Vassilis Theocharides: "We tend to forget to be empathetic and end up not knowing what our colleagues or partners are doing."

50 jaar VOV
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How would you define a good L&D professional? 

“A good L&D professional is someone who is committed to their own learning and pursues insights on new and best practices in the L&D field. We created the Talent Development Capability Model to help L&D professionals understand the key capabilities for the field and identify their strengths and weaknesses. It’s important for L&D professionals to model the value of learning. A good L&D professional is also a good business partner and is creating learning initiatives that address business needs and drive business impact and results. When we look at our BEST award winners, we see this commitment to having L&D be a strategic partner to the business, adding value through their efforts.”


What for you is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?

“I have five:

  1. Embrace challenges;

  2. Be courageous;

  3. Never underestimate soft skills;

  4. Listen more, speak last;

  5. Learn just as much about the job you do as the people you work with.”

What do you mean by that last lesson? “Well, in our jobs we often focus on skills, tools, projects and goals. We tend to forget to be empathetic and end up not knowing what our colleagues or partners are doing. Right now, during covid, the people who are lucky enough to have a job find themselves to work longer hours and experience more stress. Many companies are forgetting the basics. Of course you cannot force empathy, but you can let people grow curiosity.”


How do you see the world of L&D evaluating in the future?

“Technology will continue to be a major component of L&D in the future. What we’ve seen during the pandemic is how well virtual training works when it’s done right. There are best practices in designing and delivering virtual training and I think organizations will be looking to increase their effectiveness with this type of training. We will also see AI and machine learning play larger roles in L&D. In the Talent Development Capability Model we note that “future readiness” is an important capability for L&D professionals. This capability requires practitioners to be aware of new trends – not only in technology, but also in workforce planning and other aspects of the broader world of work that can impact L&D. For example, dispersed workforces and the gig economy – both of those trends have big implications for how talent development programs are conceived, designed, and delivered.”


Are there trends in the world of L&D or the labour market in general that worry you?

“ATD’s research shows that organizations are still slow to really look at how they are measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of their efforts. Deeper analysis that shows real ROI and business impact is important in helping talent development be seen as a strategic partner, not just an order taker. I am also concerned that training budgets are among the first to get cut in down economies, however our research also shows that organizations that keep their investments in L&D are higher performers.” 


What would you yourself like to learn, acquire or unlearn in the coming year?

I want to continue to take a further deep dive into global cultural awareness for business communication. Working with different markets across the work (Vassilis is responsible for “Europe, Latin America, the Middle-East and Asia – minus China”), there is so much to discover which makes interaction more fluid and respectful. For instance, you are Dutch, so you are used to being communicated to in a pretty straight-forward way. You grew up in an individualistic country. In more collectivist countries where hierarchy is more respected, like for instance in the Middle East, you have to be much more careful with what you say or write. Emails should contain short sentences and leave no room for misinterpretation. But again, it’s also about empathy. Know what’s going on in a country. It can be as simple as checking the local news on Google before you talk to someone. At the end of the day, this also affects business.”