Does L&D belong in HR?

That was the topic of last week’s Learning Cafe in Sydney.

In short, my esteemed peers and I agreed on “yes”, but that’s not the end of the story. Allow me to explain…

Business woman designing a plan on screen

According to one school of thought, L&D belongs in HR because that’s how you achieve scale. The fundamental learning and development needs in the organisation (eg leadership, culture and change) are enterprise-wide. So it makes sense to centralise their management.

According to another school of thought, however, the needs of the business are so diverse and unique that a central L&D team could never hope to keep abreast of them all – let alone address them effectively. So it makes sense to embed L&D professionals into the teams to manage the learning in its context.

Of course, both POVs are right. Whether L&D should be centralised in HR or distributed throughout the business is not a binary proposition. A true learning organisation needs both.

Having said that, how the organisation implements the two is important. There’s no point having an ivory tower bestowing empty training interventions upon the masses; and conversely, there’s no point having an army of hermits toiling away in isolation.

What’s required is a partnership: L&D people across the organisation consulting and collaborating with each other – and with the business – to generate the right solutions for everyone.

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2 Comments on “Does L&D belong in HR?”


  1. I like this post, Ryan. Thank you. I agree with ‘partnership’ every time.
    One of the things that does concern me from time to time is the apparent focus of HR in managing or avoiding risk. I do appreciate where HR is coming from. But, from time to time, this root HR motivation does seem to cause friction with L&D whom perhaps their root motivation can be defined as ‘enabling’.
    I apologise if this sounds simplistc – it’s just been something I have been thinking about for a while.

  2. Ryan Tracey Says:

    Fair call, Alison. I’ve seen a bit of that myself over the years.

    Of course, a centralised L&D team need not be in HR. I wonder if a stand-alone L&D team would change the dynamic?


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