Having a dedicated learning & development department within your business represents a significant investment in your people – it demonstrates your dedication to your employees and their professional development, and that you place importance in aligning the skills of your people with the objectives of the business – that you are dedicated to using your people to realise business development and growth. Why is it then, that this significant investment and demonstration of dedication to your employees is often suffocated with red tape? Why is the L&D department often tasked with making things happen, yet are prevented from innovating and providing a robust approach to skills, when that is what is needed most?
What is the issue
As with most things in business, generally the decision making in learning and development comes down to money. Anyone who has procured training – let alone tried to launch a tailored, company wide L&D initiative – will know that the costs of doing so can be prohibitive. It is, however, a little more complex than that.
One of the major blockages to effective L&D is trust. There are processes put in place that mean any new initiative needs director approval, or a review board to sign off on it, which takes a lot of time and effort. Sometimes to the point that the activity is not considered worth the effort, or even tried for in the first place. Some businesses are so cautious about spending any money on staff development, that they put in place as many checks as possible to get to a ‘point of certainty’ before any employee development ever starts. This limits the effectiveness of the L&D department, reducing their ability to deliver on the skills and training needs of individuals, and ultimately preventing them from making a positive impact to the objectives of the business.
Does this affect every business?
Of course not. Generally the size of the business is directly proportionate to their ability to make quick decisions, however there are some large corporates that are very good at removing the red tape to enable timely decision making. Much of this comes down to the culture of the business, and what the leaderships view of employee development is. If a business promotes a culture of professional growth, of building talent rather than outsourcing or recruiting in, then more often than not, this will be embodied in their decision-making process around L&D. Likewise, if you have a leadership team that are advocates for personal development, and that understand the link between business performance and employee skill, then the approach to L&D decision making will be much more effective and proactive than if it were otherwise.
What is the solution?
What needs to happen is for business to put trust in their L&D department to own their budget, and to own their decision making. L&D are in the perfect position to understand what the business is looking to achieve – often having a seat at the strategic table – and to be the link between that vision and the people that are going to make it happen. It is understandable that processes are put in place to ensure due diligence is completed and that decisions are made with clarity and involvement of others, however once you trust your L&D team to make the right decisions – that focus on measurable outcomes and that consider budgets and potential impacts on the business – you can start to remove some of the blocks that stand in their way and start to achieve more timely results. Especially in times of economic downturn or difficult market conditions, businesses should be looking to their L&D departments to be the vehicle to affect change in the businesses capabilities, and therefore their ability to compete in their chosen market – this may mean that ‘normal’ procurement processes that can wrap buying decisions up in processes and red tape need to be made more efficient for L&D buying decisions, so that L&D can react quickly to skills development needs.
It is important to note that the shelf-life of skills is exponentially shortening. Revolutions in technology and smart working practices means that the period of relevance for many skills is being reduced – meaning that the window of opportunity to react to skills needs or skills gaps is lessening. If it takes you a year to sign off on training for a new system that will be replaced by a newer, better one in two years, for example, you are lessening the window in which you can see a return on your investment and that employees are going to be working at a high level of competency in their role. The change in how we do business and the skills we need to do so make the importance of reactive, yet considered decision making around learning & development crucial – and there is no one better placed to do so than the department charged with bringing the solutions to fruition.
Although changing your businesses approach to L&D may not be an overnight endeavour, if you are able to demonstrate your understanding of your companies’ objectives, how your development programme will help them to realise that, and to then show the return on that investment, you will build trust and start to remove some of the blocks that stand in your way.
Learning & Development Business Case
Make a clear case for your L&D procurement with a well structured business case
(Free for Eidos Essentials Premium members)
The Learning & Development business case resource pack will provide you with all the guidance you need to complete a well-structured and fully considered business case for any learning and development activity.Download the L&D Business Case here