It’s time for L&D to show business results

Seven tips for a great company culture

Published: 22nd October 2017

The business impact of learning is still seen by many as a mythological entity, like Bigfoot, or the unicorn. L&D professionals continue to complain about not getting a “seat at the table,” and spend considerable time and effort fighting for relevance. This isn’t because executives have some natural dislike for learning. Rather, they’ve never been shown the true business results L&D can generate. Why would they invite you to the really important meetings if they don’t know why you should be in the room?

To build a modern learning organization, L&D must shift from a cost center to a function with clear bottom-line value.

Because they have historically struggled to connect their work to business results, many L&D teams now measure successes (and failures) in very different ways than their stakeholders. Therefore, while the business may be suffering, L&D could very well be celebrating their own results in a dangerous vacuum. In fact, one example of this disconnect shaped my entire L&D mentality and ultimately led me down my current professional path.

Several years ago, I was shocked when my employer suddenly laid off hundreds of employees due to financial troubles. I asked why L&D wasn’t better positioned to address the problems that caused so many people that I was supposed to be helping to lose their jobs. I didn’t get a good answer. Since that day, I have looked for ways to put the needs of the individual—not L&D—at the center of everything I do.

To effectively evolve workplace learning to meet the needs of modern business, we need to understand where our industry came from and how it has changed over the years. This Forbes article presents a concise history of our field.

First, when you review this timeline, are you shocked to see how familiar many of these practices seem given how much the world of work has changed? You should be. Also, take note of the article’s focus on delivery methods rather than impact. The history of workplace learning is almost always the story of how content gets from designers to employees. This story almost always ends at consumption, not the subsequent impact. It makes you wonder just how much content like this shapes the business perspective of L&D? To provide real business value, we must help our stakeholders see past this limited definition of workplace learning and understand our true potential to impact the bottom line—regardless of our approach, content or technology.

The history workplace learning is a story that almost always ends at consumption, not the subsequent impact. 

The learning disconnect: Only 8% of CEOs see L&D business impact  by Tess Taylor

“… 90% of business leaders believe learning and design programs are key to closing skill gaps. However, only 8% of CEOs in the report said they saw the business impact of L&D programs.” This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard numbers like this, but, as an L&D pro, they should still scare you! This HR Drive article references the 2017 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn and accurately assesses the disconnect between “the business” and L&D. If we don’t understand how the business operates, how can we properly support its needs and demonstrate clear value?

While it starts off strong, the article and the report on which it’s based come up a bit short in terms of providing a strategy for closing the disconnect. They are 100% right when they say L&D must demonstrate value to both the business and the individual employee. But HOW can L&D get beyond the typical “learning metrics” they reference, such as level 1 surveys and completions, to do this?

Do you need help measuring the impact of learning? We’d be happy to talk you through some of the strategies and technology we have implemented to help resolve this. Drop us a message here and we can set up a chat >


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