What can 50 job descriptions tell us about what employers need in an L&D manager?

Last week I began to wonder just what employers value in their L&D teams, particularly their L&D leadership. I hopped on indeed.com and searched for L&D manager positions. I grabbed the first 50 job descriptions I could find and plugged them into a word cloud generator and this is what I found: 

Word Cloud - Job Descriptions

Honestly, when I began this I had some hypotheses of what I might find, but I was curious about what the word cloud generator would spit out. I was a bit surprised to find things like instructional design didn’t seem to pop up as major terms in job descriptions. There were also very few “hot topics” from inside the L&D industry that showed up in these job descriptions – things like microlearning, augmented reality or gamification.

Does that mean staying abreast of the latest trends in the industry is not important? No. What it does mean if you’re looking to move up in the world of L&D is that you’ll need to figure out how to develop some key big picture business skills. There were three concepts that jumped out at me when I looked at this word cloud, and they seem to work best as a continuous cycle.

Management Cycle

1. Needs Assessment

Just look at the biggest word in the middle of the word cloud and you’ll find the reason that an L&D program even exists: to meet the needs of individual employees and the needs of the organization as a whole.

Before you get to instructional design, microlearning, virtual reality, learning management systems or anything else, L&D leaders must be able to scan the organization and identify skills gaps and learning needs. L&D leaders can gauge learning needs by using some or all of the following:

  • Employee surveys
  • Individual and organizational key performance indicators
  • Formal (or informal) performance reviews
  • Competency models
  • Informal observations and lunchroom conversations
  • Strategic plans

2. Autonomy and Responsibility

While words like “tools” and “LMS” can be found in the word cloud if you scan across the page, more important words such as the following seemed to be much more commonly sought after job description responsibilities:

  • Develop
  • Design
  • Delivery
  • Drive
  • Execute

Employers are looking for L&D leaders to come in and take control of the learning strategy. This is where your ability to stay current on industry trends and best practices will be essential. Where should a distance learning approach be taken vs. in-person training? How can job aids and short videos supplement more formal learning? An ability to make the right calls on these will have a very big impact on your L&D leadership tenure, because the third set of words that jumped out at me in this word cloud revolve around “accountability”.

3. Accountability

The last set of words that jumped out at me in this word cloud included:

  • Ensure
  • Goals
  • Success
  • Results
  • Reporting
  • Improve
  • Measurement

Employers may be willing to pay good money for an L&D leader, but that person needs to be able to drive a learning program or strategy that has results… and then be able to communicate those results.

The nice thing is that L&D leaders who are able to measure results can build key learnings from those measurements into future learning program designs, and the cycle of needs assessment-autonomy-accountability begins anew.

What jumps out at you when you look at the word cloud?


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2 thoughts on “What can 50 job descriptions tell us about what employers need in an L&D manager?

  1. This is great research! I have found myself looking at these job descriptions lately in order to really hone in on what are my next steps in professional development. Thanks for putting together this awesome summary, Brian!

    • Thanks Betty! Look at the big words in the word cloud… but don’t ignore the small words too. There are some true golden nuggets if you scan across some of the smaller words!

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