Is your L&D department business-focused enough? pt2

Jo Cook concludes her piece about L&D and business strategy.

In the first part of this feature, I looked at not only the diverse reality of L&D teams, but also the business focus, or lack thereof. You can read part one here. Part of the context around organisations and their use of technology is whether the company lets teams and individuals use any of it. 

In Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2018 (UK) report they highlight that just over 10% of companies encourage use of emerging channels of communication and productivity tools.

In the HR Technology Disruptions for 2018 report Josh Bersin shows that “nearly 60% of respondents this year rated their organisations as only somewhat effective or not effective in empowering people to manage their own careers.”

This applies to L&D too, as data later on will show.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. Leo Learning’s Measuring The Business Impact of Learning report showed that 70% strongly agreed that they want to measure the business impact of learning programmes and 89% of learning executives believed that it was possible to do so.

Not only do L&D need to support managers across the business, but L&D managers need to be focusing their staff’s own development in areas that pay off.

In the survey they also highlight that L&D success is measured by content use and learner satisfaction, as we saw in the 2017 Workplace Learning Report in part one.

But the Leo Learning report also included ROI, organisational impact and performance improvement. Interestingly ROI as a measure is used less in 2018 than 2017 – is this reflective of the challenge of proving return on investment from a learning function?

Can we make improvements?

The 2017 Learning Transfer Research found that “46% suggest that managers are not significantly involved in supporting their direct reports before or after a learning initiative.” This is important for L&D professionals to take on when consulting, designing and delivering any kind of learning initiative, but also for the learning department themselves.

Charles Jennings, in his blog, states that “Corporate Leadership Council/Learning & Development Roundtable showed that managers who set clear objectives, explain their expectations, and clearly set out how they plan to measure performance have teams that outperform others by almost 20%.”

You can read more about this research from a CEB report. If this is the case then not only do L&D need to support managers across the business, but L&D managers need to be focusing their staff’s own development in areas that pay off.

The Learning Transfer Research states that coaching culture is key as “organisations where coaching is practiced at every level in the business, double the number of respondents [who] report that their organisation’s investment in learning is extremely beneficial.

Plus, four times the number of contributors report that the effectiveness of their efforts to sustain learning is highly effective. And twice as many report that they are viewed as a strategic partner within their business.”

Supporting our own

This is partly how we as an industry can reach more practitioners – supporting senior L&D staff in organisations with the tools and tips that they need to support the development of their teams. The skills that L&D staff need to concentrate on are as diverse as the people themselves and relate, as always, to context and the individual.

However, there are some generalisations we can make.

The Embracing Change report from industry researchers Towards Maturity states that “on average, 3 in 10 organisations do not offer any professional skills training to their L&D teams”, which is a core issue and means that any updating is left to individuals.

Whilst self-development is an essential in career development, investment from the organisation goes a long way towards not only motivation but also accessing development opportunities within the organisation and those that are financially out of reach of the individual.

The Transformation Curve report from the same company highlights that “65% believe their L&D staff lack knowledge about the potential of technology” and that “priority skills” still lacking include “setting learning strategy” and “stakeholder engagement”.

The report highlights that “59% agree their L&D role is shifting from learning delivery to supporting continuous learning”. This change in our work-learning practices and the advent of many technologies, means that our organisations, and we ourselves, need to be investing in the future.

And if individuals really don’t want to open their eyes and minds to the plethora of opportunities for their own updating and self-development? I wouldn’t worry about them too much, they’ll be out of a job at some point.

Read part one of this two-part feature here.

Jo Cook will be on the panel for GoodPractice’s live podcast ‘L&D: What’s the state of the nation?’ recording on the evening of day one of the CIPD L&D conference 2018. Register for a free ticket here.


About the author

Jo Cook is deputy editor of TJ.


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