Is ‘Operations’ the New ‘L&D’?

three men sitting while using laptops and watching man beside whiteboard


L&D is always changing; that has, somewhat ironically, always been a constant in our industry. Whether it’s new technologies, new learning designs, or the ever-changing role of the L&D professional, there is always something we’re trying to adapt to.

In a recent Learning Technologies webinar, Jez Anderson, L&D Consultant at Netex Learning, and Learning Technologies’ Chairman Donald H Taylor focused on these ever-changing roles and asked the question: If Operations teams start to play a more active role in defining, developing, and implementing the learning they need, what does that mean for the future of the L&D professionals?

A global online company looking to overhaul their training

To bring this problem to life, Jez presented a current Netex project: a global online company who was growing rapidly and looking to overhaul their training.

The overhaul of the training programme came about because it couldn’t keep up with the growth. The Learning Management System had become unmanageable; it had become a dumping ground. It was content heavy, and hard to navigate. It had no structure to the content, and no learning pathways.

This was the ideal case study to address these changing roles because this digital transformation hadn’t come about through an L&D team, instead it was led by Operations. But had it been plain sailing for them? No, because they took charge of the learning without any real insight into how learning works, or the best way to go about it. In fact, Jez revealed that this company had said that L&D didn’t work for them. But it wasn’t until they started working with Netex that they realised the value of L&D – of considering things such as learning strategies and methodologies – and understood how L&D can help them avoid these problems from occurring again.

It can’t be denied, this was a topic that resonated with the webinar’s attendees. Thoughtful questions were asked and animated conversation flowed, and Jez and Donald actively engaged with the attendees to explore questions, such as what role does L&D have? Should they be owning L&D, or supporting Operations in development of L&D? What should the relationship look like?

Here are some of their answers.

Equip, engage and empower

Should L&D ‘own’ training? The ultimate consensus was no; in fact, everyone agreed that we need to shift away from that mindset. Jez summed it up by saying the role of L&D should be to ‘equip, engage and empower’. By this he meant that L&D should be there to advise, support and give guidance. Be there to facilitate change. They should bring their expertise and focus on HOW we learn, rather than being a content factory who mindlessly produces training materials. Instead, they should work closely with Operations and help them realise, and shape, their training plans.

L&D need to bring the innovation

‘And shape’ is key in the last sentence. L&D need to bring their expertise to the fore and challenge Operations to think differently. They need to show them the innovative way. Yes, if Operations are savvy, they will recognise the value of training and want to provide a programme that makes a difference, but it’s L&D will know the best way to bring that about. They can shift Operation’s focus from content, quantity and speed and show how innovation and work can transform the learning, making sure it does its job.

Make sense of the content

Content is everywhere, that isn’t going to change; it’s not going anywhere, especially with AI now being used to produce content more effectively. So, L&D need to not just address the ‘what’ but really turn their focus to all the ‘how’ questions: How do they support learning better? How are they going to structure the content, the learning? How do they deliver that to individuals? How do they make sure the right content gets to the right people? How do they make sure it’s measured and seen as impactful? Exploring and considering all these questions will help them curate that content in the most appropriate way.

Overall, it’s about working in-sync with the Operations team and help them become a learning organisation. We’re not saying it’ll be easy, but let’s aim to navigate that rocky path and show them how truly valuable L&D professionals are.

Where is your L&D team right now? Are they facing this challenge, or do they already have a good working relationship with Operations? How are you working together? Any advice, tips, please feel free to leave in the comments.


If you’d like to watch this webinar, and other Learning Technologies webinars, please click here.

For more blogs that might be of interest:

Why changing your LMS doesn’t have to be an ordeal

How to implement social learning into your organisation

Learning Influencers create a ripple effect for an inclusive learning culture


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Carol Butler

With over 8 years in the L&D industry, Carol has witnessed the many incredible and ground-breaking changes that have happened in the industry and is excited to see what the future holds. When she isn’t writing about all things L&D, you’ll usually find her baking, reading, and treading the boards of her local theatre.