Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
So you want to be…head of learning and development 02/09/2011
Competition for head of learning & development vacancies is currently intense. So what do you need to be able to land yourself one of these jobs? Martyn Wright, director of HR Recruitment at Robert Walters, explains.
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How popular are head of L&D roles?
These roles are very popular but also very rare at the moment. Part of the reason for this is the nature of the job – not every organisation will have a Head of L&D. Smaller businesses may instead employ generalists to carry out this work or have L&D specialists at a junior level reporting into a senior HR generalist.
The exception to this is often in banking and professional services – most of these organisations tend to have a Head of L&D.
A Head of L&D is typically viewed internally as someone who delivers training – but this is rarely the case in reality.
Typically, these people will instead engage external vendors or have a team responsible for this. Instead, a Head of L&D is normally responsible for devising an overall development strategy for a company and its employees.
What do I need to be head of L&D?
Although he or she may have progressed into one of these roles from a generalist background, a head of L&D will need a clear specialism in learning and development. They will also need significant experience in a senior development role and of servicing a senior client base.
At the moment, the market is very risk averse so clients are demanding specific industry experience – seemingly regardless of the sector they operate within. Financial services is a slight exception to this, with firms more willing to consider people from different types of organisations if they are exceptional. When an individual who has recruitment responsibilities has come from a different sector, they are also often more open to considering those from alternative backgrounds.
It's essentially a management and strategic role – most responsibilities are typical for someone at this level. For example, they will be required to meeting with heads of business on a regular basis and typically manage a team.
They will also need to liaise with senior line management and senior HR figures to ensure the overall L&D approach is in line with the broader business strategy. Coaching senior executives is another key responsibility. Overall, it is potentially a very high profile role within a business.
Martyn Wright, director - HR recruitment, Robert Walters
Martyn joined Robert Walters in June 2010 and has ten years’ HR recruitment experience. Prior to that, he worked on JP Morgan’s in-house HR team.