Learning and Development: Business Partner or Staff Benefit?

Learning-And-Development-FunctionRecently I participated in a discussion that asked an interesting question. What is the learning and development function? Is it a value-adding, revenue-generating partner to business? Or is L&D simply a nice-to-have perk for employees?

It’s an intriguing question and one that training professionals wrestle with daily. In fact, many folks who contributed to the discussion said L&D serves as both. Some recognized the struggle in being perceived as a true business partner. Others felt that employee development was their true calling.

My response to the question is that the learning and development function is a value-added business partner. L&D is where businesses turn when they need to make current employees more capable in their jobs. It’s the one place that offers learning that allows a business to reach its full capability. The learning and development function creates training programs that improve current performance and results. All of those, while helping employees, are actually value adds for business. The L&D function helps businesses reach their full potential and capability.

The Learning and Development Perception Problem

L&D professionals who can show the connection between the programs they deliver and the impact they have on the business have no trouble being perceived as a value-added business partner. The training professionals with this expertise solve business problems due to poor performance and provide a proactive way to grow the capability of the business.

When we show how our programs solve the performance issues, then we are speaking the language of business. It is by speaking the language of business that our value is understood by the business managers and stakeholders. This allows them to “get” what we do. When we show value to the business, in hard data showing the true impact of training, then perception of the L&D function changes. It goes from being a nice-to-have to being a must-have function.

Speaking the Language of Business

The challenge for L&D is understanding and communicating our own value in terms that businesses can understand. We have to be prepared to connect our programs to the agreed upon results. We have to show the link between the two and how the link improved the bottom line. It all comes down to measurable training and ROI. Until we show those links and hard data, this question will continue to be asked.

What do you think? Is the learning and development function simply an employee perk or do businesses see actual value from our role? If we’re viewed only as a perk, how do we change that perception? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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