'If you can’t link it to a business impact, you probably shouldn't be doing the program'
“Historically, HR and L&D in general, have been somewhat order-takers to the business in the true support-function definition.”
So says Annee Bayeux, chief learning strategist at Degreed, a learning platform company, from Paris.
“The business was leading on those types of conversations and the business was basically telling us what services they needed.”
But this is the wrong way to approach the L&D role in an organization, she says, because it would be much more advantageous to align the learning strategy with the business strategy.
Traditionally, L&D departments have focused on managing data around courses and education, but this is being lost within the organization, she says.
“We got caught up in improving what we do, instead of trying to prove business value. All of the metrics that will link it over to the business were actually ignored and over the 30 years, 40 years that learning management systems have really existed, that barely evolved. In fact, it didn’t evolve at all.”
As a result, the most valuable training information was being missed.
“We didn’t track things like scores or their skill level coming out of courses. We weren’t tracking whether or not whatever skill we’re trying to build actually even had an impact on what their day job was,” says Bayeu.
By focusing on the end goal of training, that’s where good business results naturally flow from.
“Where we can develop the language of business is to really focus on starting with the KPI you want. Instead of trying to start with the program and be an order taker, you start with a KPI and you say, ‘Maybe training is a solution, but maybe a process changes the solution to your problem, or maybe a new system is the issue,’” she says.
“If you can’t link it to a business impact, you probably shouldn’t be doing the program or creating the program or doing any training around that topic.”
L&D and HR often go “hand-in-hand”, according to another training expert.
How will L&D support your goals?
For training and development to succeed, there needs to be an assessment done beforehand on how it will support the business goal and strategy, instead of simply improving an employee’s skill level.
“What do you need to be a good sourcing-procurement manager instead of focusing on what the business needs? How do you do your job in a way that optimizes the partnerships and the vendors that you have in that space? That’s not the same question and it’s answered differently,” says Bayeux.
This new way of thinking will match some of the new ideas flowing around work organization as “the world of work is moving from matching people to roles,” she says.
“That’s the past: we match people to roles. That’s HR language. In the future, what we’ll be doing is matching skills to work, the task to be done.”
HR’s role ramps up
All of these changes will see HR becoming much more involved in future workforce planning, says Bayeux.
“The agility of a company to survive will depend on L&D’s ability or HR’s ability to move these people quickly into areas where they’re needed, whether it’s one day, one month, one year, but it will be a skills-based approach and that skill data, something that L&D doesn’t collect today, that will be the important metrics for tomorrow.”
There was a generation of millennials who grew up taking on huge responsibilities “because they had a vision, because they had passion, because they had skills, but they just didn’t have the experience,” she says.
“They became wildly successful companies and all of that influenced the way that millennials and gen Z are thinking about work: ‘Why not me? I have the potential. I’m smart, but I may not have all the skills.’”
The development of younger employees must be done strategically to create future C-suite members from within, says another expert.
Make sure the organization has a clear-cut L&D program to entice these younger employees onboard, says Bayeux.
“The expectations of the company of these employees are really anchored in the value that they see working for the company’s ability to take care of you and to take care of your career and that has been flipped on its head in the last few years.”