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So you want to be…head of learning and development?

Posted on from Robert Walters

Competition for head of learning & development vacancies is currently intense. So what do you need to land yourself one of these jobs?

How popular are head of L&D roles?

These roles are very popular but also very rare at the moment. Part of the reason for this is the nature of the job – not every organisation will have a head of L&D.

Smaller businesses may instead employ generalists to carry out this work or have L&D specialists at a junior level reporting into a senior HR generalist.

The exception to this is often in banking and professional services – most of these organisations tend to have a Head of L&D.

L&D myths

A head of L&D is typically viewed internally as someone who delivers training – but this is rarely the case in reality.

Typically, these people will instead engage external vendors or have a team responsible for this. Instead, a head of L&D is normally responsible for devising an overall development strategy for a company and its employees.

What do I need to be head of L&D?

Although he or she may have progressed into one of these roles from a generalist background, a head of L&D will need a clear specialism in learning and development. They will also need significant experience in a senior development role and of servicing a senior client base.

At the moment, the market is very risk averse so clients are demanding specific industry experience – seemingly regardless of the sector they operate within.

Financial services is a slight exception to this, with firms more willing to consider people from different types of organisations if they are exceptional. When an individual who has recruitment responsibilities has come from a different sector, they are also often more open to considering those from alternative backgrounds.

Daily tasks

It's essentially a management and strategic role – most responsibilities are typical for someone at this level. For example, they will be required to meeting with heads of business on a regular basis and typically manage a team.

They will also need to liaise with senior line management and senior HR figures to ensure the overall L&D approach is in line with the broader business strategy. Coaching senior executives is another key responsibility. Overall, it is potentially a very high profile role within a business.

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