Thursday, June 10, 2010

Role of a Learning Consultant: Insightful discussion imported from LinkedIn

I am copying a discussion we have been having on LinkedIn as a part of the Training&Development group. I started this discussion to understand the roles (tacit and explicit) that a learning consultant plays. The discussion that evolved has been one of the most insightful for me and I thought it should be shared with those who may not at present be a part of the T&D group on LinkedIn. Moreover, I would urge all learning folks to join this group—just to keep learning and evolving…and to contribute to these discussions so that we can all learn together.
Here’s to continuous, lifelong learning! Collective Learning rocks!!!
Senior Consultant at Zensar Technologies
What does a Learning Consultant do? What are some of the primary and secondary functions that a business expects from a learning consultant?
I am interested in finding out if there are any defined set of tasks that a learning consultant would do to enable organizational learning. I understand that the need differs from organization to organization. But there would still be some baseline tasks that a consultant would do in this respect.
Comments (12)
Even i am interested to know about the same, can anybody help please.

  1. Prabha Kuksal
Learning and Development Manager at ACS
Some the primary task that any learning consultant should do is
1) understand and list the goals of the buisness (specifically yearly goals).

2) Understand the parameters of performance analysis......(KPI's ,SLA's, Customer sats , error rates etc)

3) Identify Gaps in the performance ...if there are any....... how further the buisness units are from reaching buisness goals.

4) analyze these goals or gaps and see what are the learning interventions that could be used to help buisness units reach goals or fill the gaps.

5) then design and develop these training interventions( training programs both CBT and ILT, coaching opportunities, awareness programs etc)

These are the first things that any learning consultant should complete.
Never build a training program that dont have a ROI. And when I say ROI it should not be how many people were trained and what their training scores were.
True ROI is when you can let people know how the training has brought about marked change in performance . So goes back to linking it to KPI'S and SLA's.
  1. Richeek Kanjilal Roy
Learning Strategy Expert
It depends on the need of the organization. Among others, a learning consultant may need to analyze performance issues, conduct training needs analyses, create a course catalog, create technical/managerial learning paths, select tools, select vendors (courseware, technology, processes etc.), select custom-built courseware, provide post-training support, measure learning effectiveness, create mentoring/coaching frameworks, create frameworks that enable community-driven learning, and create and sustain Communities of Practice.
Experienced Learning/OD Consultant and Coach
Are you talking about an in-house learning consultant? I wonder if it's helpful to 'chunk up' the responsibilities into 3 core areas, and then see what is really important? The 3 areas could be:-
1. Learning design - including needs analysis, designing learning in line with adult learning principles, structuring learning events for different delivery channels.
2. Learning delivery - including facilitation / presentation of learning events, engaging learners, making best use of different media.
3. Management of Learning - which includes programme / project management, learning evaluation, stakeholder management, supplier management.
The one element that is least likely to be outsourced is the management of learning. But I think most of the joy comes from the design and delivery, so the more an in-house L&D consultant can master and retain these elements, the more rewarding I think they'll find the job.
Senior Consultant at Design Laboratory Inc.
Learning Consultants, especially outside consultants, generally provide one or more of the following services:

1) Identify the problem that learning is meant to solve. Talk to stakeholders and SMEs, gather and assemble data and report back the findings. Develop a high-level scope.

2) Develop a plan for solving the problem, based on company culture, existing materials, resources, budget, stakeholder and SME involvement, vendor solutions and a host of other variables. Obtain stakeholder signoff for the plan, making revisions as necessary, ensure you have shared agreement to what constitutes a successful engagement, and that everyone agrees on how success will be measured. Lock down and establish the scope, resources, timeframe, deliverables and success metrics, as well as a plan for maintaining the program (if needed) after the project concludes.

Note that any impediments to learning success that are beyond the scope of a training project should be flagged and identified during this part of the engagement. Also, stakeholder agreement and buy-in is critical to success.

3) Implement the plan. This is where instructional design, course development and training activities come into play. This also might include buying and implementing an off-the-shelf solution, setting up coaching activities or something as simple as creating a job aid. During this time period, the methods for assessing the learning activities should be developed and put into place.

