November 25, 2020

3 things to know when building an L&D function at your company

What is L&D?

L&D stands for learning and development and is a workplace process intended to develop employees' skills for the benefit of the individual and the company at which they work.

But you know that already, don’t you? You’re here because you’re looking to build a new or first L&D function within your organisation or you’re a Learning and Development professional wanting to double and triple check your existing function is doing everything it should for your employees.

I don’t blame you. Learning and development is crucial to have within an organisation because it attracts top talent, will upskill your people and your business and increases employee engagement while reducing attrition. Plus it has untold benefits for employees.

early stage plants growing like L&D budding at your company

You won’t reap the benefits of L&D unless you take the time to sow a strong function. Below are the three things you should keep top of mind to ensure you do so. They’ll make your learning and development job that much easier and will take some of the stress away from the management of the function.

Save them in your Bookmarks tab, jot them on sticky notes to keep on your desk or turn them into a learning and development morning mantra. Whatever it takes to drill them in.

Tip 1: L&D and HR are not the same thing

Learning and development requires a focus on helping people identify their skills gaps, building personal development plans and identifying the resources and learnings that are best suited to each individual. Best learning and development practice involves empowering and supporting employees to own their development and to engage with the training they enjoy most.

In an ideal world where money and resources are never scarce, L&D has a dedicated team with the sole job of enabling and furthering the growth and training of employees. But rarely are things ideal and many of our clients are left to juggle the two at once with little to no help. It’s not an insurmountable task, as they complement each other and work together to get the most out of, and for, your people.

HR is about the right now, L&D is about what could be. When managing both, it’s important that the person overseeing them is conscious of the distinction and the different approaches which will be needed.

Tip 2: An L&D function is nothing without a learning culture

A learning culture is where the members of an organisation actively learn, encourage others to learn and where what they learned is shared. It’s where one values learning within their job but also outside of it and where employees know that they’re working for themselves just as much as they’re working for the organisation.

Why you'll need one

The last thing you want is for your words to fall on deaf ears. You can organise opportunities, give a budget for your people to spend on resources and even give everyone a PDP template to use.

But none of those things will guarantee your people actually engage in upskilling or training. You need to build a learning culture and embody it every day.

Leading by example is powerful and serves as a reminder to your employees that learning at work is not only allowed but encouraged and celebrated. L&D professionals should regularly demonstrate and encourage learning from top to bottom.

Without a learning culture, the role of L&D becomes more difficult and increasingly frustrating. Engagement will be low and people will feel that they aren’t growing as individuals or as professionals. This can lead to unnecessary attrition of talent.

Of course, you will want to perform well in your position and your performance will largely depend on the engagement, success and management of your people’s growth.

Tip 3: L&D is a journey, not a destination

It’s not about ticking off a list of new skills and information you want your people to obtain. It’s about continually visiting and revisiting the growth journey your people want to go on. Training and upskilling should not be stagnant. Goals and needs will change over time and L&D professionals need to be aware of when people require support and what type of training may be best. Once one new skill is obtained, another one should be identified. From there, appropriate training can be chosen. The development of your people is never done.

It’s a journey for you, too as the head of L&D, meaning your own training and development will carry on overtime so that you can best fulfil your L&D role. As new theories and approaches to education emerge, as we adapt to changing work norms, generational differences and more you will want to be flexible and open to each new development.

Let's recap

1. HR and L&D are not the same because learning and development requires a niche focus on professional development that can bring appropriate coaching and mentoring, training and development, and courses that are specific to an individuals growth.

2. But even with all of those things, learning and development needs someone in the L&D role who can build a learning culture.

3. Once that culture is set, learning and development becomes a never ending journey for both the L&D professionals and the people in the organisation.

L&D lives within HR and the role of the two will overlap, especially in smaller and start-up organisations. The key is to keep in mind when you’re wearing each respective hat and to follow the three tips I’ve provided above.

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