Learning leaders must approach organizational issues first and foremost from the perspective of businesspeople. The learning function can add business value by providing guidance on which—or even if—corporate learning solutions will positively impact the overarching organizational aims.
Identify the Right Course of Action
Companies increasingly expect learning and development leaders to think like business leaders first to resolve a given business issue, which may or may not ultimately involve training solutions. "A thorough consultation with organizational leaders is needed to identify the right course of action," said Caveo CEO Jeff Carpenter during a panel discussion at the 2014 Chicagoland Learning Leaders Conference.
"There is some change management we need to do on ourselves,” agreed panelist Gail Leiber, senior director of global learning and development operations for Abbott, “because if we show up just as L&D professionals, the business doesn't see our value, because what they want are business results. So we need to really align with what they're trying to drive and show them how we can do that."
Leiber recounted an instance when business executives were unable to identify how exactly the learning function was helping to build the organizational talent pipeline. Her team analyzed its processes and support initiatives and came to the conclusion that company executives were not connecting the dots between training initiatives and results.
"The very things that we were spending time and energy in investing in, the business was not connecting that to some of the business strategies they were trying to drive, so we had to literally go back and do that mapping for them,” she said.
The difference between just showing up as a learning leader and being a true business partner is in really looking at the portfolio you have and aligning the right learning intervention to drive growth and development for the company.
Know When Training Solutions Are Not the Best Option
Part of assuming the role of a business leader is admitting when an issue cannot be effectively solved by a learning solutions or custom training.
“Learning leaders gain credibility when they are the first to say that learning is not always an appropriate strategy,” said Paulo Goelzer, president and CEO of the Independent Grocery Association. "We need to be the ones who know that. We cannot go out with a hammer [and pretend] that for everything out there is a training solution."