L&D’s Role Today
Learning and Development departments have become increasingly important to the success of their organizations. Whereas once L&D was an often a neglected and underfunded arm of Human Resources, the L&D function plays a much broader role today as it adapts to meet the changing needs of their organizations. Successful organizations have learned how to design the right L&D strategy.
Professional development for employees is no longer seen as a “nice-to-have” employee benefit. Companies that want to outperform their peers must place a premium on reskilling and upskilling talent to meet ever-changing strategic demands. Why? Because leaders now rely more and more on their intangible assets – knowledge, superior leaders, and highly skilled employees – to succeed.
While each L&D function has a different training strategy, mandate, and scope depending upon how their organization is structured, fundamentally most L&D functions are charged with:
L&D should be a critical service to the people and to the business. When done right, employee development should directly support key people and business priorities, boost your employee value proposition, and align with your cultural values.
4 Factors to Design the Right L&D Strategy for Your Company
Because of the competitive war for talent, people expect to be invested in and developed. Here are four factors to take into consideration if you want to design the right L&D strategy for your organization:
- Ensure Strategic Alignment
First and foremost, an effective L&D strategy must be highly aligned with and support the company’s overall business and talent strategies. Unfortunately, our research finds that less than half of L&D functions are aligned with key business priorities. Too many L&D functions offer stand-alone training events that may be easy to offer, but are untethered to job priorities, too difficult to navigate, unsupported by senior management, and not reinforced with coaching and accountability.
If the L&D function does not explicitly support building relevant, timely, and meaningful employee capabilities, L&D will only play a minor role and be relegated to a tactical employee benefit to be managed accordingly.
- Actively Engage Key Stakeholders
We believe that L&D design should be approached from a strategic, customer-centric, and holistic perspective no different from a customer- or market-facing service offering. Because the employee journey is nuanced at every company, L&D must co-create what makes sense with their various stakeholder groups.
The more L&D can actively involve key stakeholders to design learning solutions that make sense, the greater their chances of success. Recent research by Bain found that the active engagement of stakeholders during the strategy design phase has the highest correlation to strategies being successfully implemented. We know that the same is true with training strategies.
- Assess and Prioritize Training Needs
A critical element of providing appropriate and relevant skill-building programs is a clear picture of where capability gaps exist and how to fill them. 79% of organizations recently reported acute skill gaps vis-à-vis their strategy.
Company, group, and individual training needs assessments should be used to gather powerful data to initiate the change process, align leadership and employees, pinpoint skill gaps against a proven standard, customize offerings, predispose participants, guide coaching and Individual Development Plans, and set baseline metrics.
- Invest the Required Resources
Underperforming L&D functions report being overloaded with initiatives and having insufficient resources to make an impact. Once the strategy is aligned, stakeholders are on board, and capability gaps have been prioritized, L&D needs to secure adequate funding to be set up for success. No different from any other function, L&D should create a clear business case outlining the ROI of their training plans.
To get buy-in for your training budget, the compelling value of your learning strategy and training budget should always be expressed in language your stakeholders use and care about. For business executives, that means focusing on increasing revenue and margins, reducing costs, improving productivity and capital effectiveness, and delivering on strategic commitments. For employees, that means career development, professional growth, and performance support.
Then make sure that you include the resources and tools to formally measure and reinforce any learning initiatives that are meant to change behavior and performance – otherwise your hard-earned investments will be wasted.
The Bottom Line
To get the most out of your people, you must make meaningful and ongoing investments in them. Smart companies ensure their current and next generation of employees are set up to succeed. Is your L&D function aligned, engaged, focused, and resourced?
To learn more about setting your L&D function up for success, download The 5 Most Common Training Function Strategies and Key Mistakes to Avoid