Would you hire a plumber to do an electricians job? No? Why not? Because, while being highly skilled and well trained, the electrician is not a plumber. Instead, licensed and trained to do that job. Hire an electrician to do electric work and a plumber to do, well, plumbing. This logic applies to all of the so-called “skilled” trades.
It also applies to learning and development. This is work that is best suited to those who are best suited to it.
Designing learning also takes a specific set of skills, experience, and training. Learning professionals should also possess more than a little bit of raw talent and be at least a little fearless, too. They need to have that rare combination of the ability to ask the questions that get to the heart of what is (really) needed and better-than-average listening skills. For you see, they are ferreting out the root cause(s) to provide the best options for solution. A solution that may or may not be entirely what was initially requested. The learning professional will dig a little deeper. They will ask more questions and try things for themselves. They will observe people at work and read the messages found in the many "cheat sheets" people create for themselves to do their jobs more effectively. All of this in an effort to learn more about what is really needed. Then, they will distill and encapsulate their findings and determine the best courses of action and share them with key stakeholders.
Sometimes, leaders choose to move an employee, who is pretty good at doing the job and has certain skills, from their regular job to assume the role of learning designer. But without the necessary background in learning design. This can work out quite well, at times. Or, at times, not. And is placing an employee in a job without the proper tools and resources even fair?
For example, employee Sarah. She has the skills and knows the tasks required to perform the job, so she has been perfect for mentoring others and helping them learn the job. But what will happen to Sarah’s overall performance when she is moved from the job she is doing well? Will she perform as well and thrive? Maybe yes. Maybe no.
And there is Jason. He is stellar at navigating the software applications needed for doing the job and is quick to learn new ones. He is also okay at assisting others when they need help or get stuck. However, he typically has to be asked to do so.
Is this the best way to build a team of learning designers who will be charged with building a sustainable learning strategy? Will these employees be wholly successful? And yet it happens. Kind of like hiring an electrician to do a plumber's job, huh?
The best learning designers don't jump to conclusions and won't always provide exactly what the initial request was. If said request isn't what is truly needed, they’ll be able to offer alternatives. They will share what they believe are the best solutions for the learner population to grow their skills and improve their knowledge. In other words, perform at higher levels.
This is where being fearless comes in handy. Why? Because maybe the solution is a course and is what is needed. Maybe the solution is something else entirely and needed more—and likely a better investment, too. The learning professional will do this with the backing of all of their skill, knowledge, and integrity, even though what their suggesting may be in opposition to or disagreement with the initial request. (read: you)
Listen to the learning designer’s ideas. Consider them from all angles, as there is much to be gained from doing that. Choose not to rush to a decision. The learning designer has taken the time to ask the questions of people who may not always be asked. In other words, the people who do the job.
So, would you hire an electrician to do a plumber's job? If not, then please hire a learning designer with the skill, the experience, and the knowledge to build learning right for your organization and has your people's success front and center.