Learning & Development; It’s Not Just for Training Anymore

Learning has become a key catalyst for, and an enabler of, change. It should be seen as a Board-driven priority, as it is a major factor that can contribute to an organization’s success.
— Wendy Brooks

Corporate learning is – like business itself—changing rapidly. Once the province of formal classroom training, and classroom training only, the changing expectations of employees and needs of business are pushing Learning & Development (L&D) to become more social, more mobile and more blended. To give employees what they need to be productive, when they need it. The roles within L&D are changing, as well, and it is that change which you should take advantage of now to steer your organization toward success.

There is a lot of talk in the L&D industry about the importance of getting a seat at the table. Most of this talk is aimed at L&D itself, but there are many good reasons why engagement with L&D should come from leadership. This article will outline why your next meeting should be with your L&D leaders.

You are the Change

"The fact that learning is changing has important implications for organizations," says Wendy Brooks, former Director of Global Solutions at Hemsley Fraser. "Learning has become a key catalyst for, and an enabler of, change. It should be seen as a Board-driven priority, as it is a major factor that can contribute to an organization’s success.” So ask yourself: How are you engaging with your L&D team to drive success in your organization? Do you treat your learning team as a partner or as a cost center?

Intentional Change = Less Waste

We’ve all been involved in those projects that seem to go nowhere; they start and stop, and seem to be in a constant state of upheaval. Projects like these waste time and resources and, while it may be easy to blame the project manager, it is often the result of too little preparation and a mind-set focused on knee-jerk reaction instead of thoughtful response. How can L&D help? By providing a comprehensive approach to the learning need, L&D can:

Determine the correct intervention required for performance - it may not be training!
Provide consultation on the bigger picture
Identify the right people to design, manage and deliver the program
Provide measurable results and drive accountability

Beyond the immediate need, L&D should be included in business lifecycle decisions. When integrated effectively across HR, IT and all functional units, L&D can ensure that the business meets its goals by adequately preparing staff at all moments of learning need. This is a Performance Support approach, a strategic L&D lens that is perfect for businesses undergoing rapid change, as well as those implementing a talent management and development strategy. Performance Support examines all inputs and expected outputs of a learning program by designing for the workflow, where and when learning is needed. It addresses:

           When learning how to do something new

           When learning more deeply and broadly 

           When applying what was learned (and perhaps forgotten)

           When solving a problem

           When things change and practices and skills need to change, too

For example, a traditional 6-week onboarding program can be shortened by half by giving employees the concepts and content they’ll need to start working immediately, and saving the more detailed, easily- forgotten content for later, and providing it when they need to access it. By implementing such a system, time-to-competency is reduced and productivity increased. Employees have enough to get started, spend less time in the classroom, and know where to find more information when they need it. Just think how powerful this learning strategy could be when applied across all employees in all functions!

This approach is very different from what you may know from many L&D departments in the past, but it is gaining acceptance in many major organizations like Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Amazon and other companies whose employees deal with products and customers that change constantly—and is built for the way people learn now.

Benefits of Partnership with L&D

Have you stopped to think about how you learn? When was the last time you picked up a book to learn how to run a meeting, or how to use the latest version of PowerPoint? Most of your employees learn from videos and other media, from their peers or just by figuring it out though experience. But that takes time. Rather than just entering a search term in an engine, L&D can curate and organize just the right content to be available at just the right time. 

L&D professionals can help because that's what they do. If you include L&D in discussions about the business, everyone wins. In addition to that e-learning you asked for, L&D can:

  • Assess needs and competencies focused on moving your business forward
  • Serve as change agents 
  • Cut the time it takes to build competencies - and keep it there
  • Increase integration across multiple functions
  • Respond rapidly to changing market conditions
  • Provide consistent talent and competency measurement that really matters

What Are You Waiting For?

So if you haven't yet set that meeting to build your partnership with L&D, think about this: A study conducted by University of Maryland's Flagler School and the Human Capital Institute found that organizations that invest in the training and development of their employees at all levels benefit by having stronger talent pools, increased retention, lower turnover, higher employee satisfaction rates, and ultimately, healthier and stronger organizations. And isn't that what you want, too? 

Further Reading

Performance Support Improves Business Outcomes, by Conrad Gottfredson. Learning Solutions Magazine, April 22, 2015