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Where do HR and L&D intersect?

With two distinct professional associations (SHRM and ATD), the worlds of HR and Learning and Development seem to be separate entities. Deadra Welcome feels there are ways that those two worlds can come together to achieve great things.
Deadra Welcome on HR and L&D

It’s always struck me as a bit odd how the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) seem so siloed and different. If learning and development or talent development is a subset of human resources in many organizations, I’ve had a hard time finding where it actually fits into SHRM’s Body of Applied Skills and Knowledge model (which is the latest evolution of SHRM’s competency model).

So I’ve set out to find some HR professionals and leaders to speak with and get their thoughts on where HR and L&D intersect, and how people in each field can work together to super-charge an organization’s talent development programs.

Recently, I began a conversation to explore these questions with Deadra Welcome, who has been involved in her local ATD chapter for years, and just recently rose to the position of President of the Human Resources Society of Prince George’s County.

Introduction 

Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I am your host. I’m also the Co-founder of this company called Endurance Learning. And today I am joined by Deadra Welcome who is the founder and principal of Concerning Learning, LLC. Deadra is going to be here to talk to us a little bit about the intersection of where human resources and learning & development meet. Hello, Deadra, how are you?

Deadra Welcome: I am doing well. Thank you so much for having me.

Brian Washburn: Well, I’m excited to have this conversation. And just so that listeners know, Deadra and I were just having a little bit of a conversation and we started talking about podcasts, and she’s like, “Let’s do it. Let’s record it.” And so I was like, “Okay, let’s record it.” And so, this is just kind of a spur-of-the-moment conversation between two learning & development professionals talking a little bit about this intersection of HR and L&D.

High-Performance Six-word Biography

Brian Washburn: Deadra, before we go any further, one thing that I like to do with all my guests is give them an opportunity to introduce themselves using a six-word biography. And so let me pause here and ask you to share how you would introduce yourself to the audience using exactly six words.

Deadra Welcome: Wow. So that is a challenge, but I love challenges, so I would say, “I enjoy helping organizations perform better.”

Brian Washburn: Okay, perfect. And let’s get into that because you’re coming a little bit– from a little different perspective than a lot of our guests, maybe even a lot of our listeners, where you have this balance between learning & development and HR. You’ve been involved with your local ATD chapter, and now you’re leading your local HR chapter. 

Local L&D vs. HR Professional Groups

Brian Washburn: Can you just begin this conversation by sharing, from where you sit, what are some of the similarities? What are some of the differences between these two local professional groups? Would ATD members benefit by getting more involved in the local HR chapter and vice versa? I’d love to hear just a little bit more from your perspective from these two groups.

Deadra Welcome: I think that they both have passionate professionals who enjoy their industries. So that is the similarity. No matter what organization, especially volunteer organizations, there’s usually some passion behind that. They enjoy what they do, they’re engaged in that industry. And I see that with learning & development professionals or talent development professionals within ATD. And the same thing with Human Resource Society of Prince George’s County, which is a SHRM affiliate. So, that is the similarity. And then I do think that whenever we can work within a different industry and– let me back up a bit. I think that HR is the big picture.

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

Anytime you can broaden or focus on a particular area or broaden out and look at the more general industry, I think it's always beneficial for any professional, especially for HR and talent development professionals.

Deadra Welcome: And I think learning & development is a piece of that and not just, I think it, it is a piece of that. So anytime you can broaden or focus on a particular area or broaden out and look at the more general industry, I think it’s always beneficial for any professional, especially for HR and talent development professionals.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. And I know that there’s a lot of things that go into HR, right? And I like how you’re painting this picture of concentric circles with HR being the big circle, and then learning & development kind of being one component within that. And a lot of times when I think of HR, I’ll think of things like recruiting, hiring, benefits administration, maybe having the difficult conversation with somebody that they’re wearing too much perfume or they’re violating dress code, right? So all of those things with HR. When I think of L&D, I often think of training or eLearning, and you kind of painted this picture of concentric circles. How do you think the work of these two groups, learning & development and HR, does overlap?

How Do the Fields of L&D and HR Overlap?

Deadra Welcome: They are– they should both approach their work as transformational work, as business partners. So even when I was in a chief human capital officer department, I would always approach my work from “how can I help the function?” No matter what function it was. And I just so happened to be in HR function. How can I help solve problems and help them perform better? And I think learning & development and talent development professionals need to approach their work as how can I help perform– how can I help the organization and individuals perform better?

There's always an aspect of learning within every part of the organization, so I never view them as separate.

And I think the same thing with HR professionals because they are there to serve the organization. So tapping into what are some of the challenges within the organization, whether it’s retention or recruiting or onboarding, whatever those components are, they’re all connected. Because there’s always an aspect of learning within every part of the organization, so I never view them as separate. I’m always approaching my work when I work with organizations as a consultant. Even when I’m within the organization. How can I help use my talents or my connections or my network to help move the organization forward?

Brian Washburn: Yeah. And so one of the things I– again, I come back to this idea of concentric circles- and sometimes essential learning & development organization reports up through HR. I’ve been in other organizations where different operational teams will have their own training folks, right? Their own trainers. And so is there a way or do you– have you seen good practices or can you imagine good practices where learning & development or anybody who’s involved in training can be plugged into HR and where HR sits? A lot of times, performance reviews go through HR, but training happens separately sometimes. So where can these two different groups kind of do more to work together and supercharge their effectiveness?

