at mailto:Jason.L.JamesJr@gmail.com.

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