While every organization and industry is unique, there is a consistent set of issues that I seem to encounter over and over that fundamentally reduces the impact of L&D efforts. We need to get these issues resolved before we can focus on what really matters – delivering results for our people and our businesses. This is the fifth and final entry in a series of 5 posts discussing these systemic issues within workplace learning.
The seat at the table! If only we had that seat, everything would be better! People would really understand the value of workplace learning. Employees would actually complete the training. Managers would buy into our programs. We just need a seat!
I’ve always felt that there is something fundamentally wrong with the “seat at the table” argument. Rather than focus on L&D, let’s reframe and consider who is already at the table.
Which functions/stakeholders/teams in your organization always get a say when it comes to business priorities?
Why are they involved when L&D is not? Who else is missing from the table – because it’s definitely not just L&D? Now think about your own projects. Who do you invite to play? I would assume its not everyone – just those who can bring clear value to the project. We all know what can happen when too many stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) get involved. You end up spinning in circles and nothing actually gets done. So what does this reflection tell you about L&D and the metaphorical table?
Influence involves a variety of factors, including trust, relationships, respect and collaboration. But these elements don’t explain why L&D isn’t being brought in for strategic conversations. This is actually a measurement problem. As we observed, only stakeholders who can provide clear value get invited to play. L&D has a well-established problem proving their value to the business. Survey results and test scores aren’t enough to make you a trusted advisor. L&D must improve it’s measurement strategy to elevate its position of influence across the organization.
Improving measurement in workplace learning starts with taking a results-first approach. How can you connect what you do (content, activities, etc.) to the results the business achieves? L&D pros must work with SMEs to clarify both expected performance behaviors as well as fundamental knowledge requirements related to priority business problems. These factors should guide solution design and allow for subsequent measurement of employee knowledge and on-the-job performance. When assessed over time, L&D can more firmly establish the connection between their work and business results.
Next, this connection must be communicated in business terms, not L&D lingo. Use business language to talk about relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales volumes, safety incident reductions and net promoter scores. With a results-first approach, you can more easily translate L&D work into business metrics. L&D value must be proven on business terms, not the altruistic (and seemingly common-sense) importance of employee development. When you can prove your ability to impact results, you will get invited into the conversation every … single … time.
This is how you solve the “we never get a seat at the table” problem.
How have you increased your level of stakeholder influence in your organization? How does your measurement strategy help or hurt your perceived value and subsequent spot at the table? Share your experiences in the comments below!
JD Dillon is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. He has spent 20 years designing learning and performance strategies for respected global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, Kaplan, Brambles, and AMC Theatres. JD is the founder of LearnGeek and Chief Learning Architect with Axonify.