July 28, 2021

The learning and development manager: What it takes to lead L&D

Melissa Malec

A Learning and Development Manager oversees the personal and professional development of the people in the organisation. This ranges from entry-level joiners to senior professionals and encompasses all fields and focuses. It’s an exciting role to be in because you will have a direct impact on the growth of individuals and work with them to achieve their goals. 

To be a good learning and development manager you need to have passion for the job, a progressive mentality towards learning and a knack for balancing what is best for your people and your organisation. Before you go down the career path to becoming one, it is important to understand the role completely.

In this article, we’re breaking down what a Learning and Development Manager has as their responsibilities, what skills the role requires, and how you can become one.

What is a Learning and Development Manager?

At its core, the Learning and Development Manager exists to get the most out of an organisation’s most important asset - its people. They will create opportunities and monitor the development of individuals so that everyone has all that they need to become their best selves in life and at work. 



In the words of Geocaching’s Learning and Development Manager, Maria McDonald, “L&D Managers don’t just promote skills that improve a business's bottom line, they teach skills that improve people’s quality of life.” 

This means it’s more than filling skills gaps and maximising output, though those are certainly benefits of L&D. The role also needs to focus on soft and hard skill development that impacts someone’s life and career beyond their current organisation or job. It’s about creating an environment for development just as a gardener does with a greenhouse.

An L&D Manager will usually report to either the Head of HR or Head of Learning and Development. This depends on the organisation’s structure and size. For some smaller organisations where there is not a Learning and Development Manager, the responsibilities may fall to someone else in the HR or People department.

What are the responsibilities of a Learning and Development Manager?

This is a list of responsibilities a Learning and Development Manager can expect to take on:

  • Working with employees across the organisation to support their training and development
  • Fostering a culture of learning in the organisation 
  • Designing a Learning & Development strategy with others in the L&D, HR or People department
  • Sourcing, providing and managing learning and development resources and tools 
  • Understanding the needs of the business and what skills gaps exist through close relationships with leadership and managers
  • Oversee talent development at all levels of the organisation from new joiners to senior managers (including first-time manager training)
  • Being aware of and working to improve employee engagement with learning and resources
  • Embracing and exploring different learning styles, techniques and preferences such as e-learning, conferences, coaching, and beyond
  • Designing training programmes to meet internal needs (a Learnerbly example is that we have to be skilled in GDPR to protect the data privacy of our clients)
  • Managing organisation, team or personal learning budgets
  • Keeping up with industry trends and be willing to adapt

What are the skills a Learning and Development Manager needs?

To take on the responsibilities listed above, a learning and development manager needs to have a strong and varied skill set. 

Good communication is the crux of this role as it requires regular feedback given and taken from many stakeholders but plenty of other skills are required too.

The below is by no means an exhaustive list as every team, role and person is different but these are a good place to start.

Facilitation

Oftentimes, a Learning & Development Manager will be implementing tools and processes. They will need to facilitate the use of these as well as growth and development conversations between employees and their managers. 

When it comes to group training in the organisation, the L&D Manager will often be heading these and will need to facilitate conversations throughout. Development can be a difficult subject for people and it’s crucial that the learning and development department can make them feel comfortable and safe sharing and discussing their shortcomings, goals and initiating feedback.

Good listening

Part of good communication is knowing how to listen. An L&D manager will need to seek answers from their people in order to understand their needs and wants when it comes to development as well as create relationships where people feel they can give feedback and propose ideas without being prompted. 

Part of being a great listener is allowing for quiet retrospection. Jes Osrow, Co-Founder of HR consultancy, The Rise Journey, says that the most important skill a learning and development manager should have is ‘the ability to pause and have quiet space. People need time to think and prepare answers, sometimes it is hard to leave that space.  Having the patience to let people get 'there' themselves, but together, is an impactful way for both individual and team growth.’

Budget management

A Learning and Development Manager will oversee a budget and so anyone in the role will need to be capable of tracking and managing the spending of that budget. More progressive organisations will allocate team or, even better, personal learning budgets (PLBs) which will need to be distributed. Often it is the responsibility of a Learning & Development Manager to make sure budgets are not used incorrectly. 

Leadership

In some organisations, the Learning and Development Manager will also manage their own team. Leadership is an important skill but the type of leadership someone takes on is dependent on the personality of the individual.

Adaptive

L&D is constantly evolving. Anyone who works in the space needs to be able to pivot strategy and respond to changing technologies to better help their people develop and grow at work. 

How to become a Learning & Development Manager

Now that you know the responsibilities and skills of a good learning and development manager, you can decide if it is the job for you. We wouldn’t blame you if you did want to be one, it’s a very noble and rewarding position to have. 


For Jes Osrow it’s the growth you see happening in real-time that is the most rewarding. She says, ‘The best part of working in L&D is seeing and feeling the moment someone has been impacted or changed. It can happen through autonomous learning, conversation, discussion (and usually, the difficult conversations). You can see the cogs in someone's brain working and processing. Most of the learnings that are sustainable and lasting aren't huge, monumental leaps — they are small, baby steps in a new light. This work isn't about the workplace, it is about the people. And providing accessibility learnings, meeting people where they are at and getting them to move together on a journey.’

If this is a career path you do want to go down or transition into then the below can help. 

Past experiences you need to become a Learning and Development Manager

There is no set in stone career path to becoming a Learning & Development Manager because the skills required can be learned from different experiences and backgrounds. What can be helpful is having prior experience in People or HR departments, earning a CIPD qualification and having your own passion for personal development and learning. 

People and HR background

Management of people and processes is a huge part of the role so experience in the People and HR space will not only be helpful in the day-to-day completion of the job but it will also make you a desirable candidate.

CIPD Qualifications

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) is the professional body for HR and L&D professionals. They offer a wide range of short courses and qualifications covering HR, L&D and People management. Having a CIPD qualification is often a desirable requirement for many L&D roles, so they're worth looking into. 

A passion for learning and development

If you don’t have the two above, don’t worry, having a multi-disciplinary background and approach can be very helpful in guiding others on their journeys. Having a passion for learning and growth, however, is important for job satisfaction.

When someone has a passion for their job it is clear in the interview process and it adds to happiness at work. If you didn’t enjoy personal development and you didn’t get a kick out of helping others achieve their goals then the L&D manager job may not be right for you.

Other considerations

Knowledge of the workplace learning space, trends and resources will help prepare you for a role in Learning & Development. This can be achieved through research as much as practical experience. I recommend signing up for the Offbeat newsletter which always discusses relevant Learning & Development Manager topics, shares helpful blog articles from the industry and includes available learning and development manager jobs.

This job is typically mid-level management. Some companies may be looking for an experienced learning and development manager. If you are hoping to break into the role you should apply for job opportunities that are in line with how much experience you have.

A great way to counter lack of experience is to seek out mentorships, coaching or even career progression (if possible) within your company because they will know your capabilities more than a potential employer would.

What can a Learning & Development Manager expect to make?

A full-time learning & development manager can expect to make between £35,000 to £50,000 depending on their experience level and location. The best way to find out what you could be earning is by looking at recently posted jobs in your local area.

Where can you find learning and development jobs?

There are many different places you can look for Learning & Development Manager jobs, including the aforementioned Offbeat Newsletter. Of course, you can scan typical job post sites such as Linkedin, Glassdoor, Otta, and many more. 

Beyond those, a great place to start is to get involved in Learning & Development manager communities. They often share new jobs that come up in their networks. 

Now what?

If you want to learn more about learning and development, learning cultures and general HR/People topics then scroll down below to explore more of our blog and subscribe to our newsletter. 

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