Unlocking the Power of the Learning Advocate

The last few years I’ve been focused on what I’d call ‘transformational’ projects or mandates in the learning space.  <I do get that transformation is a bit of buzzword these days, but that’s really what’ I’ve been working on.> The level of complexity of the projects I take on seem to be increasing, which is what keeps things interesting and keeps me learning.  I find that I’m learning something new on a moment-to-moment basis and it’s generally not related to the topic of training/learning.

© Kmitu | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Kmitu | Dreamstime Stock Photos

To be a respected and trusted learning partner in any environment, you need to be constantly curious about how the business works, its priorities and the inner workings of how work gets done.  This curiosity may look a little different depending on your learning role, but it doesn’t make it any less important.  It’s the instructional designer, learning consultant, eLearning developer that takes the time to understand the larger impact of the work beyond the tactical, who will find they will quickly become the trusted advocate and cement their value to the larger organization.

Adding value doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re taking on extra work, it does mean that when you are asked to do something that appears straightforward, like a job aid, or design a 15 minute eLearning module on a new product, that you always actively acknowledge that the impact of the project is bigger than just the work in front of you, and that you take a bit of time to understand how it fits into the larger business strategy.

I want to clarify that this doesn’t mean that you need to go and interview VPs on a one page job aid, because we can all imagine how that would turn out, but it does mean that you do your homework on what is going on in the environment from a larger learning and business perspective.  For example, what other projects are rolling out at the same time, what are the documented strategic priorities, how will this fit in with what’s planned for the business in the next 2-3 months, is there something that’s happening in parallel that you know about that could impact success that should be shared?

Often, all of this proactive homework can be done by having a few quick conversations with key interdisciplinary roles on a project team, or your manager, or the management that will be supporting this learning or change that you are designing, or all of the above.

To become that trusted learning advocate, which is what every learning professional wants, or should want, means going beyond the vacuum that we often create for ourselves.  Tools, technologies and learning design can and will only get you so far – those are the table stakes for being a learning professional, the real impact will come with the value you bring as a business partner.

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