Four Indispensable Roles for Your Learning Group

April 18, 2016 conduentblogs

By Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson
“If you aren’t doing all that these roles involve, you are missing out on some key things your learners – and your business – need.” – Sarah Thompson, Brand Development and Content Marketing director for Human Capital Services

Do you see pay phones anymore? I was traveling recently, and I noticed a bank of workstations in the airport, where one station still had a pay phone. Clearly, it was not operational, but interesting that the artifact was still there. In the modern world, we are mostly dependent on our cell phones, rather than landlines.

The same applies to Learning & Development functions: At the risk of becoming obsolete, with the ever-changing face of learning, there is a need for new roles:

The Content Curator

This is the person who has to visit some of those ‘rogue’ business functions – you know the ones – who are constantly designing and developing their own tools, resources, and training because Learning & Development teams are too slow. Like the museum curator, the content curator is responsible for ensuring all the curated pieces, when put together, tell an interesting, meaningful story – and this story has to fit within the learner’s job and areas of interest. Also, they may need to go outside the organization and search for additional tools or related articles.

The Data Analyst

This person is responsible for visualizing what that data means – does the number of posts in an online community tell you that an employee is engaged? Or, are they looking for recognition? Or, perhaps, it’s their way of shouting for attention? Or, are they contributing meaningful responses to ongoing discussions oriented towards business challenges? Enter the data analyst – they identify correlations beyond the numbers, and look deeper into the meaning behind learning metrics. Their role usually involves identifying what should be measured in order to show impact on the organization’s objectives. To that end, the data analyst needs to be involved before, during and after program design and development, not just at the end of program delivery.

The Community Manager

No, this is not the person at your parents’ or grandparents’ retirement community, nor is it the social director for your cruise ship. With the heavy reliance on online communities these days, we need a person to help nurture and weed the garden of the online community. Yes, that means asking meaningful questions and pulling out those non-relevant posts (like what someone had for dinner last night). The community manager should stimulate engaging conversations around real-world business problems the organization is facing. Sometimes, it involves creating a social event to encourage collaboration and spending time together in the community – hence, the “social director” title.

The Solution Architect

Also known as the cheerleader learning strategist, the information architect, or the person who becomes the keeper of the vision. This person is often responsible for crafting the strategy and design for a learning solution – not just a course, but likely an entire program. The solution architect is often the one who champions the approach and works with the line of business (or functional area) to ensure the solution aligns with business objectives.  Getting everyone on board with the vision requires the learning strategist to cheer on the team and celebrate successes.

What does this look like in action?

Ongoing changes within the learning design space have made each of these four roles an integral part of corporate learning. And, no doubt, this list is not exhaustive of the new roles we see emerging. Each plays an important part in aligning the right size content, the right type of content, and the right time of delivery to a learner. These four roles are all a part of the orchestra: the wind instruments, the tympani, and the horn section. When working in concert, they will provide a beautifully composed piece – specific to each learner’s needs.

Most L&D teams have not added all these vital roles – rather, they have added maybe one of them – or, more likely, they have absorbed some of the work performed by these roles within their existing job titles. Each of these options will work, but if you aren’t doing all that’s involved, you are missing out on some key things your learners – and your business – need.


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