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Learning on the Job: The Key to L&D existing as a Value-Creator

October 21, 2020

Edited by Anuj Vyas.

Learning on the Job has merged with the everyday work context in the year 2020 like never before. Our esteemed panellists, Marea O’Sullivan and Christian Holz have successfully lobbied for L&D to be weaved into, and be a constant part of every individual’s work life. It goes without saying, that their core beliefs put them in the pole position to adapt when the Covid pandemic came calling.


This blog piece is based on excerpts from Marea O’Sullivan's keynote in Learn Tomorrow’s and eLearning Journal's webinar titled Learning on the Job: Bringing Together Digital Learning & Work, held on the 13th of October, 2020.

Please follow this link to get insights from Christian Holz on this topic. He was also a panellist on the Learning on the Job webinar.

Find out more about our upcoming Webinars and how to register for them from here.


Marea O’Sullivan

Marea O'Sullivan is an L&D and O.D. Expert with more than 20 years of experience in the L&D field. She is currently Head of Leadership and Team Development at a multi-national pharma and biotech company. She currently resides in Dubai.

Throughout my career, I have never been called an L&D manager or described as a Master of something pertaining to the L&D industry, even though my roles have been described quite synonymously with L&D.

It took some time to work out why this was so. Essentially, the methods and visions that I have been bringing with me into L&D projects; methods that propagate the value of Learning on the Job, seem to be different to the ideas that my network of colleagues traditionally believed in. I have been promoting the Learning on the Job concept for many years, but it hasn’t been accepted into L&D as a vital cog until recently.

Not being recognised by my peers was constantly nagging me, before I came across Jos Arets’ 4 Business Models for L&D, or as those who follow it refer to it, The New Value Creation Model.

Model 1: Order-Taker

In this model, the line managers from a corporation come to L&D professionals and place their order; budget, topic, number of participants and duration, almost like they are in a shop. The success of the L&D professional is measured by how well these ‘orders’ have been matched with what is available on the 'shelf'. Business impact, professional or cultural variables are not considered into trainings. L&D in this case is regarded as a cost-centre, so naturally, with the on-set of a pandemic like the current COVID-19 situation, L&D is the first casualty of cost-cutting measures.

I realise that I came into L&D as a Learning Enabler; as my roles and learning goals were always connected to the business goals.

Model 2: Learning Enabler

This method is an upgrade on the Order-Taker model, in that formal training is upgraded to include some educational analysis, thus having more focus on design and development towards the transfer. I stepped into box because I was having trouble talking about ‘Learning on the job’ and ‘Performance improvement’ with my organisation.  

This method is more strategy focused, but still has little or no business-case analysis.

As an example to illustrate this model, in a recent role, I collected the ideas I am used to employing based on ‘Learning on the Job’ and packaged these into a catalogue, so that the company had something tangible and structured that they could pick out ‘from the shelf’.

I found this approach worked better to cater for ‘orders’ since explaining the importance of Learning on the Job in exclusivity does not get through to groups that are still buying into L&D in the old 'Order-Taker' way.

This does not change the fact that L&D is still regarded as a cost centre in this model.

Model 3: Performance Enabler

Using this model, the Business and the teams comprising it were analysing together with me what their pain-points were… we were looking at how we could do continuous improvement, using working as learning and learning as working with real-life work examples.

We didn’t work just on traditional L&D training solutions, but on responsibilities, roles, re-structuring or streamlining processes… whatever it took for the performances to improve.

We could demonstrate impact; if not business impact, then certainly the learning and development impact; where the subject started to where they ended up finally, with improvement within the business goals.

This Method begins the transition of L&D from a cost centre to a revenue centre.

Model 4: Value Creator

We co-create the solutions which are never just learning solutions or performance solutions.

This is where L&D is involved in the structuring and organisation from the bottom up, working hand-in-hand with the organisation to setup teams, processes, and facilitating communication between these groups and also learning and development in it's traditional formats.

I will use another example to illustrate this model - With Covid, we realise that our work force can no longer meet the doctors face to face. So, whereas in our pre-Covid process, the workforce was required to meet a team of physicians at regular periods, that has now been re-adjusted, and the way they engage with the physician has to be re-evaluated. It is my responsibility as a HR/OD professional to sort out how this will function in the future.

Therefore, I have become a Value Creator; I’m working with real-life problems which have an impact on the business and organisation, transforming a cost-centre into a profit-centre in the process.

In conclusion, there is a saying that goes 'if you are not at the table, you are on the menu'; if one doesn’t create value and show that they are relevant as the landscape changes, they will be the one made redundant. L&D must be seen as a Value Creator here onwards.

Visit Learn Tomorrow's Events page to register for our upcoming webinars.


Anuj Vyas is a member of Learn TomorrowcBook.AI aims to create a new learning experience providing a personal Learning Feed, which smartly selects learning content on the basis of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Artificial Intelligence.

Photo by Samson on Unsplash. Thank you.


Learn Tomorrow is an eLearning technology provider. cBook is an integrated Learning Experience Platform (LXP) aiming to create digital learning experiences with impact. Tailored to the needs of businesses, academies & trainers.

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