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What does an L&D leader’s career path look like?

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What is the career arc of a learning leader? It’s even more varied than those of talent leaders overall, according to Aug. 15 data from LinkedIn, reflecting the rising importance of internal development and skills-based hiring.

Notably, only about 20% of L&D leaders began their careers as learning practitioners; many leaders started in a non-HR function, particularly compared to talent acquisition leaders, LinkedIn said. Around 38% of surveyed learning leaders were in an HR function before they moved into L&D leadership, and 11% were in education.

Those numbers signal that L&D pros tend to have more of a “jungle gym” approach to their careers, leaping between functions as they gain experience, LinkedIn said, as opposed to a more linear, ladder approach to growth. 

Additionally, more L&D leaders are developed and promoted internally compared to recruiting leaders — though the rate is still below half, with most leaders hired externally, LinkedIn said.

LinkedIn’s data is based on LinkedIn members who moved into their roles within the last 10 years, and it defined L&D leaders as those at director level and above.

Learning and development has risen in importance at organizations in the wake of the pandemic as demands for innovation have spiked.

Despite this, L&D’s influence may not be growing fast enough at most companies, a previous LinkedIn analysis revealed. While learning leaders are working more closely with the rest of company leadership, learning initiatives may still be growing “at a snail’s pace,” the organization said.

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