The Importance of Learning & Development

At some stage in your career, you or someone you know may have wondered exactly what the role of the Learning & Development (L&D) department really is…oh and “why isn’t it called training anymore”?

Well, the following few words will hopefully provide a little bit of clarity to the questions…

Firstly the difference in focus of the two areas:  Training interventions focus on task orientated development (eg how to operate computer systems), with the relationship between the trainer and the trainees being directive in nature.  L&D interventions typically focus on developing the behaviours and attributes of the learner, the learning is facilitated by a coach, with the onus being on the delegate to make a longer term commitment to develop (eg leadership development).

Fundamentally the role of L&D is to align the organisation’s people strategy with their business strategy…that is about the simplest overview you will get!  The L&D function must comprehend, role model and embed the culture and performance framework of their organisation by providing interventions that enable the business to increase its KPI performance and achieve its strategy.

All training/learning interventions should be undertaken with the express aim of improving performance…otherwise you may as well just flush your money down the toilet.  The content of the interventions should be designed specifically in line with the organisational needs, ensuring that the tools, behaviours and techniques shared are easily applied back into the workplace.  If for whatever reason the above isn’t happening, then questions need to be asked of the quality and credibility of the people delivering:

  • Are they fit for purpose?
  • Can they challenge and connect with the delegates/employees?
  • Will they drive an increase in appetite for personal responsibility?
  • How much am I willing to invest to get a real ‘bang for my buck’?
  • Am I asking chalk and talk trainers to do a business focussed coaches’ job?

There is also an essential piece of the jigsaw that is all too often missing.  Leadership and management of L&D also needs to be performed through the line.  An L&D department can provide the framework and interventions for people to develop, however the engagement of the line manager to support the long term application is essential.  L&D practitioners need to engage with the business leaders to ensure that their interventions are in line with the operational backdrop and that they support their future plans.  L&D Managers should be the Ops Director’s best friend – get this relationship right and all the above will follow…business focussed development for business focussed people!