What makes a successful L&D partner

Written by Stephanie Morgan on 15 February 2018

Workplace learning continues to change and evolve, bringing along not just challenges and exciting opportunities but also the need for L&D to constantly develop their skills to meet the demands of its people and organisations.

Add this to the importance of acting as a business partner, to align learning to business objectives, and there’s a challenge for L&D professionals to remain ahead of the game.

Research by Towards Maturity continues to highlight the required skills that L&D know they need in order to see continued success, but I’m taking a look at how those skills correlate with the role of an L&D business partner, why they’re important, and what you can do to achieve them.

Understanding the business problem

Any good business partner needs to understand the business problems they are facing, before they even think about creating solutions to solve them.  Important skills required to achieve this are performance consulting and stakeholder engagement.

Performance consulting gives you the ability to truly understand what your learners require, and while this is something that L&D has always faced, it has been complicated in the past three to five years by the increase in technology and the decrease in engagement.

Having knowledge of the business and learners will give you direction, but the ability to create a functional and effective learning strategy, and deliver it, is vital for a successful L&D business partner.

Great stakeholder engagement skills allow you to be on the front line when it comes to business objectives and strategy. If you have successfully engaged your stakeholders, they will keep you informed of the results they need to see in order to achieve their objectives.

The result of this is that it allows you to identify gaps between the key business problem and the skills of your people.

Having this information will enable you to implement your learning strategy skills. Having knowledge of the business and learners will give you direction, but the ability to create a functional and effective learning strategy, and deliver it, is vital for a successful L&D business partner.

Key skills: Performance consulting, stakeholder engagement and learning strategy

Design and delivery

An effective L&D business partner needs to be at the forefront of design and delivery.

It’s no secret that the learning landscape is changing, and in some industries, this is quite a dramatic change. The rise of technology in learning is exponential, and digital learning has become paramount to engaging, results-driven learning.

This means that being able to deliver virtual classrooms and webinars and develop digital content will set any successful L&D business partner in good stead. In addition to this, the creation and implementation of blended learning is vital and should be a much sought after skills for L&D business partners.

Key skills: Learning design, delivery of virtual classroom, development of digital content and creation of blended learning

Supporting performance

Supporting workplace performance has always been a crucial skill for L&D, and it still is. After all, this is one of our core functions, and the increased focus on strategy runs the risk that it becomes forgotten.

How we support performance, however, has changed and it’s important for L&D business partners to embrace this. For example, coaching and mentoring has been on many of our agendas for some time, but it is becoming more widely adopted and sought after by career-driven learners.

Honing this skill and continue to deliver this development to our people is a strong business partner trait.

We also need to have the skills to facilitate social and collaborative learning. With the huge boom in social learning in recent years, being able to effectively facilitate this will have a positive impact on your results.

Key skills: Supporting workplace performance, coaching and mentoring and facilitating social and collaborative learning

Evaluating impact

Still at the heart of learning is evaluating impact. It’s likely that this is a skill you mastered long ago and use all the time – keep it at the forefront of your mind.

It has become more complicated to achieve in recent years with the rise in digital and social learning, but a good L&D business partner is able to look at the big picture, evaluating programmes and overall plans effectively.

To do this, however, requires the ability to use data analytics effectively. New learning systems have given us a host of analytics to achieve this, but it’s so important that we use these effectively. Be sure you know exactly what you want to discover from the data so that you are looking for the right thing.

Key skills: Evaluating impact, using data analytics effectively

Managing learning

Marketing in L&D has been on everyone’s lips over the past year. Remember, while you are not expected to be a marketing expert, L&D business partners should have a complete understanding of their brand and how to promote their solutions to learners.

Speaking to your learners, understanding how effective your solutions are and being flexible with your approach are marketing attributes any successful business partner should have.

Of course, all of this needs to be managed with killer project management skills. All L&D practitioners will have some project management experience but being able to not only manage it but adapt accordingly is key here.

Key skills: Managing learning, marketing and communications, project management


L&D business partners need to continue developing themselves, as well as their people. It’s so important to consider the skills gaps in your team and help L&D evolve to meet the growing demands of our learners, if we want to see increased and ongoing successes from our solutions.


About the author

Stephanie Morgan is director of learning solutions at Bray Leino Learning

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