Deep Thoughts Tools

The 8 Skills For The Future L&D Pro (And How To Build Them)

What does tomorrow’s learning professional need?

It ain’t more e-learning, I can tell you that. We need to be builders and strategic operators.

Below is data based on what I see as a practitioner in the flow of work.

Connected with developments in our modern world and the variety of conversations I have with fellow L&D Pros.

Focus your skill-building on these 8 areas ⬇️

Learning design 

This is your bread and butter. Without this, it’s hard to do anything.

Good learning design is not restricted to the physical world.

Every article, how to and step-by-step guide is a learning experience. Pay just as much attention to these journeys.

Become Tech Savvy

Digital technology powers many areas of our lives.

It makes sense to learn more, right? Hopefully, you agree.

Invest in understanding the basic principles of how different tech works together. This will improve your learning tech conversations and your day-to-day awareness.

Helpful resources:

👉 How to optimise your technology to improve learning and performance.

Build awareness

Understanding how to market your work and products is powerful for any career.

You don’t need to be a marketer but thinking like one won’t hurt you.

Helpful resources: 

👉 How to build awareness of your L&D products.

👉 How to use content marketing to supercharge your L&D brand.

Get comfortable with data

If you don’t know what works you can’t know what to work on.

Data is cool. But, what’s even better is knowing how to use this. Look beyond the vanity metrics.

Find people in and outside of your company to help you identify the metrics that matter.

Helpful resources: 

👉 I don’t do TNA (training needs analysis) here’s why.

👉 How to measure L&D success: Don’t do that, do this.

Learn how to use artificial intelligence tools

They’re not going to replace you but they can certainly help you. The current wave of AI tools is like a “pick your poison” choice.

There are thousands available to save you time.

My favourites include:

Helpful resources: 

✍️ The 3 Best AI Tools You Need To Know

🤖 The Ultimate ChatGPT Prompt Writing Guide

Focus on building a consultative approach

Consulting makes you hard to replace, facilitation makes you easy to replace.

Adopting a consultative approach gives you a sense of credibility as a trusted expert. You become the architect, not just the engineer (no idea where all these analogies are coming from today!).

Helpful resources:

👉 The 8 Best Performance Consulting Questions

👉 For L&D Pros How To Move From Learning To Performance

Learn how to write for the attention economy

The digital world has changed the way we consume writing.

You need to learn the game for today’s world.

Becoming a better writer has been instrumental in my own growth. We all write every day. This is one that’ll always be on the list.

Helpful resources:

📘 The Art And Business of Online Writing | Nicolas Cole

📘 Everybody Writes | Ann Handley

📽️ The Fundamentals Of Digital Writing

Double down on your human skills

Get comfortable sharing feedback, navigating difficult conversations, storytelling and emotional intelligence.

These will be core activities you do for a lifetime.

Helpful resources:

👉 10 Tips For Sharing Feedback That Will Improve Your Life And Career

👉  4 Lessons That Will Transform Your Storytelling Skills

👉  Emotional Intelligence Crash Course

You might think this is a lot, but it’s not really.

These are the future skills for the high-performing learning professional.

You’ll need to niche-down skills for different categories of L&D roles.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here or below.

Success! You're on the list.

You might also like

Deep Thoughts Tools

How To Unlock The Benefits Of Content Marketing For L&D Pros

Marketing, marketing, MARKETING! That’s what we as modern L&D Pros hear daily.

It’s been an industry topic for nearly a decade.

I love marketing. I talk about it a lot. Marketing frameworks have helped me accelerate my L&D career. The thing is marketing is not the cure to all our problems in the vast world of learning.

You don’t need to be a marketer.

Yet, learning a few frameworks from our friends here can help you in the world of L&D. We live in an attention economy. If a piece of content doesn’t pass the instant gratification test, we throw it into a black hole.

So, building awareness of all those learning products into which we pour our soul is a benefit, really.

You don’t want to spend time building an amazing learning experience just for it to get no engagement, right? If you build it, no one will come.

Unless you know how to build awareness.

Let’s focus on how you can build awareness to drive the value of your products.

