Facing Learning and Development’s Perpetual Identity Crisis
Practically since the age of the dinosaurs, sales has been known as sales, and marketing has been known as marketing. Same goes for legal, IT, finance. Operations has many variations, depending on the industry (e.g., professional services, manufacturing), but there’s certainly no debate about what they do.
Why, then, is so much time and effort spent debating what to call learning and development? We swing from performance to training to learning and, now, to talent. If history is any guide, we will arrive back at performance in short order. Every three to five years, it seems, the industry feels the need to rename our function.
It's as if by changing our name, L&D will no longer be first in line for budget cuts or will get more respect from the other business areas. All this does is create more confusion regarding the benefits the learning function provides, and it generates a collective eye-roll from the rest of the business leaders. Changing how we refer to ourselves doesn't magically reimagine or redefine L&D's value to the business; on the contrary, it does nothing more than confuse everyone else.
What's the importance of a name? Nothing.
Whatever you call L&D in your organization… don’t change it! Whether you are performance improvement or learning and development or the latest trend, talent development, resist calls from the industry to rename your function. Instead, focus your efforts on getting better aligned with the executive team and other stakeholders, and on providing new services that add business value. Communicate the value that the learning function can drive for the business and how you can help your business colleagues achieve their goals.
Let the rest of your organization know that no matter what the learning function is called, you are there to help everyone perform at a higher level.