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Top 10 Skills to Get You Ahead in L&D


Tue Mar 02 2021

Top 10 Skills to Get You Ahead in L&D

Talent development professionals know the importance of being in the right company and the right position to flourish. Having the right skill sets in place, on your resume, and on your LinkedIn profile can make all the difference. But what skills are companies targeting for top learning and development (L&D) professionals and roles?

There are more than 1730 jobs currently posted on the ATD Job Bank, and more than 700 of them are for manager-level or higher positions that require specific skills. Many of these roles are looking for advanced skills in instructional design and learning management systems or other learning technologies. But by using some of these job descriptions and filtering them through a number of word clouding software platforms, we came up with the top 10 learning and development skills for high-level positions. Some of these essential skills are more soft skills and others are hard or technical skills. Match up what you have to see if your training and development background has what it takes to reach the top:


1. Project Management

Planning, organizing, and controlling your training space and managing multiple projects are sought-after skills for L&D professionals. If you seek advancement or want to demonstrate mastery of your skill set on your profile, sign up for the ATD Certificate in Project Management tailored for the L&D professional or the highly esteemed Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute. Many colleges and universities also offer courses on this topic.

2. Change Management

The world is in a constant state of flux, especially now that technology is changing the workplace landscape like never before. ATD offers a Change Management Certificate to help you keep current with the latest in change management and has a dedicated topic page on its website. Sign up for the newsletter and view these resources on how to strengthen this skill:

3. Leadership


One of the best ways to gain leadership skills outside of work is to volunteer for leadership roles at other organizations. ATD offers leadership tracks at conferences where you can gain more knowledge in leadership skills and development. You can also check out ATD’s Leadership Development topic page, CTDO magazine, and Tim Tobin’s book Peak Leadership Fitness.

4. Management Development

One of the best ways to develop others as managers is to learn more about management programs, how to develop them, problem solving and conflict resolution skills, and how to coach managers. ATD offers a number of management and leadership coaching classes and universities like George Mason, Georgetown, Cornell, and Harvard (among others) hold executive certificate programs. More resources on this topic can be found at the Human Capital Institute.

5. Data-Driven Decision Making and Analysis

Data is everywhere, and while we may be getting better at collecting it, there is still a challenge to properly analyze it and put the results into practice. While the Kirkpatrick model is a good foundational model for measuring learning impact, a solid understanding of all the measuring and performance solutions can be gained in the ATD Evaluating Learning Impact Certificate. Data-divers can also benefit from this LinkedIn Learning course on Measuring Learning Effectiveness or the ROI Institute boot camp.


6. Communication

When job descriptions ask for “communication skills,” it can mean anything from email writing to report generation, social media posts, speaking with co-workers or subordinates, or public speaking. If you are looking to build your communications repertoire, head to ATD’s Education webpage and type in “communications” and you will find courses from presentation skills to business writing. Other great resources are continuing education courses like Duke’s business communications courses and online learning like LinkedIn Learning courses and Udemy. Getting more involved in your organization by forming an internal newsletter or fostering new interdepartmental groups is also a great way to show off your communication powers.

7. Strategic and Critical Thinking

The ability to think strategically and see the big picture is a crucial skill for those in management and leadership roles. Thinking strategically can be a shift from the classroom-experience level to an organization-wide level, but with the right experience and practice, you can certainly get there. Some critical thinking skills courses are available through EdX and Coursera and online courses certificates from places like eCornell.

8. Marketing Skills

Developing your training and strategies like you are selling a product can be a highly sought-after skill for many leaders. Who could be better than Seth Godin when it comes to marketing? We recommend taking one Seth’s many marketing workshops, like The Marketing Seminar. Alternatively, General Assembly offers courses on thinking like a marketer, as do all the online learning platforms.

9. Relationship Building

Interpersonal skills and a can-do, friendly attitude go a long way. The “Era of the Giver,” as Adam Grant would call it, is upon us. If you know how to network and build and keep relationships, you can go far in the business world. To build these skills, you first need to develop your communication skills, then work on positive relationship building. Listen to Connor’s podcast, NetWorkWise; read The Connector’s Advantage by Michelle Tillis Lederman; or visit ATD’s website for tons of great webcasts and blog posts on building your network.

10. Teamwork and Collaboration Skills

“No man is an island entire of itself” are the famous words from John Donne—and he was right. While the world is experiencing a loneliness epidemic, the need to collaborate and work on your team-building skills is more prevalent than ever. There are myriad online courses from universities and online learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, but to get hands-on experience you could try to participate in team-building exercises and activities at work, set up some internal teams and groups, or join some outside associations and groups in which you take an active role.

Whether you have these skills or are gaining them, highlight them on your LinkedIn profile, resume, and other online profiles and accounts. Be prepared for that next step well before you start your job search. By establishing your vast and higher-level skill set, you may not have to search at all!

This post was originally published in August 2019 and was updated with recent research and resources.

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