Marketing Is HUGE

The problem with a lot of the “L&D needs to do marketing” advice I see online can be broken down into 2 areas:

  1. Saying “L&D needs to do marketing” is a captain obvious statement. We all know this. How about providing some direction?
  2. It’s not specific enough. The world of marketing is huge. So, for the modern L&D pro, what are the most useful areas for you?

Some areas of marketing include:

  • Outbound marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Brand marketing
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Stealth marketing (Ok, I might have made that one up)

You get the picture, right?

Not everything under the umbrella of marketing is right for you.

I want to be specific and break down one type of marketing that I believe works for our industry.

Content Marketing.

Content Marketing Explained

Our friends at Hubspot (an all-knowing and cool marketing company) summarise content marketing as:

“Content marketing is the process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing, and publishing content via channels such as social media, blogs, websites, podcasts, apps, press releases, print publications, and more.

The goal is to reach your target audience and increase brand awareness, sales, engagement, and loyalty.”


Does any of this sound familiar?

Now, some of you might be thinking “But. I’m a learning designer. I don’t need to know how to raise awareness of my work”. What are you…crazy? You do!

You might not realise it, but we’re marketing all the time.

  • We market our skills to potential employers.
  • We market our careers when building a case for promotion.
  • We market our compatibility when convincing our crush to go on a date.

Each of these is a piece of marketing.

L&D is no longer about design alone. You need to know how to position a product.

No matter if that product is you or what you’ve created.

Now, content marketing is best placed for L&D because it focuses on maximising awareness of your current assets to deliver value to users.

The important word here is value.

You can use all the marketing tactics you want. But if your experience or product sucks. It will still suck, no matter how many keywords or fancy visuals you used to promote it.

In summary, content marketing does what it says on the tin.

Market your content. Simple.

Content Marketing: How to use it in L&D

Ok, let’s get into the good stuff!

At its core, content marketing focuses on providing people with information that educates, inspires, informs and empowers.

Not much to ask for, right?

We can use this in both digital and physical experiences. Like content from your local learning platform or hyping up your next live workshop.

Content marketing can be both educational and entertaining. The best content marketing is a mix of both.

Types Of Content Marketing

We have a lot at our disposal with CM.

This commonly includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Toolkits
  • Infographics (are these still a thing?)
  • Video
  • Audio

Plenty for you to sink your teeth into.

Don’t be limited by picking one or two. Try them all out and find what works for your context.

Content Marketing Benefits

So many, my friends.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Build L&D brand awareness
  • Surface value-add content that would otherwise be lost
  • Build trust within your company
  • Convert more people to accessing useful stuff
  • Maximise ROI on your learning content and experiences

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’m sure you’ll discover more in your own journey.

Getting started with content marketing

Right, you’ve had your crash course in content marketing.

Now it’s time to put what you’ve learnt into practice. Lucky for me (and you), I’ve compiled a bunch of resources on bringing CM into the L&D world already.

Check out my in-depth breakdown of 3 Steps To Better Content Marketing For Learning Teams. Complete with examples and templates for you to steal.

Plus, you can check out my step-by-step video tutorial on content marketing best practices for L&D pros below.

Happy learning, friends.

Build your content marketing skills

Some of my favourite places to keep learning include:

  1. Content Marketing Institute
  2. Hubspot
  3. Copyblogger


  • Get specific on how marketing can help you.
  • Test and learn. Find what works for you.
  • Keep learning.
Deep Thoughts Tools

How To Position Your L&D Product for Success: 3 Proven Strategies You Need to Know

Like you, I recognise that a lot of the world is run on how well you can sell a product to end users. 

This is no different in the L&D world.

Your work doesn’t end with designing a solution. You have to convince people to use it. So, we must learn how to position our fabulous learning products and experiences to succeed.

What’s the number #1 thing you need to do when launching your L&D product?

You need to sell the outcome, not the product.

Not doing this can quickly condemn your product to the graveyard.

I’ve seen several L&D products fail not because they sucked, but because users weren’t aware of the outcome and how it will transform them for the better.

