What’s the difference between HR and L&D?

Written by: Hazel Mason
Published on: 31 Jul 2019

HR and L&D are often saddled together forming two parts of the function concerned with managing talent in every organisation. But why does L&D fall under HR and what makes them different?

What’s the difference between HR and L&D?

What is Human Resources (HR) and how does it impact an organisation?

Human Resources tends to concern itself wholly with the management of resources relating to an organisation’s employees. The main focus for HR staff is to deliver solutions to ensure the effective running of an organisation with responsibilities including, payroll, talent management, recruitment, organisational development and employee engagement, to name a few.

The HR function works to recognise business needs and provide solutions where problems arise. It is, therefore, integral to the smooth running of any organisation.

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What is Learning and Development (L&D) and how does it impact an organisation?

Learning and Development often sits within the HR function as it’s training arm. L&D concerns itself with the management of employee training and development needs to fulfil their roles to the best of their ability. L&D roles can involve identifying learning gaps, designing and developing learning solutions, completing assessments and evaluation, or simply providing training to the organisation’s workforce.

L&D is equally as important to the business as HR and helps to ensure that an organisation has the skilled talent needed to excel in it’s markets.

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What are the similarities between HR and L&D?

HR and L&D are often grouped together under one HR function within an organisation. This is often because there is some crossover on certain key responsibilities. For example, talent management is an area that can easily sit under HR and L&D, with its focus on ensuring that an organisation has the right talent to deliver its business goals and strategy. This generally sits under HR but can also be incorporated into an L&D professional’s responsibilities to identify skills gaps and ensure staff are offered effective training.

Another area in which the lines blur between the two is performance management. Again, seen as an HR task, performance management does crossover into the L&D realm as individual’s skills and knowledge are monitored with training needs highlighted in performance reviews alongside overall attitude and job satisfaction.

Many areas pose a similar crossover with both HR and L&D professionals taking on responsibilities such as: 

  • Onboarding, to identify new starters skills and training needs whilst welcoming them to the organisation.
  • Succession planning, to help identify, develop and support the talent pipeline.
  • Change management, to teach individuals the new systems or processes and ensure they are prepared for and accept the changes.
  • Career planning, to help individuals guide their own careers by offering training and resources.
  • Talent assessments, to decipher the skills and knowledge of the current workforce and where additional skills are required.
  • Talent development, offering employees the opportunity to gain further skills and knowledge through training.
  • Coaching and Mentoring, to allow other members of the team to pass on their knowledge and expertise to colleagues.
  • Employee engagement and surveys, to monitor employee sentiment and ensure all employees are kept engaged and knowledgeable about business updates.
  • Exit interviews, to gather feedback from employees on their experience at the organisation and reasons for leaving

How do HR and L&D differ?

However, whilst both HR and L&D professionals do take on some of the responsibilities listed above, there are some in the opinion that L&D should not sit underneath HR and is a function in itself. L&D is primarily concerned with the development of an organisation’s staff through understanding how people learn. Arguably, this is using different skills to those required to undertake an HR role.

Whilst HR professionals may dip into ensuring training programmes are up and running and undertake talent assessments to identify skills gaps, it should be the responsibility of an L&D professional to analyse these results and ensure the training put in place is effectively closing the gaps.

L&D is not involved in aspects of HR such as payroll, reward or diversity and equality. The function exists to ensure that an organisation has the right talent and is developing that talent effectively to deliver its business goals and strategy.

Which pathway is right for you?

Deciding whether an HR or L&D role is right for you has to be based on your interests and motivations. To succeed in an L&D role, you will need to have a passion for coaching and developing individuals through effect training programmes as well as a desire to grow and nurture an organisation’s talent.

HR on the other hand covers many different roles concerned with managing an organisation’s people to deliver business outputs. Some roles are focused on processes such as payroll and reward, whereas others are more inclined to monitoring performance or ensuring a business is being ethical and honouring it’s duty to the community. With such a breadth of different job roles, the opportunities within HR are vast. Choosing whether this is a suitable career for you means exploring each of these possibilities and aligning your own skills and motivations with them.

To get started, you can read more about being an HR advisor here or an HR consultant here. You can also start by looking at the job descriptions of roles listed on People Management Jobs, start searching now.

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