Should Learning and Development Be Renamed the Opportunity Department

wall art with hearts and why not for learning opportunities

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

During the last SAP SuccessFactors Conference, I heard an interesting term that got me thinking. The term was “opportunity marketplace”. It was explained as a place – both virtual and in-person – where employees engage to better themselves and ultimately produce organizational results.

I like the term. Organizations give employees opportunities all the time. What connected it for me were two things. First, the word marketplace. A marketplace is defined as a “location where people gather for goods or services”. Marketplaces by definition can be used to create scalability and consistency. The second part was producing organizational results. When organizations provide employees with opportunities, they need to explain how those opportunities benefit both the employee and the organization.

So, what if organizations created their own “opportunity departments” or “opportunity marketplaces”? It seems logical to me that learning and development departments would be a natural place to start. Granted, it would involve some rethinking but it’s not impossible. And having a department coordinate “employee opportunities” could be a win for all. If this idea intrigues you too, here are a few things to consider:

Organizations should define what “opportunities” look like. Let’s face it…learning and development departments are often focused on training. Opportunity departments would be focused on training as well as succession planning, self-development, goal setting, and maybe even special projects. Opportunity departments need to know what opportunities look like and, in every organization, it could be a little different.

Managers and Learning & Development would need to work together strategically. Often managers talk with employees about their future with the company, opportunities for professional growth, etc. And we often rely on managers to do that on their own. If the company has an opportunity department, then they need to be looped into these discussions. They need to be in a position to offer support, guidance, and resources.

Opportunity departments can and should coordinate cross-department and cross-function employee opportunities. This kinda ties into the comment above about L&D and management working together. An opportunity department could let managers know when an opportunity exists for one of their employees in another area of the company. This is a HUGE advantage that, in times when managers are left on their own to create and communicate opportunities, doesn’t always happen.

While I do like the idea of an opportunity department, it won’t happen by simply changing the name of learning and development. And maybe changing the name of the department is irrelevant. Organizations can just start relying on learning and development to help create more opportunities for employees.

I believe organizations have a lot of opportunities to offer employees. When those opportunities are well-defined, well-communicated, and supported by management, then employees deliver better performance, and the organization produces positive results.

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