L&D collaboration in 2016: how should different departments work together for the greatest L&D impact?

Four employees working collaboratively on a project.

L&D has traditionally been a difficult department to fully integrate into organisations. It often stands alone, is rarely consulted on strategic business decisions and frequently has to fight for much-needed investment from senior management. However, all parties would benefit greatly from L&D being able to work more closely with other departments in order to become a more coherent part of the business’s overall strategy. This would also enable L&D to operate more effectively in terms of helping employees improve their capability and performance levels, and evaluate its operations to tweak and improve.

Currently the L&D department often works at crossed purposes with other departments, making operations less coherent and effective. Within an organisation, each team will understandably have its own goals to meet which can unintentionally impact inter-departmental working. However, even when departments do attempt to work together, their relationships often focus on cooperating and not treading on each other’s toes rather than working together to achieve more together. This results in inefficient working, meaning that there has to be active collaboration throughout the organisation to ensure everyone can achieve their goals and benefit the business as a whole team, rather than as a collection of separate parts.

L&D and HR

L&D and HR have the most naturally close relationship in terms of their responsibilities, but they often fail to collaborate and maintain an interest in each other’s activities. L&D’s main concern is training people internally so they can improve their performances, while HR is typically more focused on bringing in new recruits externally and attending to the routine elements of personnel management like sickness, pay and leave. In order for a business to achieve more with fewer resources, it is essential for the two departments to collaborate wherever possible. By devising a shared plan with agreed success indicators, active collaboration and consultation between teams who are working towards the same goal can be developed. For instance, topics such as performance management are should be an issue shared equally by L&D and HR– it isn’t fair for one to shoulder the burden of addressing it when both working together could do a much more coherent and effective job by collaboratively working towards the same goal.

L&D and management

L&D and management tend to have the most fraught relationship as it is the board of directors and senior managers who decide on the L&D budget each year. In many instances the budget is less than the department needs, but one of the ever-present problems with L&D is the lack of a recognised system for demonstrating its ROI – decision-makers are therefore wary of overcommitting to it. Additionally, any major decisions – structurally or in terms of systems and behaviours – are often made without L&D being informed, leading to further disparity between the two.

While the relationship between the two departments has improved in recent years, one way to further resolve the issue is for the two to work together to enable L&D to more effectively prove its worth. Due to the well-documented difficulty in demonstrating a clear and direct financial ROI in L&D, it’s often best to think about return on expectation, rather than investment and establishing agreed methods to prove that L&D can have a wider impact on a business. This will include looking at issues such as employee engagement and general productivity in addition to addressing the training needs of employees to allow them to perform to a higher standard. That way, you can tie L&D’s actions to specific outcome. The way you measure the impact of L&D will differ from case to case – you just need to demonstrate to the board how it can be done. Success here will prove that L&D deserves a decent budget in addition to possessing a valid opinion and a right to be heard.

L&D and other department heads

The purpose of L&D is to develop personnel so they can perform to a higher standard, do their job more effectively and potentially become leaders of their own teams and departments. However, other department heads might resist this because of the time commitments required – they need their staff working, not learning. For many managers there is no immediate discernible result from someone spending their time on a course rather than at their desks.

To address this common barrier, discussions need to be had between the relevant individuals to explore how training can be delivered without taking significant time away from working hours. One solution may be for L&D to enable flexibility and agility in its training solutions. Digital and mobile solutions are one way to achieve this, while increasing the availability of on-the-job training is also a potential avenue to explore. The ideal is to find a system of training that allows learning to take place without affecting each individual’s work completion rate. However, trainers should also ensure that department managers understand why training is important and how, ultimately, they will benefit – this is a two-way street and requires collaboration to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

In order for L&D to become fully integrated into an organisation, more must be done between it and other departments to make the dream a reality. Once everyone understands why and how L&D can benefit the entire company, it simply takes collaboration, understanding and a mutual desire to push the organisation as a whole forward, rather than focusing on the individual or specific teams; this may be the secret to greater success in 2016.

For more on L&D’s need to be accepted and encouraged by organisational management, read our case study here.