What is the importance of learning & development in the workplace and how can it contribute to the organisation?
What a great question to ask the learning and development community to answers. To not only justify our roles but to show the strong linkages between learning & development and the outcomes of a successful business. I still get asked this question and the many different variations from organisations locally, regionally and globally and I wanted to address some of the main launching points I use when showing the awesome value of learning & development.
I am going to make a couple of assumptions here. I am going to assume that you work in a learning & development role and that you have found this blog entry not by sheer accident, but from your own drive and passion to grow and develop yourself and the organisation you work for. You see, I believe we work in the most influencing role within any organisation, one that can work beside the executive leaders and the individuals performing on the ground. It is with this realisation of influence that we can better understand all aspects of the business, identify needs for development and ensure what growth is happening is moving in the same direction.
There is nothing more fear inducing for the competition than to see an organisation that is moving as one in the same direction!
During my time working with organisations in learning & development capacity I can summarise five jumping points for the argument that it serves a key role for a growing organisation. These include:
1. A business can only grow so far without growing its people
Look back over the last 10 years, can you think of some companies that were successful then and are not here now? Chances are you could name a few of them, so what make the difference for to continue to grow and be sustainable? The answer is people and their ability to change rapidly on the world stage.
The market is very competitive thanks to globalization and world trade. The margins continue to decrease while the capability to expand increases. So what is going to be the competitive edge, people? Investing in the capability of people and ensuring that the development planning is aligned with company growth plans can result in increased focus. If done correctly this focus is like a laser beam – a hundred or a thousand individuals developing and growing in the same direction of the business is a forced to be feared.
2. Goals and objectives can be set but learning & development is the vehicle
It’s one thing to for a board of directors and executives to set objectives and strategy, but if this is not followed through with personal growth plans the objectives are just goals without a plan. Put simply we determine that we need to grow from 19M to 22M over the next 12 months and detail with the different functions what strategies are should have in place to do this. An example of this could be; focus on the top 20 clients; branch into new sectors; implementation of an account management system. However, if learning & development is not involved throughout these planning session how can we be sure that we are planning to grown the people to deliver on these outcomes.
Determine current state, determine end state, and then bridge the gap with learning & development initiatives. This is how you can support the organisations people to grow just that, the organisation. It is a simple approach which secures sustainable, positive change and can work with the leadership teams to create authentic learning and development initiatives at a rapid pace.
3. Retain talented people
Talented people have one trait in common, they are hungry for learning. If you are not providing learning and personal growing opportunities you cannot be expected to retain these people. I am sure that everyone reading this today is a one of those talented people, simply because you have a hunger for personal development. If the organisation doesn’t build a learning culture how can we cultivate and retain talent.
4. Attract talented people
The focus that I was alluding to above, you know the one where the people and the organisation march as one towards a common goal. That is something that will not only attract the eye of the completion, but also the eye of talented individuals. Put simply, who wouldn’t want to work for an organisation that knows what it wants and wants to develop you to get there with them.
5. Real learning is not just a bunch of scheduled classrooms
It still surprises me that organisations, especially those without learning & development functions, believe that scheduling classrooms sessions about goal setting, performance management and leadership development programs is creating a learning culture. We all know it is not that simple, I simplify this complicated topic by asking “how do you like to learn” and I almost always I receive a different answer each time.
There are many theories out there revolving around pedagogy (the way we teach) in the work place and I can summarise the best strategy as formal and informal learning. Yes, it is important to pay attention to the formal training (i.e. classrooms), however it is the programs implemented for the informal learning where you will get the greatest outcome. A good measure is 20% formal and 80% informal learning, how you do it is the unique part.
What did you think of the above five points? Are there any more you would add? Leave a comment below and contribute.