What are the most interesting aspects of L&D and its progression over the past years?
I think the opportunity for people to fulfil aspirations they might not even have. So back when I first started in HR, L&D was something you did with your end of year performance review. It was at the bottom of the performance review form you had to fill out. And it got to the end of that conversation with your boss about your performance which went something like: ‘What do you want to do for L&D?’ ‘Oh, I can improve my Excel, let’s put that down.’ ‘Great, we will tick that box and away we go’.
Now it’s more about that opportunity you have to build something that is owned by you, the organisation you work for and your manager. They all get some fulfilment and excitement out of it and it’s the only way that businesses like Envato can grow to a point where they’re growing their own talent. We see that as critical and I see that as exciting.
Where do you see L&D going in the future?
I think there is an increasing opportunity for more people to have more access to more information than ever before. When I studied at university too long ago that was pretty much your only path for further education. Then the internet came and blew that out of the water and gave people access to experts who might not necessarily be lecturers and who might not be accredited, but still know a lot of stuff. And then you as the consumer can decide whether or not that is something that’s important to you, or important to your career, or something you want to learn.
That has changed the whole landscape. That has allowed us to create online learning for people at a fraction of the cost, and they don’t necessarily have to be in the same location. That is pretty exciting and has transferred into organisations that have access to that information now, so more often than not that is the way we see our people developing. They are still going to conferences, they are still doing some formal training, and they might have done a university degree, but it’s becoming less about that and more about what they have taught themselves and what they are being able to learn from experts all around the world, usually for free.
Finally, we are aware that we as an organisation do not have all the attributes to be able to provide training for people who are looking for quite specific skills. Sometimes that will involve going out or learning something online that will be the right answer to the problem they are trying to solve or the development they are trying to get.
I think back in the day it was the expectation that big business would have massive L&D departments that would do that for you and that is not possible anymore. I think that’s important.
What are the greatest challenges you are facing and anticipate facing in L&D?
I think creating opportunities for all the smart people we have for development at Envato has seen more creative thinking about how people can become a manager. How do we make that happen and how do we do it in a more organic way than posting an internal job ad? Sometimes that has to happen, but how else can we help people get to that point and create managers who are better at helping support people do that.
That’s probably the biggest challenge. To have someone who believes in you, believes even more about where your career can go, and helps you get there. And that takes quite a bit of skill for the manager to have and quite a bit of honesty and that can be a challenging conversation at times.
To say: ‘Alright, you are saying you want to do these other things, let’s talk about that, what that means, what you need to do to get there, how I can help, what other options there might be’.
That’s a really integral part of having a manager or a mentor or both, who can support you through that.
L&D has come a long way in the last 10 years and looks set to go even further in the next 10. John Hilton interviews James Law, HR Director of Envato, for his thoughts on L&D’s progression.