For many organizations, select members are generally involved in key business decision makings. These are usually people who are considered to have both influence and power to make decisions and effect change. In many cases, they determine the company’s future progression, decide on the nature of products and services to be offered, and architect the overarching vision. Traditionally, functions like sales, legal, HR, marketing, and finance have found a place here, becoming part of a corporate governance council. The big question is, how to get the L&D head a seat at this table?
Employee training and development is now deeply embedded within a company’s strategic direction and deserves acute alignment with future pathways. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is often not the case. Before I share my thoughts on why L&D needs to be a part of the C-table, let me begin with the primary reasons behind the exclusion of L&D from this rarified space.
Current Challenges with L&D
The challenge can be divided into two problem areas. Firstly, L&D leaders and team members are, at times, vague and subjective about their contribution to the business.
Secondly, they are unable to quantify their value generation capabilities on a project to project basis. Remember, corporate learning isn’t an abstract form; it is a highly developed, scientific discipline, powered by reasoning, analysis, and clear, pragmatic goals.
The modern L&D practitioner has to rationalize his or her approach to corporate learning, driven by robust analytics, data, and technologies.
When asked about their role in the company, most learning professionals reach for the average nuts-and-bolts of the process:
● Courses created, student metrics, and earning materials developed
● Smile sheets offering a basic and unquantifiable view of the training conducted
I think such an underwhelming and oversimplified model for assessment hampers L&D’s potential, influence, and place in the scheme of things. Such information on employee training and development is not very insightful.
The path to progress is paved by reinvention
What do we expect a leader to say when asked about the importance of his or her work? Any modern business leader must be able to detail the impacts and benefits of his or her division, both quantitative and qualitatively, in line with the company’s larger objectives and organizational culture.
For L&D, it is vital to establish the importance and transformative potential of employee training and development. L&D teams must implement a wide variety of tools to create state-of-the-art corporate learning modules that are regularly monitored and in-sync with learner sentiment. These must also be weighed against ROI and all-encompassing enterprise objectives.
Re-imagining L&D — A Calibrated Checklist
Over the years, I have developed a personal black-book of L&D do’s and don’ts. These are built around harnessing individual behavior, organization culture, new technologies, and a core focus on innovation. Briefly, these are:
Future-focused – Beyond analyzing current gaps, L&D leaders must constantly look at future trends, and design employee training and development programs that help companies prepare for tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.
Omni-channel – Instead of situational/locational confinement, training must be multi-channel, multi-platform, and personalized. Further, it must be interactive, conversational, and made for easy consumption across devices and timeframes. Given that 67% of employees learn on their personal time, it’s essential to offer device-agnostic corporate learning tools.
Result-oriented – Every L&D session must be calculated and streamlined by pre and post-delivery analysis. This will create an organizational culture of on-ground understanding, enhanced relevance, and will link the program to actual employee needs.
Tech-centered – L&D leaders must be extremely tech-savvy, unafraid to experiment with the plethora of new technologies. Social media integration, AR and VR, gamification, and AI-based assistants can all be leveraged to widen the ambit of any L&D initiative. Instead of a siloed employee training and development plan, L&D must create a comprehensive learning ecosystem.
Talent-focused – L&D leaders must work closely with HR to foster improved talent management, and productivity optimization. This, in many ways, is an extended positioning of the role and influence of L&D.
Marketing mix – Brand building, brand identity, and push & pull strategies are among the many typical marketing approaches that L&D leaders must adapt. This will make any content more customers/employee focused and experiential in its delivery.
Analytics-reinforced – Big Data, advanced analytics, KPIs, and visualization dashboards must define the repositioning of L&D. This will transform employee training and development into a highly calculated, outcome-based initiative.
360-degree feedback collection – Continuous stakeholder connectivity — from top management to ground level employees — is a must-have for the new L&D model. Studies show that 86% of highly successful L&D professionals actively seek to understand employees’ learning patterns. Vibrant, short, and targeted pulse surveys will help assess organizational expectations and employee acceptance.
Join the club, L&D!
In conclusions, L&D becomes most useful when it helps people use the skills that help achieve business goals that are impactful and result oriented. This only happens when the alignment of L&D and business strategy happens collaboratively. Nearly 30 years ago, GE CEO Jack Welch first created the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) role for Steve Kerr, then a consultant for the company. Since then, I do believe L&D has undergone a massive shift, yet more is needed.
As companies constantly experiment with digitization and ideas like Industry 4.0 and the Gig Economy, L&D will need to continue to be a genuine value driver. By reaffirming its importance and finetuning its effectiveness, L&D can also be counted amongst one of the key members in the organization.