To be successful, professional service firms have to find common ground between the capabilities of their people and the needs of their clients.
It follows that the performance of the people within a firm will need to be aligned with the requirements of the firm’s clients. Learning & Development can help to achieve this but, to do so, needs to be properly positioned within the firm.
It is only relatively recently that training started to be seen as an important function which deserved a dedicated resource, rather than just being left to happen through on-the-job experience and apprenticeship. Then training officers were appointed and, in larger firms, training departments sprung up. In some firms training fell under the remit of human resources, whereas in others, it was the offspring of a research function and its focus was very much on technical skills.
More recently it has been recognised that training (or L&D as it has become known) has a broader role to play in helping firms achieve their business aims. The focus has therefore shifted more towards understanding the firm’s goals and equipping people to help achieve them. L&D has become more in touch with the needs of the firm.
However, perhaps there is a further shift that needs to take place. If L&D is to fully serve the needs of a firm, then its reach must extend further – and as directly as possible – to clients of the firm and even its target clients.
What does this mean in practical terms? By way of example, I have designed L&D interventions using specially created video interviews with a firm’s clients, and have even helped firms set up client advisory boards with recordings of meetings being used in workshops with fee earners as part of client service training.
If L&D is disconnected from the business and clients of a firm, then its relevance and value must be questionable. To contribute real value, L&D has to have access to whatever intelligence exists about a firm’s clients and, if that intelligence is insufficient, it should play a part in providing it.