10 Things Nobody Tells You About Working in L&D
Before embarking on a career in L&D, you will most likely have had an idea of what you wanted to do in the profession.
Through talking with others and research, it’s possible to begin building up a picture of what it’s really like to work in L&D. However, there are some things that other L&D professionals won’t tell you…
Reflection and Evaluation are Key
It’s not enough to deliver the same training session repeatedly; you should always be working on improvements. In order to do so, you need to reflect and evaluate how the activities are being received.
By polling participants and monitoring whether they use the instructions you’ve given, you’ll understand what they’ve gotten out of the training process. If the results are less than spectacular, then it’s time to fact find and improve.
Perhaps the training was too long, the concepts too high level or not enough time was dedicated to a tricky subject. By evaluating the outcomes, you can improve these areas to improve the efficacy of the training.
Be Open When You Don’t Know the Answer
When you’re running a training session, you may feel an expectation for you to know the answer to all possible questions. While this is a stressful view to hold, it’s also nigh on impossible to achieve!
The real skill isn’t in knowing what will be asked, but rather in how to handle questions that you don’t know the answer to. The worst thing you can do is pretend to know the answer and talk your way around the question, potentially giving misleading information.
To be more effective you can acknowledge and take note of the question, before researching and coming back with the answer at a later date.
Alternatively, you can put the question out to the audience. If a group of employees is training with their manager and they ask a question you’re unsure of, you can pass it to the manager if appropriate to get their take. They may have a wider breadth of knowledge to draw upon or have a preference as to how the task is completed.
Mistakes are Part of the Role
You’ve practised your delivery in front of the mirror, you know exactly what you’re going to say, your polished PowerPoint is primed - but when you get in front of your audience you flub your words. Naturally, this feels like the end of the world.
But it’s not all bad; you can pick yourself up and pull off the rest of the training perfectly. It’s a well-known fact that we all make mistakes, and the same is true for L&D trainers. Don’t focus too much on the fact that you made a slip, as your audience will have forgotten this in a matter of moments.
You might answer a question incorrectly, make a mistake with a statistic or make a logistical error – but none of these are all that damning. Mistakes are part of every role and great L&D practitioners learn from them.
Some mistakes can be avoided in future, but others are simply part and parcel of being human. Think about a time a colleague messed up in a presentation; you were most likely forgiving and then settled back into the rest of the content. Extend this thinking to yourself and don’t let your day, week or month be defined by a simple mistake.
There’s More to L&D Than Active Training
Many people outside of L&D have a perception that their days will be filled in front of various audiences, training them in a variety of ways. However, you’ll have plenty of other tasks to take care of and, depending on the role, active training may be in the minority of how you spend your time.
There are many other tasks that an L&D professional can find themselves doing, including investigating skills gaps, evaluating methods of delivery, planning activities, and more.
While you may join the profession because the idea of training appeals to you, you can look forward to learning so much more than that. If an element of the role stands out as a favourite, then you can even specialise your role to emphasise this more.
You Have to Be Resilient
Whether you think your training and delivery was perfect or not, yours is often the least important opinion. Getting feedback from managers and colleagues can be tough, so you need to develop professional resilience.
In L&D, this can feel more personal than other career paths, as the feedback relates to your performance as well as the content.
At times, this can have a negative effect on your self-confidence as a presenter, as you begin to question your skill. However, it’s important to be able to bounce back from even harsh critique and tackle the issues highlighted.
As long as the feedback is constructive, you should be able to use this and work to improve.
Organisation is a Core Skill
There are a lot of balls to juggle when organising and assessing training activities. You have venues, schedules and materials to coordinate; each of which can change drastically at a moment’s notice.
While organisation plays a role in many jobs, this can make the difference between a successful training activity and a group of employees turning up for training with no space available. On top of these requirements you have the training activity itself, which should be presented in a logical manner.
Scattered approaches don’t work in L&D, so you need to be vigilant with organisation.
What happens when you plan and organise fully, but things still go wrong? This is where adaptability comes in, as you have to be ready to change your plans when the situation demands it.
You’ve booked a meeting room with a projector for your training, but as you kick off the training you realise that the projector is broken. The training is essential, and the time has been marked out in your colleague’s schedule for weeks. The only option for you is to go sans-PowerPoint to deliver the training, but you know the approach and have everything memorised.
In this case, your organisational skills were top notch which didn’t help with initial problem, but by rehearsing the training you were able to deliver without the aid of a slideshow. This is what separates a passable L&D professional from a fantastic one.
Experience isn’t Everything
Getting experience will naturally improve your delivery and training sessions, but this isn’t the only factor you should consider. L&D practitioners should have a firm base of knowledge that informs how they deliver training.
Understanding the psychology of learning is essential if you want to drive this training home. Studying a professional qualification can take your understanding to the next level, which allows you to deliver better sessions.
Through studying, you can become more effective in coaching, mentoring, using metrics, developing your professional practice and developing others. It’s tempting to think that you’re doing well without qualifications, but there’s always room for improvement.
Passion is Essential
Having a passion for developing others is essential to work in this process. It’s not all glamorous and exciting, so this passion is what will drive you in the dull times. When you’ve delivered the same new start training ten times, it’s passion that will make it exciting and encourage you to improve upon it.
This won’t just have an impact on you, it will also impact how you are seen by your audience. This can be the difference between starting a session with a yawn and a complaint, or kicking it off with an enthusiastic welcome. The latter is much more likely to inspire rapt attention!
While we all take on a stage persona while delivering training, you still want to let your authentic self shine through. This lets the people that you train and mentor get to know you, so they can put more credence in what you say.
The messaging that you deliver may not always fit in with your personal beliefs on how things should be done, but you should find a balance between forced overenthusiasm and sullen delivery.
This is a mark of your professionalism and your colleagues will look for consistency in the way that you act.
L&D is an exceptionally rewarding profession, though not all these lessons will be immediately obvious. Working on yourself and these aspects of your career will position you to become a fantastic asset to your organisation.