How L&D Is Earning Its Seat at the Table

Talent development is becoming more core to business strategy.

According to LinkedIn’s “2019 Workplace Learning Report,” talent development is moving from the periphery to the core of business strategy, with 82 percent of learning and development professionals now reporting that corporate leaders actively support their programs. As a result, nearly half of talent developers expect a budget increase in 2019. But the field of learning and development is not just gaining prominence — it is evolving.

The shift is driven, in part, by the evolution of online learning from a tool that simply delivers content, to a platform that encourages deeper learning. It’s enabled by an explosion of data that enables L&D to understand skills gaps, engagement and learning styles with unprecedented detail. And it comes at a critical moment for employers: As the impact of automation looms and skills gaps grow, it’s more important than ever for businesses to help employees build the skills they need for the future.

Faced with both new pressures and opportunities, today’s learning and development practitioners are helping organizations translate their business needs into learning strategies. And by doing so, they are becoming strategic business partners to executives and defining their seat at the table. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Demonstrating the Business Impact of Closing Skills Gaps

L&D leaders are doubling down on the assessment and mapping of skills gaps across and within their businesses. And with good reason. Addressing pain points is the fastest and easiest way to show value, and closing skills gaps ranks among the top priorities for corporate leaders.

One recent survey suggests that less than a quarter of employers believe that recent college graduates have the skills necessary to enter the workforce. Against that backdrop, pinpointing exactly what skills are lacking is increasingly critical.

This year, L&D professionals reported a 32 percent increase in the use of internal assessments and online learning platforms to quantify gaps and benchmark skills against similar organizations. Armed with more granular data, they are not only better equipped to demonstrate results, they are also able to build programs that respond to today’s talent needs — and anticipate challenges in the future.

Building Manager Champions to Inspire Learning

A key way for talent developers to socialize their programs and create a culture of learning is through managers. Managers know what they need from their employees, and employees are willing to learn, especially if their managers encourage them to do so. But while three-fourths of employees said they would take a course suggested by a manager, just under half of employees report discovering learning programs through their managers.

Managers are sometimes viewed as a missing link between learning programs and employees, but this is changing. Today, more than two-thirds of learning and development professionals are tapping managers as partners to promote learning and close skills gaps across the organization.

Thinking Like Marketers to Drive Engagement

Another way that L&D professionals are becoming true strategic business partners is by redefining how they communicate their programs. Today, learning leaders are tailoring programs around discrete business needs and customizing content based on learner preferences. Two-thirds of businesses now report using targeted, personalized email campaigns — like those we have come to expect from savvy retailers like Anthropologie or Warby Parker — to engage employees and direct them to learning initiatives.

It is a strategy that appears to be working: 61 percent of surveyed employees say they discovered learning programs through targeted email campaigns.

Of course, these are just a few examples of how — and why — the challenges and responsibilities of talent developers are growing. According to Deloitte’s “Global Human Capital Trends” report, while some “legacy L&D responsibilities are becoming less relevant, the opportunities … have never been greater.”

As the shelf life of skills continues to shrink and employers grapple with costly skills gaps, learning and development will, no doubt, take an even more prominent seat at the corporate table.