Learning and development (L&D) teams are critical in helping organizations achieve their goals. The business suffers when employees don't have the training and skills they need to do their jobs well. But L&D leaders sometimes struggle to show how their education initiatives impact the organization's bottom line, especially when training doesn't align with company goals in a way that mutually benefits the employee and the business.
In 2023, L&D professionals must examine their operations from the inside out. One way they can do this and drive performance is by finding ways to partner with business unit leaders.
Harnessing the true power of L&D
Learning is critical in helping employees acquire new skills to keep up with the fast-paced changes in today’s world of work. Additionally, employees want to work at companies that invest in their development. Employers recognize this. Last year, employers spent an average of $1,207 on training per employee, up from $1,071 in 2021. Overall, U.S. training expenditures exceeded $100 billion for the first time in 2021-22, according to Training magazine data.
When companies make those kinds of investments, they expect it to pay off. However, new data from Emergn, a global digital business services firm, reinforces that while training can be a powerful retention tool, it often fails to effectively support organizational success. In fact, only 35% of HR leaders said training at their company was completely connected to the team's goals.
The cost of this disconnect can be great, said Ryan Arshad, Chief Strategy Officer at Emergn. “When employees are being asked to learn or improve a skill, but don’t understand how this endeavor will improve performance, it dilutes the impact on employees and the organization,” he said.
Investing in learning that helps employees feel purpose and creates opportunities for growth is one of the top ways to create performance that matters in the workplace. L&D teams are in a unique position to make that connection. But to do so, they must find ways to better align and measure L&D with employee growth and business outcomes.
Connecting through partnership
The first step L&D leaders looking to create connection can take is working closely with leaders of other business functions within the organization. "If you are an L&D leader, you should push hard to have a seat at the top table where strategies and business decisions are made,” Arshad said. “As companies develop objectives, if they're not also thinking about how to incorporate people in that plan, build competencies and measure development and execution, it’s an oversight at the top.”
“Being a good business partner means L&D leaders must understand the overall business goals and challenges, while demonstrating how the L&D function supports that outcome,” Arshad said.
They must also be proactive and deliver value early and often. "If you can show that the work you do has a material or directional impact on teams, companies, products or experiences, then you can command more attention within the business because you are helping to shape the outcome for that organization," Arshad said.
L&D leaders must also have measurement and reporting frameworks in place to demonstrate the value of their work. That process can include:
- Measuring performance right after training and then 12, 18 or 24 months later.
- Implementing knowledge- and practitioner-based assessments in real-time on projects through work-based learning.
- Setting team and business goals based on learning.
This step is critical, but not always easy, Arshad said. "Being able to understand how your partners define value and then being able to deliver that value measurably, is challenging."
Developing training that demonstrates value and drives change
L&D leaders can demonstrate value when they align and create training that addresses the organization’s priorities. Blended learning models that leverage multiple modalities can help employees learn and keep them engaged and work-based learning offers significant benefits in connecting employees to business goals.
Work-based learning personalizes the training experience specifically to each person’s role. "When they understand why they are receiving training and how the training helps them achieve their individual and team goals, employees stay motivated to learn because they see the value right away,” Arshad said. “What's more, they deliver a better outcome."
Teams that learn new skills and can immediately apply them on the job will solve problems more quickly. Keep the following considerations in mind when building work-based learning experiences:
- Close the expectation gap between current learning offerings and new skills employees want to learn.
- Make learning part of employees’ work-based objectives.
- Ensure learning is personalized to individual roles.
- Allow opportunities for people to learn together.
- Provide “just-in-time" learning.
Taking steps to make a difference in 2023
For L&D leaders who want to embrace a partnership role, Arshad suggested looking holistically at corporate goals, strategies and direction for 2023. Then, think about how to deliver against those objectives and what role learning will play. Shape your L&D strategy based on this and focus on building relationships, so you can ensure that the work you do is aligned with what your business partners need," Arshad said.
Create a baseline for 2023 that reviews the current state of the company and its employees. Look at existing programs to determine whether their structure will deliver the business's desired outcomes. If not, consider reshaping them for this year.
Evolving the L&D leader's role won't happen overnight. However, when L&D leaders can demonstrate directional change, business leaders will be more open to having strategic conversations.
Change can be challenging, but it’s also necessary. L&D leaders need to know how to tackle this shift head-on. And they don’t have time to waste, Arshad said: “In 2023, the status quo for L&D isn’t good enough anymore – this is an opportunity to add value and effect real change.”
To learn more about how Emergn can help your L&D team incorporate learning to support your organization’s strategic goals and offer employees a sense of purpose in their work, visit emergn.com.