4) Evaluate the plan. Collect evaluations, assessments, conduct interviews or complete any other activities designed around measuring program success. Gather and compile this information for reporting purposes. If the project scope permits, make any changes to the process and materials based on this feedback.

5) Project close-out. Provide any agreed-upon reporting, conduct a "lessons learned" as requested, transition the program into maintenance mode, and close out the project.

Those are the high-level steps - specific skills one might need depends on the project and business needs. Hope this helps!
Senior Consultant at Zensar Technologies
The inputs have been really insightful. I am glad that the distinction between inside consultant and an external consultant came up. This had been an area of confusion with me.

Jane's point on Management of Learning, I have learned from experience, is crucial. Managing stakeholders is a key to success. I have learned that it is important to set the right expectations. Sometimes, this perception managment becomes the success factor. As consultants, we have to keep the client's business interest at the center and ensure that they understand this. This calls for appropriate communication, an understanding of business, as well as the solution being offered.

Lynne pointed out: "Note that any impediments to learning success that are beyond the scope of a training project should be flagged and identified during this part of the engagement. Also, stakeholder agreement and buy-in is critical to success."

This, I have discovered, is another very important criterion for the success of a training project.
Creative Learning Developer, E-Learning Specialist, Multimedia Content Designer and Developer
thank you for this insightful discussion. I am Learing consultant based at the client currently; and the feedback received in this discussion has been of tremendous HELP to me.
Director at Innovators and Leaders
It has already been stated that all organisations will have different needs so we need to answer that question - What does ( or should ) a learning consultant do? - slightly differently.
Well, the operative word here is ' consultant' , someone who is not an employee of the organisation. What is the value that s/he, and s/he alone, can bring to the table in the domain of learning?
I have realized that consultants are uniquely positioned to give an unbiased, objective opinion. All employees have an axe to grind, even the most honest ones. So, their opinion will always be biased or at least influenced by the existing environment. The consultant too has an axe to grind in that he wants a longer engagement with the client. But that can be controlled reasonably with smart engagement terms.
Use a consultant to tell the king that he is naked. This is a useful contribution in any field but invaluable in the field of learning.
There is one more exclusive characteristic of a consultant. Since he has been dealing with only that subject for a long time, he is more of an expert. Use him as an SME and supplement it with the contextual knowledge of the insider employee.
Developer and Director at Free Management Library
Regarding what a learning consultant does, I recommend reading the Chief Learning Officer magazines articles about various organizational roles around learning. You can get it for free and it's substantive in my opinion. (I'm not affiliated with the magazine, at all.

(By the way, a consultant can be an employee, an internal consultant of the organization. I even seem to remember a survey about 5 years ago that indicated that the Fortune 1000 uses more internal consultants than external consultants. I don't know if that's true for mid-sized companies.)
Principal Consultant - Talent Transformation at Wipro Technologies
For anyone that is aspiring to be a Learning Consultant, I would very much suggest to go through series of articles (12 parts) by Paul Kearns titled "From Trainer to Learning Consultant". You can go to his website to get these: .
I have found it to be very useful information and also something which can be practiced in your own organization.
Senior Consultant at Zensar Technologies
@Mohan: Thank you for sharing the link. It couldn't have come at a more opportune time for me.

The discussion here has been immensely helful in not only providing me with different perspectives but also in clarifying the different roles and responsibilities of a learning consultant.

@Alok Asthana: The following comment captures the role of a consultant and added clarity to my thoughts. Well, the operative word here is ' consultant' , someone who is not an employee of the organisation. What is the value that s/he, and s/he alone, can bring to the table in the domain of learning?
Bottom of Form
Senior Consultant at Zensar Technologies
@Carter McNamara: I completely agree with you that CLO is a very good online magazine. I follow it regularly for industry insights and knowledge and to understand how workplace learning happens...

I have started a new discussion to understand the following:

Are there any specific tool kits or templates that Learning Consultants should have? What are some of the specific, tangible outputs expected from a learning consultant by a business organization?

Organizations as Communities — Part 2

Yesterday, in a Twitter conversation with Rachel Happe regarding the need for organizations to function as communities, I wrote the follow...