The role of L&D in strategic business growth

By Barbara Lynch, experienced trainer, facilitator and coach.

The Financial Times published an article in 2014 ‘Be ready to reinvent yourself at any time’. In the article they stated “A job for life is as outdated as a fax machine, so employees have to be ready to dust off their CVs at any stage of their career.” Organisations recognise that a more strategic approach to learning & development is required if they are to keep up with a disrupted world where employees are constantly re-inventing themselves.

Traditional training content offered a “one size fits all,” which made it difficult to engage all learners. But the role of learning and development has changed and so must organisations if they are to engage in impactful learning and development which serves to motivate and retain employees. In today’s competitive market, we must put the learner as the focus of our efforts including their experience, work environment, performance and technological fluency, to create training programs. Effective training programs are developed for the individual and offer social activities where they can share their experiences.

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Focus on social skills

Learning and information is now only ever a click away. Google will instantly return thousands of results on any subject we may search for. YouTube automatically plays videos related to what we’ve just watched, and Netflix suggests content matches based on viewing pattern algorithms. For the learner, training clips from YouTube, a classroom training session, a MOOC (massive online open course) or a post shared on social media are all elements that can be turned into learning content.

Despite this access to immediate knowledge and content, there is concern within organisations that the transversal skills gap is widening with the technologically savvy but transversal-skill-poor Gen Z employees entering the workforce. Learning and development personnel can overcome this challenge by offering training in these areas to employees, encouraging them to refine their social skills.

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Operating as a strategic business unit

Employees recognise they cannot stay static, re-inventing themselves constantly is part of living in a disrupted world, and so they themselves want to work for organisations that offer continuous skill development and dynamic careers. Research carried out by Glassdoor data revealed that among Millennials, the “ability to learn and progress” is now the principal driver of a company’s employment brand. Yet only one-third of Millennials believe their organisations are using their skills well, and 42 percent say they are likely to leave because they are not learning fast enough.

Leading organisations are paying attention, L&D departments are now strategic business units providing continuous learning opportunities and a deeply embedded culture of development for all employees. Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott in their book ‘The 100-Year Life’ talk about employees facing careers spanning 60 to 70 years expect employers to help them continually reinvent themselves, move from role to role, and find their calling over time.

Organisations in a bid to attract and retain talent are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer learning and development, projects, and experiences rather than static career progression. Organisations are strategically catering for employees who they believe will have careers that span five years or less. If they don’t cater for this, employees move on to an organisation that will.

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The new future of careers

Deloitte’s research on ‘disruptive change’ showed 90% of respondents believe their company are facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies, and 70 percent say their organisations do not have the skills to adapt. This doubt is driven by the fact that skills are becoming obsolete at a rapid rate. Software engineers they say must now redevelop skills every 12–18 months. Professionals in marketing, sales, manufacturing, law, accounting, and finance report similar demands.

To keep up in a ‘disrupted’ world learning functions need to be agile and prepared to continually re-invent themselves providing learning environments adapted to a world of increased employee mobility. Learning should encourage, and even push, people to move across jobs. As traditional L&D responsibilities become less relevant, the opportunities for L&D to be more relevant have never been greater. Deloitte in their article ‘Rewriting the rules for the digital age’ says “L&D organisations that recognise the new future of careers, embrace changes in technology, and become flexible content curators rather than rigid content creators have the potential to become highly valued business partners.”

As they say in ‘The 100-year Life’ findings are showing that for organisations,”it’s about a new contract with a different, less biddable and wildly diverse workforce. And this is just the start.”

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all path to success. That’s why at Irish Times Training, we work with you to develop the training plan your company needs. Our training plans aren’t just about boosting productivity. When you encourage, challenge and motivate with professional development, your team becomes stronger and more passionate. For more information about our tailor-made courses, click here or contact the team on (01) 472 7101.

About the author

Barbara Lynch is an experienced trainer, facilitator and coach who specialises in the areas of leadership, communication, sales, negotiation and customer engagement.

Over the past 16 years Barbara has worked within both the public and private sector helping organisations bring about real change by designing company-wide workplace interventions customised to suit specific needs.

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