Skip to main Content
Search site

Search site

Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals

Search and filter articles

Career development

Career advice for job seekers

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.

So you want to be…head of learning and development

Click to jump to section

  1. How popular are head of L&D roles?
  2. L&D myths
  3. What do I need to be head of L&D?
  4. Daily tasks

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.

L&D myths

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.

Daily tasks

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 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.