It’s useful to find your best position with your end users. It’s helpful to consider:

  • Why is this thing useful for them?
  • How will it improve their life?

These are the questions that we have to answer as L&D pros.

April Dunford, seasoned product positioning consultant and author of “Obviously Awesome“, perfectly frames what we need to do, sharing:

“It is the concept which defines how your product is best in the world at providing some sort of value to a special set or segment of customers who care about that specific value you provide them with.” 

Here’s how I learnt from positioning mistakes earlier in my career 👇 

1/Sell less, Solve Problems

No one cares about the product you’ve built. 

They care about how it will solve their problem and improve their life. It’s wise to get clear on the answers to these early in your design phase.

They’ll pay dividends when you reach the time to market.

I’ve fallen into this black hole earlier in my career. Build stuff and expect people to organically be excited about it because it helps them, right?

❌ Wrong.

I hit brick walls because I was trying to sell the L&D solution, not the problems it solved. Consider this next time you’re getting buy-in from stakeholders and end users.

What problem are you solving?

2/ Less Robot, More Human

In the visual example, we get real on how feedback is hard.

We must relate to our audience.

Talking like a robot and saying “Improve your feedback” is boringly flat. It doesn’t spark as an aspirational statement, right?

I find it helpful to meet people as a fellow learner because we all are. Calling out that the activity of feedback is hard and you find that too, helps set a co-partnering context.

3/ Talk Skills, Not Features

Share the benefits your audience will get by engaging with your product. 

Don’t share a feature list of what it contains. Yes, that means those huge bullet lists that feature on too many course pages.

Tell the story of how it will transform them.

The visual above works because we make a promise to build the desired outcome. We’re positioning our product to the audience which will get the most value from it. Just like April Dunford advises.

  1. We’re sharing 3 tips on FB to use immediately.
  2. You’ll learn how to share feedback like a pro (tactical promise)
  3. You’ll understand how to improve and feel better about the process (outcome).

And, all in one sentence. 

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here or below.

Success! You're on the list.

You might also like

Deep Thoughts Tools

How To Avoid These Goal-Setting Mistakes

It’s that time of year again.

You know, the one where we reflect, dissect and make new goals.

Perhaps, you set the same goals because you didn’t achieve them last year.

Don’t be that person!

Problem is…many screw up goal setting.

The common problem

We set things that are too big and super difficult to achieve.

This leads to fatigue and failure, which leaves us feeling ☹️, which is not the intention of goal setting.

Want to run x2 ultramarathons this year but haven’t been to the gym in 10 years? That’s a bad goal.

In fact, it’s more of a dream depending on your deadline to do this.

As always, context is king in goal setting too.

We’re all looking to become better humans. So, let me suggest an alternative…

Instead of huge goals, set mini-sprints.

BIG goals produce fear. They make our minds dwell on the anxiety of the enormity of the task.

The winning strategy

We can think big but we need a better plan.

Here’s an idea:

  • Define your BIG goal
  • Break it down into quarterly objectives
  • Then break that down into 3 week sprints to get you closer to those.

Ask yourself, what small things can you do in 3-week chunks to improve your life?

Small things lead to big things.

You may not feel this, but compounding small changes over time leads to HUGE results.

Imagine how a few small changes every 3 weeks will add up over 52 weeks of the year.

Surely that feels more manageable, no? Don’t beat yourself up trying to 10x in 1 week.

Build a better system.

Why not use sprints to go far in the next 365 days?

I know some of you are James Clear fans. This image will help cement what we’ve explored.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here or below.

Success! You're on the list.


Here’s How To Transform Your Company Learning Strategy From Education Obsessed To Performance Focused

Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to win the hearts and minds of business leaders with modern-era learning practices.

I’ve not always won those battles. However, I’ve learnt you don’t always need to.

Here’s a framework you can steal to use in your own strategy development.

How can you influence your stakeholders on modern-day learning design experiences? It’s a question which all L&D pros face.

We’re in 2023 with AI and Metaverses, but our stakeholders want ‘e-learning’ or ‘to get people together in a room’. It’s a huge contradiction of our time.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve smashed my head off a wall as I’ve repeatedly been asked “Hey Ross, can you create some training for our team?”. This is the most mysterious question I’m fed daily.

