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Meeting Our Challenges by Clarifying Our Role


Mon Feb 04 2019

Meeting Our Challenges by Clarifying Our Role

Our challenge as internal talent leaders is to create an environment where employees are able to produce the desired results as the work demands and conditions constantly shift. We play many roles as we do this depending on industry, company, and, more importantly, our experience, our skills and knowledge, and our influence.

As the nature of work has changed and the ability of technology to expedite many of the functions in talent (especially personalized learning) has increased, our role has moved from trainer to learning professional to performance coach/consultant to business partner. Recently we are seeing a new role mentioned here and there which demands some thought and attention: business learning adviser (BLA). While an Internet search does not produce many hits for the entire term, looking at the terms individually and using the insights gained reveals opportunities for talent leaders to be more influential in moving the enterprise forward.



The nature of work has been changing for years as technology disruptions happen at increasing speeds, demographics change, and globalization affects most every company. With this change, talent leaders have recognized the importance of constantly reskilling employees. Years ago it was called “gaining a seat at the table.” The emphasis was recognizing the relevance of learning and development. There has been a debate over metrics in the talent arena for years—is it efficiency measures for the training department or it is Key Performance Indicators for the business, or both?

The consensus for today and in the future is generally that the role of talent professionals is to support the business in a way that drives market performance. This includes knowing the business, and aligning and integrating all learning opportunities with the mission, vision, and values of the organization. It even includes using the language of the business. This implies a more systems-oriented approach that connects across divisions, designing for the greater good of the entire enterprise. It means that talent leaders are asking: What can I do to help the business grow and achieve the strategic goals?


While the venue and the operating field is the business, talent leaders are expected to be experts in the area of people development. As we scan the talent landscape daily, it becomes clearer that our expertise in this discipline is not just having a deep knowledge of learning theory and application practices; it is keeping our eye on the horizon for new practices and opportunities. It includes a large dose of discernment in knowing when training and learning is the best response and when it is not. And once we know what skills and knowledge needed, we are also charged with providing the best approach and most effective delivery modality to share them with learners.

Learning in the workflow and technologies such as mobile and social media have changed our dependency on the classroom. Learning in the moment of need has changed how we design. And personalized learning paths have placed a premium on creating opportunities for employees to learn how to learn, to be more self-reliant, to need resources to be more available, and have the confidence in their choices and decisions.

Learning is definitely our sweet spot. We must be grounded in the constructs that enable learning that morphs into behavior change sustained over time. We must also be agile, with our pulse on the trends shaping the future and the decision-making skills to know when to accept or reject new shiny objects.



Learning leaders add a variety of monikers on their title—manager, consultant, partner, and coach. These tags should affect what we do and the way we are perceived. What if we changed it to “adviser”? Would that change how we view ourselves and what others expect from us?

In an article on serving as a trusted learning adviser, Tiffany Poeppelman suggested the following as a definition:

  • Someone who is asked to regularly weigh in or provide advice on key decisions (related or unrelated to their work)—often in advance.

  • Someone who adds value to areas of the business beyond their current role.

  • Someone who grows and fosters relationships outside of their core programs or immediate projects.

  • Someone whose personal brand is strong—they often speak at events, are asked to write articles, or take on critical business projects.

Why is consideration of this role—business learning adviser—and the skills needed to excel in it important? First, it puts business where it needs to be—in first place. Second, it emphasizes the discipline and importance of learning. And third, it references our ability to contribute based on the value we bring to the table.

The bottom line is not organizational survival per se, although that is a factor. The purpose is to thrive as a contributor to driving market performance with engaged and productive employees in a world where work is changing—to be a valued and influential part of a team that creates a great place to work.

Watch the video to learn more!


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