Are L&D Professionals ‘Cobbler’s Children’?

This post has been written by Lesley Price, (aka @lesleywprice) Membership Services Manager for the Learning and Performance Institute.  Lesley has been involved with #chat2lrn since its inception and would like to share her thoughts on L&D Skills.

“The cobbler’s bairns are aye the worst shod”. I used to hear my granny saying this a lot when I was growing up, in case you haven’t come across the saying before, let me explain…

In the days when shoes were all handmade, cobblers were always very busy.  The story goes that the cobbler had so many orders, he needed to work very long hours. He was in fact so busy working for paying customers, that he was too busy to make and repair shoes for his own children.  So the cobbler’s children ended up either going barefoot or wearing worn out shoes.

But what, I hear you ask, does this old Scottish proverb have to do with Learning and Development?  Last week, the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) published the LPI Capability Map 6 Month Report. The LPI Capability Map is an online tool that allows learning professionals to self-assess their skills.  It has 9 category areas which contain a total of 27 skills, each one having 4 levels of competence.  The report is based on self-assessments of 983 L&D professionals against LPI’s Capability Map, and is a unique first look at the skills of a profession that is vital to any organisation working in the 21st Century.

The report certainly makes interesting reading and clearly shows that as a profession, we feel confident in our face-to-face delivery and content design skills.  These skills received the highest number of assessments (738 & 691respectively) and also the highest average scores (3.36 & 3.08).  However, there are a number of worrying skills gaps.  Some of these gaps are in the newer skills of Collaborative Learning, however although the average skill level was well below the average for Live Delivery, there were a large number of people who carried out assessments.  Which shows that people are at least beginning to develop these skills.

What is of more concern is the low number of assessments and low average scores in a number of other areas such as Competency Management: 349 assessments – average score 2.36, Change Management: 360 assessments – average score 2.54 and Data Interpretation: 319 assessments – average score 2.36. Also worrying is Communication, Marketing and Relationship Management:  349 assessments – average score 2.64. Are we not communicating and building relationships with other parts of the organisation?  Are we still designing courses or buying in training/elearning and expecting people to knock on our door? If Learning Professionals want to be agile business partners and have a positive impact on performance improvement, we need to have these kinds of skills;  otherwise there is a danger we will get stuck in, what Don Taylor describes as, the ‘Training Ghetto’

Which brings me back to the Cobbler’s Children.  After reading the report, I started wondering why there were fewer assessments in what are the less traditional L&D skills and also why the average scores are lower. Is it that we don’t think these skills are necessary?  Maybe, but if we read the latest news in various industry publications and blog posts from experts in our field, we should know that is not the case.  There is now a swell of feeling that L&D has to change its approach. So is it that L&D professionals don’t know this?  It could be as Industry Awareness had only 379 assessments and an average score of 2.64.

Most people I know who work in L&D are passionate about learning.  We spend most, if not all, of our time supporting others learning in one way or another.  So are we so busy looking after everybody else that we don’t look after our own skills needs? Are we in fact like the Cobbler’s Children and if we are, what are we going to do about it?

The summary of the LPI Capability Map 6 Month Report is available to the whole community free of charge.  To get your copy email  The full report is available to LPI members free of charge click here to request your copy.

3 thoughts on “Are L&D Professionals ‘Cobbler’s Children’?

  1. Pingback: Mind the Gap – How Can L&D Address Our Skill Gaps? | chat2lrn

  2. Pingback: What’s inspiring you right now? | chat2lrn

  3. The Training Foundation (TAP Training) has been bridging the skills gaps identified for many years, in particular with a number of programmes in Blended & eLearning, covering the technology challenges of today and L&D Consultancy Skills which addresses the networking and stakeholder relationship issues.

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