Why You Should Leverage Learning and Development Professionals To Shape Corporate Training

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Training and development is often seen as a quick fix to close gaps between expected and actual performance. Used this way, training is a cost to the organization. But with a proper approach, employee development can be an investment that pays dividends—adding to the bottom line for years to come.

Gallup reports that training and development is one of the top ways to attract and retain good talent. So if you are including employee development in your strategic plans, consider approaching it in a more strategic and effective way—by giving a learning and development professional a seat at the leadership table.

Many leaders fail to see that an investment in corporate training gives your team an edge. Professional development is not just for the team, and it’s not just to grow individuals within your teams. Instead, training is a problem-solving tool for the entire organization—it can and should provide a return to the bottom line by solving larger organizational issues and helping to achieve strategic business goals.

“Unless you have a learning and development professional at the leadership table or with direct access to the C-suite or an executive leadership team, chances are you’re taking a very myopic view of the role employee training and development plays in the overall success of your organization,” says Brynne Kelly, who has a Ph.D. in organizational behavior and has served in a variety of organizational development roles.

She continues, “The problem is that the training process is often done in a vacuum, addressing a single symptom that is typically part of a much larger business challenge. When we don’t have a learning and Development professional in a position to forecast and understand these business challenges and how they relate to the employee experience, we find ourselves in the pattern of using training as a bandage to cover what is typically a much larger wound, and we miss opportunities to make meaningful enhancements in our people processes.”

Dr. Kelly and I discussed several examples of when training is used as a fix to address only a symptom of a much larger business problem, and how having a learning and development professional in a leadership role could be a game changer. Following are some examples from our discussion.

#1: Your client service team is having a hard time making successful hires

Cost Approach:

You ask your operations person or HR generalist to find training on better hiring tactics and take three hours out of the team’s time to train. Maybe it will work!

Investment Approach:

You use your L&D leader to diagnose the larger problem by asking and answering the right questions, such as:

  • Is this a symptom of a larger talent acquisition issue?
  • Where else is the organization experiencing pain with new talent? In areas of onboarding? Interviewing? Getting qualified candidates?
  • Where in the organization does it seem to be working?
  • How does this fit with the organization’s strategic business goals?

You allow the L&D leader to bring a well-rounded solution to the table that might include a mix of changing key people processes and/or providing training that aligns with your goals.

Example #2: Your teams feel like they have less time and more work

Cost approach:

You solicit bids for a time management training. You train a subset of people and see if they report positive results before expanding the training effort.

Investment approach:

Your learning and development professional is in a leadership role and will recognize this issue as being interwoven with current business challenges—such as recent or pending layoffs. This leader will recommend a more strategic approach to workflow management and productivity that will meet the challenges of lean growth. This would lead you to a more holistic approach to “productivity training” that would first and foremost solve the pressing business challenge (in this case, how to manage growth while staying lean). Then your team’s professional development becomes a beneficial side effect of the training.

Example #3: Your employees are resisting necessary change

Cost approach:

With no learning and development professional at the leadership table, your human resources or operations staff are forced to react to issues that arise after the change has already begun. You may also face resistance from employees to additional problem-solving changes. Maybe these leaders can take a step back and find a good online training for managers or a Ted Talk on navigating change. You hope it will resonate enough with employees to reduce or nullify the resistance. If not, you know that chances are those employees will ultimately experience diminishing motivation and performance, and the necessary change is more likely to fail.

Investment approach:

With your learning and development professional at the leadership table, you know they will strategize the approach to change before implementation. This person will proactively create psychological-based messaging, processes and training (if necessary) that appeals to employees’ intrinsic motivation. This will align your workforce toward a common goal.

How to Effectively Source and Vet Corporate Training Providers

A learning and development professional at the leadership table will view organizational goals and the company challenges through a different lens than the rest of the leadership team, offering a unique and valuable perspective. The learning and development leader is in an ideal position to prescribe solutions from their toolbox that might include multiple training opportunities targeted for different cohorts, depending on what is needed to move the entire organization in the right direction.

When training is part of the solution to organizational issues, a learning and development professional on the leadership team is also in a much better position to articulate the company’s needs to prospective training providers. They can more effectively evaluate which training and providers can best serve those needs. This will ensure the best fit between the intervention and the organizational challenges, and therefore facilitate the biggest return on the company’s professional development investments.

This means the training does double-duty: it both allows the employees to learn and grow (helping to attract and retain high-quality talent) AND it more strategically addresses issues that are interfering with the company’s growth and success. This is a win-win and a smarter way to invest in the business.

Unfortunately, too many companies delegate the sourcing of training to team members who aren’t qualified to properly research and vet providers. Researching providers should not be left to an office manager or HR generalist, or even to the C-suite executive without the requisite expertise. This makes it more likely that you’ll end up basing your decision on faulty or incomplete information. The result is that while your company will have “checked the box” that you offered training, you will fail to solve the deeper structural issues. This is a big missed opportunity and a waste of company resources.

How to Navigate Budget Limitations

If you can’t hire a full time, experienced learning and development or organizational development professional, or if you don’t plan to do enough development to justify the cost, there are other options:

One option is to bring on a fractional (part-time and/or contract-based) professional who participates in leadership meetings and can more readily recognize opportunities for problem solving.

Another option is for another member of the leadership team to leverage expertise of an experienced corporate trainer, who would also be a learning and development professional. A good fit between needs and providers benefits both parties. You can vet providers more effectively by considering the following questions when interviewing them:

  • Are they asking questions about what brought you to speak with them, or are they taking your stated needs at face-value?
  • Did their questions give you pause and make you think in your initial interview? Or did they primarily answer your questions?
  • Are the training programs they offer custom or off-the-shelf and one-size-fits-all?
  • Did you request a specific solution (such as “a one day of training for a specific department”) that they accepted, or did they make a recommendation for a solution based on questions they asked you?

As a responsible steward of your organization’s resources, it’s important to remember that you don’t know what you don’t know. An experienced learning professional or reputable, experienced, professional corporate trainer will empower you to make expenditures that will primarily solve a business challenge, and secondarily give the team new skills, changing it from a cost to an investment that will add to the organization’s bottom line for years. If done right, training can pay big dividends for business, and as such should be used as a key problem solving tool, and an integral part of organizational strategy.

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