Podcast | L&D: Where Are You Now? What Should You Do Next?

Gary Stringer
February 1, 2024
February 1, 2024

Context is absolutely crucial to delivering L&D impact! From the self-awareness of our current capabilities to stakeholder expectations and the business’s commercial goals - it’s huge.

But how often do we reflect on our current context and feed that into our strategy? 

Probably not enough and in this episode, the brilliant Patrick Mullarkey talks us through these three key steps for turning this context into impact:

1. Reviewing our current position and conditions.

2. Understanding stakeholder perceptions and expectations.

3. Ways to act on that and drive L&D in the right direction.

Watch the episode

Listen to the episode


0:00 Understanding your current context.
10:40 Speak to your stakeholders and learn where they are.
14:42 Questions L&D teams can ask about current strategy.
24:18 What do stakeholders and investors expect?
31:17 Do we overpromise and underdeliver?
34:13 Build a commercial understanding.
41:10 Scaling L&D based on context.
44:12 Q&A and final thoughts.

Five lessons on auditing where you are now and using that context for your L&D strategy

1. Your L&D strategy works in an ecosystem, not a silo!

“That means you need to understand the current conditions and how and where they help serve your own strategies and ambitions… And this is where the planning is more important than the plan.” - Patrick Mullarkey.

Plans are often subject to change, but we often uncover crucial context in planning that helps us solve problems and support our organisation.

So, ensure you can answer these two questions:

  • Do you understand the strategy for your organisation and teams?
  • Which metrics do they use to measure progress towards that?

“That context is fluid, but try to anchor in at the start and get a sense of one, this is what I understand the organisation is moving towards, and then two, how and where I can be of service to that.” - Patrick Mullarkey.

2. Ask yourself these three simple questions about L&D’s current position and impact:

  • Is the work we’re doing helping the organisation build a better product and sell it?
  • What are the current perceptions of L&D in the business?
  • If you paused your current activities, what would be missed? 

This helps you work out whether your activities are in service of the company’s overall mission and out of the things you currently do, which are adding value.

“If you're finding a way to help grow the organisation commercially or finding a way to help managers and teams build out a better product - whether that’s in terms of their behaviors, their expertise, or culture and how they're working together…

“You're safe as houses. It's going to open so many doors for you as a learning professional.” - Patrick Mullarkey.

3. Use that context to run small, low risk experiments

“If you get a sense of the agenda and needs of your stakeholders, try and test and learn quickly. Some simple stuff that isn't going to cost you much budget, but might start moving the needle and getting you more data and some of those lagging indicators.” - Patrick Mullarkey.

This helps us deliver value faster, showing stakeholders that we can solve problems without them having to invest a lot of resources and wait a long time.

4. Sell your learning strategy to stakeholders and investors with a short, clear message about the value you bring

“What is it you want your learning offer to be known for? And how can you explain that simply, easily and make sure it's repeated and articulated [to investors and stakeholders]?” - Patrick Mullarkey.

Patrick gave a great example of how Ridley Scott pitched Alien to investors: it’s like Jaws, but in space.

A great framing is to incorporate two of these three things in a single sentence: the problem, the solution and the impact.

For example: If we’re going to close our skills gaps (problem), we need to map and measure skills using tech that does it at scale and speed (solution) OR To double our sales (impact), we need to enable our sales teams with the skill to increase outbound demo bookings (solution).

5. If you want to scale your offer based on context, do this…

Look at your L&D bandwidth and offering like LEGO blocks - an approach for scaling efforts in high-growth startups.

“When you first join a startup or scaleup, you've got your own kit of Lego, and you're building your own rocket ship. You get to make all the choices and decisions.

“As you scale rapidly though… your organisation gets bigger, and you need to start sharing your Lego out. As an organisation's growing, it's the only way you can create an offer that scales.” - Patrick Mullarkey.

So, go back to that single sentence you want to be known for and understand those two or three big things you can do to drive impact - based on the context discovery - then tailor your L&D offering accordingly.

Do the things only you can do to drive impact, and offer autonomy to others for the things they can own.