Principle to practice
Wright, N. (2004) ‘Principle to Practice: from Training Provider to Internal Consultancy’, Training Zone, 2 December Edition.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the importance of moving from traditional training provider roles in organisations to incorporate internal learning consultancy. Many teams have changed names from training and development to learning and development but often find the practicalities of transition very difficult.
The first reason is that the change of concept towards learning has largely taken place within the learning & development profession itself. Other organisational stakeholders are usually unaware of our new aspirations and still conceive of the role as essentially concerned with training.
A second reason is that stakeholders are unclear about what learning consultancy would look like in practice and whether it could add value. It’s easier, after all, to articulate the potential benefits of training events than the sometimes nebulous, emerging-over-time benefits of consulting.
A third reason is that learning and development professionals often feel inadequate and lack confidence in the internal consulting role. “What are we supposed to do when we meet with a leader as learning consultant?” This is where anxious practitioners may retreat to training events where they feel more familiar and secure.
In the first case, it’s important to plan carefully the messages you want to convey to stakeholders before you publicise a change of role. In Tearfund, we interviewed a variety of stakeholders first to find out what they had experienced as positive and helpful from the team. We then used this information to frame our organisational publicity.
Secondly, arrange to meet with key stakeholders to explain what learning consultancy means in practice and how they can access and benefit from it. We decided to pilot consulting interventions with certain team leaders, request their critical feedback afterwards and, with permission, use our work with them as case examples for others.
Thirdly, ensure that learning & development practitioners have opportunity to reflect on the consulting role, the expertise they bring and what they will need to develop further. My own team started out with a consulting skills training workshop and now meets monthly in action-learning format to discuss and role play on-going experiences.
Finally, maintain relationship with your key stakeholders. Tearfund’s learning and development team members now meet quarterly with every team leader using a business partnership model and we’re learning how to co-evaluate the impact of our consulting interventions for quality assurance, learning/planning and internal marketing purposes.