Does L&D need a seat at the top table? pt2

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Mike Collins
Head of Learning Solutions
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This is the second and final part of the 3rd article in Mike Collins's trilogy focusing on the changing role and importance of evaluation for Learning & Development. You can read the first and second articles by clicking here and here

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Does L&D need a seat at the top Table?

I hate this expression. It’s never resonated with me when I hear it related to HR or L&D. It’s always given me the impression that HR or L&D don’t belong at the metaphorical table in the first place and we need to fight to have our voices heard. Fight to be taken seriously. Fight to be part of the organisational elite that set organisational strategy and business objectives. It’s this hierarchal and outdated view that you can only influence and lead in the boardroom that sends shivers down my spine.

Unfortunately this is the case in many organisations. Until L&D makes itself an integral partner in all organisational activity from setting strategy to tactical delivery of any learning initiative there will always be a disconnect. L&D can and must influence as every level within every role by challenging and asking the questions

  • What’s the expected change in performance?

  • How does this to link to our business objectives?

  • How are WE going to deliver and measure it?

We must also strive towards becoming the following:

  • A credible, trustworthy and authentic voice – at every level

  • Someone who challenges what is right for business, function and individual

  • A best in class business partner – driving a performance improvement culture

  • Someone who has a deep understanding of your organisation’s business model

  • Someone who generates insight and impact through evidence and data

But what if organisations and specifically business leaders don’t see the value in aligning learning departments with the business objectives? What if they don’t see the value in working in a collaborative manner with L&D to identify what success looks like and how this is going to be delivered, tracked and measured? If this is the case, then this is an even bigger problem. Here are some questions for you to consider.

Is it:

  • That culturally, learning isn’t seen as important?

  • That there’s a misunderstanding of what workplace learning is, the role of L&D and the need to align both to strategy and performance improvement?

  • That the skills, roles and structure of L&D are at odds with the organisation and are no longer fit for purpose (if they ever were)?

  • That L&D lacks credibility in your organisations?

  • That L&D isn’t trusted to deliver or can’t demonstrate the value it adds?

  • The inability of the people in your organisation to work collaboratively across departments?

The answer to these questions will vary depending on your organisation but they are important questions to ask yourself.

L&D professionals at every level have a responsibility to ensure they have the skills and capabilities to educate and inform, influence and deliver. It’s this renewed focus on the importance of L&D capability that has seen the CIPD release new qualification programmes for L&D and was the inspiration for DPG’s L&D Business Partner Development Programme.

There has never been a better time to define your L&D offering and establish how this contributes to the success of your organisation at every level. Whether you have a seat at the top table is irrelevant.

What matters is this:

  • You talk to your colleagues

  • You consult and work with them to truly understand what needs to be done and understand the outcomes up front.

  • You listen

  • You challenge

  • You shape

  • You deliver/support

  • You measure and demonstrate success.

As L&D professionals, we tend to spend the vast majority of our time developing the skills, knowledge and behaviours in others and very little time developing our own skills, knowledge and behaviours. This must change. A lumberjack was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”

Let us as L&D professionals make the time to sharpen our axes and perspective on our organisations. Let us be brave enough to admit we don’t currently have all the necessary skills and knowledge we need to not only survive but thrive in the 21st century workplace. Let us make 2015 the year we do something about it and invest some of our L&D budgets in us, so we can sharpen our axes and bring more value and insight to our organisations.

Let’s influence and inspire those we work with and make sure L&D in an integral part of your organisational strategy. We know the value we can add but only by demonstrating this value can we help transform organisations and support our colleagues become the best they can be.

Good luck.

Mike Collins is head of learning solutions at DPG plc

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