Role extending

Photo by Angela Roma on

One of the common challenges I hear from LnD people is how their role is extending from ‘just’ learning provision into performance support, data analytics and an engineering way of working isn’t ‘what they signed up to’.

I was reminded last week of how it felt when I worked in the fire service in a learning role. The nature of the fire service was changing and the operational workforce were on the cusp of moving to firefighters to fire preventers with community engagement at the core. This was a very different way of working for men (and it was 98% male) who had joined a service to save lives and be relied on in an emergency.

The thought was prompted when I read this excellent paper on the emotional impact of extending roles in the fire service. From it, this phrase really hit home:

Role extension should not be seen as a cost-free add-on…rather, it creates a new set of demands which are emotionally laborious because they require people to step outside their professional role and identity.

Needham, Griffiths, and Mangan, 2021

Switch this into LnD and a new set of demands we’re setting for learning professionals will be ’emotionally laborious’.

We’re challenging people’s identity as a professional, asking them to slide into activity they may feel underprepared and incapable (lacking capacity and ability) to be able to deliver. That’s not to say we shouldn’t extend roles.

It just means we need to understand the grief process people will have to go through as their old ways of work disappear.

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