top of page
  • Irina Ketkin, author of #adventuresofthelearner

Current trends and emerging roles in L&D

Human Resource Development or Learning and Development, as practitioners prefer to refer to it (Harrison, 2009), “encompasses planned activities, processes and/or interventions designed to have impact upon and enhance organisational and individual learning, to develop human potential, to improve or maximise effectiveness and performance at either the individual, group/team and/or organisational level, and/or to bring about effective, beneficial personal or organisational behaviour change and improvement” ((Hamlin and Stewart, 2011)).

Armstrong and Taylor (2014) outline 5 main components L&D is concerned with – Organisational learning, Individual learning and development, Blended learning, Training, and Leadership and management development.

According to the CIPD yearly survey into the Trends of L&D (2015), the 3 most commonly used development practices in 2015 are:

  • On-the-job training (48%),

  • In-house development programmes (46%)

  • Coaching by line managers or peers (32%).

It is important to notice that when asked about the effectiveness of each, in-house development is third on the list with only 34% of respondents agreeing.

It is also essential to consider the view of the learner. In a recent report, Degreed released their findings on how the workforce learns in 2016 (Tauber et al. 3). The report specifies that most of the learning interventions taken by employees are self-directed, as opposed to L&D led. This begs the question how is L&D equipping itself to meet this demand?

The same results are further confirmed by a CIPD research (2015) where self-direction is listed as the third primary difference in how young people like to learn (after technology-based learning and getting personal feedback through learning process). The Towards Maturity Report (2015) outlines 3 specific steps L&D can take to support the self-directed learner:

  • “Establish an active learner voice

  • Increase access to opportunity

  • Empower learners to take control”

Hirsh et al. (2008) further develops the idea that “HR should engage more seriously with finding out what its customers need and their experiences of current HR services”.

This creates another important trend in the current L&D landscape – being (or becoming) more strategically aligned. 56% of L&D professionals on average agree that their activity is aligned to the business and learners’ needs (Towards Maturity, 2014). However, several barriers exist in this context.

The Transforming Learning into Strategic Business Enabler report (2012) described the most common barriers:

  • Getting buy-in from leaders and employees alike

  • L&D is involved in the strategic makeup of the vision from the beginning

  • Business strategy is not clear enough

  • Constantly re-aligning to the changing environment and as a result – strategy

  • Managements seeing training as waste of time.

Based on the above, there are at least 2 important roles L&D professionals need to adopt – turning into strategic partners instead of being a reactive function, and focus on content curation and management, as opposed to content creation.

Hirsh et al. (2008) examines satisfaction with HR as a whole and outlines that it is only valuable when seen “as a real strategic partner and as making an important business contribution”. To become strategic partners L&D professionals need to be more closely aligned to the business. CIPD (2015) suggests that “achieving alignment starts with a clear understanding of the organisational context and L&D’s role and purpose.”

The same study shows a skills gap that L&D need to address in order to drive organisational performance (CIPD, 2015). Along with business understanding, hand in hand with digital-savvy skills goes content curation. Another study from the CIPD (2014) shows that in order for L&D to upskills in this area, they “must have the ability to identify and organise relevant materials for specific learners and purposes.”


Armstrong, M. and Taylor, S. (2014). Armstrong's Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice, 13th edition. London: Kogan Page.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, (2015). ANNUAL SURVEY REPORT Learning and Development 2015. [online] London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Available at:

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, (2015). L&D: Evolving roles, enhancing skills. [online] London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, p.3. Available at:

Hirsh, W., Carter, A., Gifford, J., Strebler, M. and Baldwin, S. (2008). Report summary: What Customers Want From HR. [online] Institute for Employment Studies. Available at:

Tauber, T., Smolen, T., Probst, C. and Huang, M. (2016). How the Workforce Learns in 2016. [online] Degreed, p.3. Available at:

Taylor, Stephen and Carol Woodhams. Studying Human Resource Management. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2012. Print.

Transforming Learning into a Strategic Business Enabler: What does it mean for learning to be a strategic enabler for the business?. (2012). [online] HCM Advisory Group, pp.28-29. Available at:

bottom of page