The Changing Role of L&D: The Power of Collaboration

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Steve Finch
Thinqi Ambassador
The Changing Role of L&D: The Power of Collaboration

“Learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.” – Don Tapscott

Are you and your business leaders on the same page when it comes to the aims of your organisation? Are staff able to see how their learning, and ultimately their work, is linked to business performance? In top performing organisations, L&D departments are 50% more likely to agree that staff understand how their work is linked to the organisation’s performanceand an astonishing 97% agree that their business leaders recognise that learning is aligned with the business plan.

The proof is in the numbers; working together maximises results. No longer do L&D managers consult solely with the IT department to implement projects; now, a typical skill set will involve negotiating with business leaders, motivating the workforce, championing learning technology and coaching managers.

The role of the L&D practitioner is changing, and one of the things that the modern workplace needs are collaborators.

Let’s take a look at how you can work with each of your stakeholders to inform your L&D strategy, maximise results and bring your organisation up to scratch with the top performers.

Birds eye view of hands all working at business meeting with devices, calculators, books and stationery on desk

Business Leaders

How often do you interact with your business leaders? Does communication with your business leaders inform your strategy throughout? A report by Towards Maturity found that only 31% of L&D managers work up front with business leaders to identify the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that they want to improve. Yet, organisations with a learning and business strategy aligned to these goals are more than four times as likely to report:

  • Increased revenue
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved staff engagement
  • Improved staff retention

The evidence is clear – collaborating with your leaders actually increases the impact of learning. Why? Because the more people you have all working towards a common vision, the more likely you are to make it a reality.

And to further increase your chances of success, these business goals can also be used to inform your curriculum. By integrating these aims into your learning strategy and ensuring your staff are cognizant, learners are able to see the relevance of their work to organisational success – which, in turn, helps them really feel as though they’re making a difference.

Over time, this leads to increased learner engagement, greater productivity and, ultimately, impressive results to support your case when demonstrating the true value of L&D to the business.

For more information on data-driven design and demonstrating business impact, see our previous blog post: ‘Using Measurement to Inform Your Curriculum’.

Line manager working on laptop at desk in front of large office window

Line Managers

Line managers translate policies into day-to-day practices and are the familiar face your staff will associate with people management and work allocation. It’s your line managers who play a key part in the learning transfer process and help learners create behavioural change post-learning.

Yet, according to results from the 2017 Learning Transfer Research: Insights for Impact report, it was revealed that a worrying 46% of respondents admitted that their line managers were not significantly involved in the learning process. What’s more, only 22% of line managers facilitated conversations both before and after the learning intervention.

If you’re going to get the most out of your line managers, this needs to change. How can you unlock their potential in order to foster a thriving culture of learning in your workplace? After all, these are the people who can bridge the gap between your learning strategy and the day-to-day work of your staff.

Part of the problem is an enduring perception amongst employees – including line managers – of L&D being an entirely separate silo within the business. But in the same way that you must prove the value of L&D to your leaders and its relevance to your learners, so too you must communicate to your line managers how learning activity has a direct impact on business outcomes and their work.

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, your line managers can do three key things to foster learnability in the workplace:

  1. Select for it – Focus on those employees who demonstrate great learnability and a thirst for knowledge.
  2. Nurture it – Encourage positive learning behaviour by leading by example.
  3. Reward it – Give your colleagues recognition for demonstrating keen learnability to encourage positive habits.

As role models, your line managers should be constantly demonstrating the importance of learning from daily work and championing professional self-development. Encourage your managers to take responsibility for and manage their own development, and coach them on how to provide that same support to their staff.

By selecting for, nurturing and rewarding continuous learning, it becomes an integral part of daily work.

HR managers at desks and discussing over their computer screens

HR Managers

As leaders become increasingly focused on the link between learning and business performance, it’s becoming more crucial than ever for HR and L&D to work together to deliver a greater return on investment (ROI) for their organisation. Yet, according to research, split responsibility is common, with 57% of companies having at least two departments with some responsibility for training. This can lead to confusion and a lack of cohesion between departments.

HR managers are the people responsible for acquiring, developing and retaining talent in an organisation. L&D, on the other hand, are responsible for improving performance and equipping people with the required skills. By bringing the two together, however, they can work collaboratively to improve talent management and target skills gaps – and this is what is going to really drive business results.

According to Peter Casebow at GoodPractice, there are other steps you can take to ensure a positive working relationship between HR and L&D:

  • Scheduling regular communications between both departments
  • Sharing responsibility for performance management
  • Emphasising the importance of both functions

No two learners will have the same strengths and weaknesses, and HR are your allies for identifying any skills gaps and assigning the relevant training. By working together, you can build talent by delivering the right learning, at the right time, to build a skilled and high-performing workforce.

L&D practitioner answering questions from learners gathered around her with speech bubbles


Finally, as the people who will be experiencing the learning first-hand, understanding and working with your learners is key to designing a learning strategy that’s both engaging and relevant. And to begin, you really need to get to know them.

Do your research – ask employees what it is that they like about their current training and what they would like to see improved. Conduct surveys, interviews, focus group discussions or simply just have an informal chat over coffee. Once you’ve identified their ‘pain points’, you can set about resolving them by making changes to your strategy.

In the top-performing organisations, 88% of L&D say the objectives and aims of learning are discussed with individuals before they start learning. Outline any benefits and objectives at the start of the course, then ask the learners to identify how they can apply the learning in their role. Add scenarios and real-life success stories to allow learners to see how their learning – and, ultimately, their roles – will directly affect the success of the organisation as a whole. Staff who feel that they are being recognised for the work they do and understand the relevance of training are far more motivated to perform.

For more tips on how you can work with learners to increase engagement, see our blog post ‘Why is Engagement So Important?

In Summary…

Still feeling a little overwhelmed? Let’s take a look at how technology can support you.

Our Thinqi platform is your go-to tool for enabling easy collaboration in your workplace. By providing discussion spaces, it incorporates everyday conversation and shared learning in one easy-to-use and accessible learning experience platform (LEP). A vast majority of that discussion is valuable learning material, curated by you and selected by the learner according to their own personal learning journey.

Throw in the ability to track activity and map it to learning outcomes and, with Thinqi, your organisation is able to accomplish a number of organisational goals in one go.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to go beyond your L&D department. If your organisation really values performance, productivity and profit, it should care about collaboration.

If you would like to equip your organisation with the tools you need for smooth collaboration, we’ve got the technology and expertise to help you succeed. Request a demo to arrange to speak to one of our experts.

We’re going to be exploring each of these trends and others in coming weeks, so keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when these insights are published:

To view the rest of our ‘The Changing Role of L&D’ series, follow the links below:

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Steve Finch
Thinqi Ambassador
Steve Finch is Head of Marketing and Brand Ambassador for Thinqi, the modern learning system. With a background in customer success and digital learning programme delivery, Steve has been helping organisations deliver effective modern learning for nearly 20 years.