The L&D Forum

This short article ‘Becoming influential as an L&D Practitioner’ By David Wilkinson in the Oxford Review caught my eye for several reasons – firstly anything which has the words ‘clear, easy and practical’ attached tend to resonate with me, and secondly it captured some interesting and important differences in the way L&D is positioned and therefore perceived in an organisation.

Wilkinson identifies these three types:


Type 1 Pseudo L&D

Type 2 Delivery L&D…or…

Type 3 L&D Experts


Type 3 is where the most influential L&D people are, with Wilkinson identifying practitioners working in a type 3 environment as having great communication skills, being critical thinkers with practical ideas and up to date thinking.  He goes on to define the latter two as pre-requisites to influence i.e. the ability to stay up to date with the latest thinking, research & knowledge, and to then be able to come up with practical ideas and solutions that can be implemented in the organisation are the things that give you credibility and make people take notice and listen.

Join the discussion and share your experiences.


Which type of L&D does your organisation have/are you part of?

What steps have you taken/could you take to become more influential?

What are the benefits of L&D being influential in an organisation?

What are the barriers to the above?

How can you overcome the barriers?

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  • Mike, I agree with aspects of what you say here (and wholeheartedly about some of the words used such as 'pseudo') and I particularly agree that there is and there needs to be credibility in each type whether administrating, delivering or working at a more strategic level.  That said, I didn't really take from the article that types 1 and 2 were not important (perhaps just some of the language/wording could have been different?) - they are, and as with most functions there are different job roles and tasks (i.e. types 1, 2 and 3) which all make up the 'whole'.  I think that what the article misses is that senior people within L&D (who i am correlating with Level 3) are generally working at a more strategic level and therefore will be in the position to have influence at that strategic level - it would be unusual for someone carrying out the crucial administrative or delivery roles (however competent and good at their job) to have direct strategic influence?  They could however have significant influence in other areas of L&D they are in direct contact with.  So I wonder if the 'flaw' here is that actually if we consider L&D as a whole function/team (rather than a hierarchical set up where team members are not working collaboratively), then simply put that level 3 person is the one interacting and collaborating at a strategic level and therefore in the right place to influence. And the chances are that if that person is the right person for that role (i.e. competent), they will have been open to the ideas, thoughts and challenges of their own team and be bringing these to the table as part of L&D's influence?

  • Having read the article a couple of times I'm not sure I entirely agree with it or the 231 L&D professionals interviewed. I get what it's trying to get across but to generalise anyone in an L&D admin role is a bottom-tier / sham L&D professional is a little extreme. Admin roles can be easier to recruit for and whilst following a process can be quite straight forward you still expect that person to be competent and expert in THAT role...certainly credible. 

    The article for me very much breaks down certain component parts of L&D but again to suggest that those people delivering L&D initiatives have very little influence and are rarely listened too. Huh? That is a total oxymoron. If L&D professionals who are delivering training or learning initiatives that should be driving behavioural change or developing knowledge & skills are not being listened to and have no influence then this is more a reflection on the organisation and it's approach/view to learning rather than the individual delivery trainer - although if this is what the 231 people believe then it is a poor perception.

    Successfully delivering and facilitating training / learning interventions that bring about genuine change & performance improvements is a REAL skill and should be valued and continually developed by an organisation. To suggest they are easy to replace just doesn't make sense to me.....not sure recruitment teams would agree either. Does Delivery also cover Design - so many L&D professionals are now developing different skill sets around diagnostic, research, design, digital capability, online and face to face facilitation & crucially evaluation.

    Then we have the expert L&D person - I agree that keeping up to date with the latest thinking is important but this often translates to magpie thinking - the latest buzzword and shiny new toy syndrome where L&D will be moving on to new things before mastering the things they currently have in their tool kit. The ability to turn ideas and research in to practical solutions if really important but will the L&D expert be doing this or will they need the inferior Delivery L&D person who no-one listens too to help? I can see a problem developing. 

    Sounds like I'm on my soapbox and I probably am but for me L&D influence comes from the sum of its parts and if learning is going to be given the focus throughout the organisation it's not just learning professionals who drive this but managers and individuals throughout the business at every level.

    I love the variety of roles within learning & development but everyone in those roles needs to be credible and to know they stuff i.e how they contribute to the success of the organisation - just like in any other role. Understanding the business, developing / nurturing relationships and effectively consulting with our colleagues to help them with their challenges means we can add value at every level and in every role. Explicitly linking what L&D is doing to the business objectives and improving performance should be how L&D gain credibility and influence - because it makes a difference. 

    If L&D hasn't got influence or isn't seen as a value add department then there are some fundamental things going wrong in those organisations and potentially in those L&D teams. Making sure that your L&D team has the right knowledge, skills and behaviours and is set up correctly to support the organisation at every level with the ability to adapt and flex to support it's goals is key. 

    Stand off soapbox....and goes for a coffee.

    Anyone else?

This reply was deleted.

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