Where Can L&D and HR Do More Work Together?

Deadra Welcome: I still think it revolves around challenges and solutions. So you used performance reviews as an example.

Brian Washburn:  Mhm. Yep.

Deadra Welcome: We know that there’s lots of challenges with performance reviews–

Brian Washburn: Indeed.

They're always connected and the more we look at “how does our work solve problems?” and provide viable solutions is how we work together and no longer separate each other.

Deadra Welcome: Whether it’s conducting them, providing feedback, managing expectations, and that involves skills. So there’s always a component where learning & development can help in performance reviews and managing the performance process. So they’re always connected and the more we look at “how does our work solve problems?” and provide viable solutions is how we work together and no longer separate each other.

So I love when organizations have those learning & development people, the trainers that are embedded within the organization because they’re the closest to the problem. And they’re the ones that can use learning as a solution to solve those problems.

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

If you always approach your work as solving problems, you're a problem solver or you're a consultant or a coaching approach, then I think, no matter what industry you're in, those skills are transferrable.

Deadra Welcome: So wherever you are, which is part of my business is meeting clients where they are to help them co-create and reimagine a culture where everyone can thrive. I meet you where you are. If you are having a challenge with performance reviews, then let’s see how we can solve those issues. If you’re having a problem with retention, let’s look at the problem and see how we can solve that. Maybe it’s a learning solution. Maybe it’s structuring the organization in a different way. So if you always approach your work as solving problems, you’re a problem solver or you’re a consultant or a coaching approach, then I think, no matter what industry you’re in, those skills are transferrable.

Brian Washburn: I really appreciate what you just said and that’s a very specific example, right? The kind of take a look at the problem and maybe the solution is learning approach. And I think that a lot of times with people who are trainers, right? And maybe even they have training in their title or they have responsibility of doing training, but they’re not necessarily– they don’t grow up in this world of overall talent development or organizational development or things like that. And so anything that they’re asked to do oftentimes result in training as a solution.

And what you just mentioned is training may be a solution, but maybe it is a different way to structure the team, and that’s not a training solution. And so one of the things that I’m hearing here is identify what the problem is first and really try to find the best solution, not just a one-size-fits-all approach. And a lot of times we in training feel like it’s really important to justify our work. And so when somebody says, “Hey, I need a training!” The answer isn’t, “Why do we need it? And is that the best way to go?” It’s, “Okay. Does it have to be eLearning or instructor-led?” Right? And so that’s actually one of the key takeaways I hear from this conversation and what you just said right there.

And so as we kind of wrap up this conversation, do you have other examples like that? Like for people who are listening and coming from the world of learning & development, what’s one piece of advice you might offer them to work more effectively with their HR colleagues? Not necessarily in a conceptual way, but are there one or two pieces of concrete advice or concrete steps that you would give to learning & development folks so that they can take these to heart, in terms of things that they can be doing to be more effective?

Advice for What L&D Professionals Can Do To Be More Effective

Think about the impact you wanna have and then work backwards.

Deadra Welcome: Absolutely. I think that we should start our work with the end in mind. So think about the impact you wanna have and then work backwards.

Brian Washburn: Mhm.

Deadra Welcome: So for example, when people come and they say, “I need team-building training.” That is one of my red flags. Team building, time management. Those are some words that should bring forth some additional conversation.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. Can you train us on how to break down silos? Well…

If it wasn't a training problem, then we've provided the wrong solution.

Deadra Welcome: Exactly. Well, okay, so if the end result is to break down the silo, we need to make sure that we are going to provide them the right solution so that they can’t say that, “Well, your training wasn’t effective.” And if it wasn’t a training problem, then we’ve provided the wrong solution. So you wanna look at your work not as transactional, “May I take your order, please?” You wanna look at it as how can I help you to transform and make your organization better? How can you make it perform better?

So doing that requires you to ask some questions, requires you to hear the request, and then you’re processing, “Okay, so how do I get them to their end result?” If they come to you for “our teams are not cohesive,” then we figure out, “Okay, so what’s going on? Tell me more about that problem. What are they not able to do?” Because when you’re asking that question, you’re teasing out skills.

So as a learning & development professional, when you say, “What are they not able to do?” “Well, they’re not able to provide an effective agenda.” That’s something that they can be taught. However, if we’re not using the agenda, then that’s an accountability issue. And that’s– you can train them all day. They know how to do it. They’re just not doing it. So what is causing them to not do it?

And that’s where you start to break down those barriers and help them to see, yes, this training is a part of the solution. In order for this solution to be effective, we also have to put some other standards of performance and some other things to motivate people to use the agenda and provide the agenda ahead of time, and then stick to it. So that’s just, in a nutshell, an example of how you can help– you know, be more effective in the learning & development role.

Brian Washburn: Perfect. Yeah. Thank you, Deadra. And this has been the first of what I believe will be several in a series of conversations with HR leaders and HR experts to talk a little bit more about how L&D and HR can play more nicely together and can really supercharge each other’s effort. So, Deadra, thank you so much for being the first. You certainly won’t be the last, but you’ve set the bar. Thank you everyone else for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen, which can be found on Spotify, it can be found on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts. And until next time, happy training everyone.

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