It can be challenging to explain why learning and development is essential to an organisation in a way that is meaningful to everyone involved. But when you think about it, L&D affects every single person in an organisation – from the CEO down to the newest staff member.
It’s clearly essential to ensure everyone has the skills they need to do their job well and progress in their career while they focus on adding value to the business. Over the years, I have observed where these challenges may stem from and here are some of my thoughts:
DEMONSTRATING VALUE: What is actually tracked?
If you are finding it hard to prove the value of your L&D team’s work, it may be that you are not given a chance to. I am not discussing the general perceived difficulty in proving the ROI of training interventions per se. Instead, I am speaking about your organisation’s appetite and ability to translate current business goals and strategy into measurable, quantifiable objectives for your team AND adjust these as we pivot into the post-Covid reality. For example, as we’re moving into that acclaimed ‘new normal’ where we can expect a hybrid work model to stick around for quite some time – if not forever – how does your prescribed departmental KPI of ‘training room usage’ or ‘seat time’ rate stack up now? It’s time to reassess what success looks like for your team in a way that aligns well with your organisation’s current strategy and is adaptable to our fast-changing business reality.
If you are finding it hard to prove the value of your L&D team’s work, it may be that you are not given a chance to.
DEMONSTRATING VALUE: What’s your tech stack?
I cannot think of many things hampering L&D innovation more than the question, ‘How can we fit this training into our existing LMS?’ To me, it is like asking, ‘Where can I pour the petrol into my horse?’ The world is digitally mobile now, with the digital- native generations pouring into the workforce used to having the answers of the world between their two thumbs. They will expect to do the same at work. So, can you deliver that with what’s currently in your tech stack? Are you focused on creating a ‘learning and performance support tool’ or traditional SCORM packages?
DEMONSTRATING VALUE: What’s your mindset?
Every workplace has a culture. Here, I do not mean the formulaic ‘values’ written in your new employee handbook or the fact that you meet every Tuesday at 11 am. Instead, I mean the displayed day-to-day behaviours at all levels of the organisation and the stories that get told, both officially and informally.
We work with many L&D teams nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, I often see L&D teams willingly and passively receiving ‘orders’ from business units who decided they needed training interventions to fix current performance issues, get the job done and move on to the next one. I cannot blame them; it has been the way L&D did things for a long time and current staff shortages do not help.
So, if you feel stuck in a busy rut and feel you are not invited to the business table, what will you do about it? Why should your team be part of the business conversation right from the start of projects? What are the topics to propel you into a world where executives cannot afford to not have you as part of the organisational performance improvement conversation? The answer comes at the bottom of a proverbial line and it’s called ‘cash flow’, ‘savings’, ‘revenue’, ‘profit’, ‘economies’ – you name it any which way, it has to do with financial return.
DEMONSTRATING VALUE: Speaking the right language
L&D people like to talk about people learning. How fast people learned, how many people finished the course, how long they retained knowledge, how long they took to apply learned skills on the job.
These are, unfortunately, not the same stories shared around the business table. So, if L&D want to get to a place where you will be asked to join that conversation, you will have to learn to speak their language.
How? Here is just one example from our long list of client projects: We were working with an organisation with 27,000 staff and they had a total of seven hours for people to complete their onboarding, compliance-related training. We suggested placing a recognition of prior learning (RPL) diagnostic exemption test functionality intothe eLearning piece and wired it together with some competency mapping. This allowed people who had
existing competencies to exempt themselves, reducing the training time from seven hours to a statistical average of three throughout the organisation.
We were able to work together with the client’s finance department to determine a rough hourly rate per person of $140. As a measurable and tangible result, based on the savings of four hours for this training intervention per person, multiplied across the entire organisation, this approach worked out to be a total saving of just over $15million.
So, if you’re looking to make a case for L&D within your organisation, remember that it’s not just a ‘nice to have’. It’s an essential part of ensuring your business is successful and continually developing and improving – now and into the future.
by Rodney Beach
This article originally appeared in Training & Development magazine, June 2022 Vol. 49 No. 2, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development.