Do people think I’m a mind-reader?

90% of stakeholders want to tell you the solution to their problem.

This has been constant across the nearly two decades I’ve spent in the industry.

Typically, they fall into two camps:

  1. I think I have a training problem and want you L&D person to facilitate a classroom workshop.
  2. I still think I have a training problem. I want you L&D person to create a point-and-click e-learning experience because I want something interactive.

(Fun fact about the word ‘e-learning’, it’s 2023, and we know that everything is electronic now. You can drop the ‘e’. I promise it won’t hurt you).

Before you pull your hair out, let’s explore why this thinking occurs:

  • Our education system has brainwashed us to believe that ‘learning’ anything must be a designated event.
  • Naturally, this pours over to the working world. If it’s the only system you know, why would you do anything else? The problem is the world of work is not school.
  • Organisations don’t see L&D as performance-based. They label it as education. Which leads many to believe it is nice to have.

Now, it’s difficult to introduce new ways of thinking with such an established attitude towards L&D.

I write about doing things differently in the industry (I know, how devilish of me!).

But this is not easy. You’re not going to walk into a company and change the strategy from ‘here’s our list of courses’ to ‘how can we design the best solution to x problem for this audience’.

You’ve got to play the long game.

Sorry, no easy fix here. You might have to grit your teeth and play along for a bit.

Over this time you can do what I call the ‘Trojan horse’ technique.

When in doubt, build a Trojan horse

Before we get into the meat of this, let me provide context for those who aren’t familiar with the tale of the Trojan horse.

Back in the 5th century (a long time ago) the Greeks and Trojans were at war.

It was not going well for the Greeks. They’d been attempting to break down the city of Troy for 10 years. The siege felt like it would never end. The Greek king Odysseus had an idea that would change the tide of this war.

Odysseus created a new tactic that has echoed throughout the pages of history.

He built a wooden horse. I know, very revolutionary. Odysseus hadn’t lost his mind, he was seeing more clearly than ever.

Winning the war by brute force wasn’t going to work. The Greeks have been doing this for 10 years with nothing to show.

Instead, they created a trick.

One day, the Greeks pretended to sail away from Troy.

The Trojans believed they had given up. Outside the city walls, the Greeks left a wooden horse as a parting victory trophy for their enemies. The Trojans accepted and brought the horse into the city.

Little did they know, not all the Greeks had left.

Odysseus and a group of his men secretly hid within this wooden horse to gain access to the city.

When darkness fell, the troops jumped out of the horse to open the city gates for the rest of the Greek army who had sailed back after their fake departure.

Within hours, the Greeks destroyed the city, concluding the fall of Troy.

The Trojans played the smart move.

What does this have to do with transforming your company’s L&D strategy? A lot.

You can either choose to pursue a fruitless multi-year siege in telling stakeholders they’re wrong and you’re right. Which will 100% end up with them shutting down on you like the unbreakable gates of Troy.

Or, you can deploy the long game and switch to a smarter tactic.

How to deploy your Trojan horse

When a stakeholder wants a particular solution and you know you have no leverage in the matter, don’t fight it.

The battle will be pointless and you’ll likely end up in the same place.

Instead, build the solution(s) they want but drop in 10% of the stuff you know works better.

The play here is to neither give up nor try to start a war.

You find opportunities to weave in new ways of thinking and approaches into existing experiences. You’ll then compound this play over time.

What I’ve found is stakeholders typically get excited about that 10% bit and want more of that. It’s not a 100% win rate of course.

And, it has to be something that delivers a clear impact. You can’t do something different to have it fall flat and kill your own play.

The idea is to be strategic in your order-taking.

You can’t expect people to change because you tell them to. It takes months even years to wind hearts and minds.

It’s worth the effort.


  • Don’t preach, show.
  • Don’t start a war when you’re an army of one. Make small changes over time.
  • Be a strategic order-taker.
  • Change takes longer than you think.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here or below.

Success! You're on the list.

You might also like