No Bonus? Blame Your Learning And Development Department
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When You Should Turn To Your Learning And Development Department

Hooray! It’s time for the annual bonus! But what happens when it’s not handed out? Why wouldn’t it be handed out? You exclaim! You’re expecting that little financial extra to help you tie up some loose ends. Here’s the thing…you’re not the only one expecting something extra. Every employee in your organization has similar expectations. Think about it. Your leaders reward people for improved performance. So, isn’t the Learning and Development department responsible for improving employee performance? Are they not at the very least partially responsible?

Before you start kicking and screaming that, ‘our learning efforts aren’t the only factor to improving employee performance’, let me say that you’re right – it isn’t. But then why do so many learning practitioners claim sole credit when their efforts are successful but don’t accept responsibility for poor employee performance? Bottom line; you can’t have it both ways.

Your Time Ιs NOW!

I’ve said it repeatedly, it’s time for workplace learning to step up and be held accountable for improving performance. Leaders of progressive organizations expect learning to fulfill this minimum expectation. If they’re not adding performance value, then learning should step aside allowing more relevant internal business support activities to carry the torch. But I digress.

Rather than seeing this as a threat, learning practitioners should capitalize on the opportunity presented to them. Your time as a learning practitioner is to ensure bonuses are paid out at the end of the year. Naturally, you don’t control whether bonuses are paid out, but you do set up the conditions to convince leaders to reward employees accordingly for doing good work.

But tread carefully. There are some leading learning practitioners that try to get you to buy into concepts and methodologies that have little to no bearing on performance improvement. Furthermore, these same experts will try to convince you that employee learning is more important than improving employee performance. And as I say repeatedly, for operational leaders it’s not about what employees learn; it’s about what they DO!

Stop Fighting It!

Unfortunately, business accountability remains elusive and very new for many learning practitioners. Even so, with my extensive years of management and corporate experience, I’ve never witnessed another internal business activity like Learning and Development to put up so much resistance about what their role has become. Many within learning – and that includes many subject experts – continue to cling on to past perceptions and outdated concepts about workplace learning expectations.

Yes, there is a lot of talk about ‘aligning with the business’, ‘adopting learning technologies’, ‘conducting learning analytics’, and many other perceived forward-thinking approaches but, ultimately, it's only talking. I estimate that one in 10 companies I’ve met in my 25 years have a learning department they consider a valued business and strategic partner.

The same learning practitioners who don’t take responsibility for improving performance also are quick to blame operational leaders for not taking them seriously. But to get respect you must first earn respect. For your leaders, this is about delivering value. And their value expectations from learning is contributing to improving operational and overall organizational performance. Your leaders even share the operational activities they want to improve along with specific targets to achieve. They’re giving you the answers!

Proceed With Caution Αnd Diligence!

While the opportunity for learning practitioners is at hand, you must proceed with cautious optimism rather than grasping at any business-related concept that sounds remotely credible. Regretfully, I’ve come across too many practitioners desperate to capitalize on anything sounding business-like as quickly as possible. And can you guess how I find out? I get calls from operational leaders from those organizations asking me to have the ‘business’ talk with their training department.

Believing in concepts proposed by any learning expert without your due diligence is troublesome; even more so when they convince you that their concept will build your business credibility. This is concerning because there are way too many ‘experts’ attempting to sell you on the best or fastest way to get into your leaders' good graces. With the illusion of credibility, these experts are incentivized on selling you ‘their way is the best way’ with little substance to show. They make their money and/or fame at the expense of your already fragile business credibility.

Moving Forward!

Here’s my thought on how to secure your contribution to improving performance. First, your leaders see you as part of an increasingly relevant internal operational support activity, so stop being myopic improving your learning development skills. Focus on developing your ‘business’ skills from actual business experts, not learning experts. When improving your skills, find experts of substance. Audit them. Interview them. Question them. Seek substance, not loud, brash BS (that’s easy to find).

Follow the advice your parents taught you, like there are no shortcuts and doing anything worthwhile takes time. This sage advice will help you build lasting credibility with leaders, demonstrate tangible performance improvement, and lead you to become a sought-after valued business partner. So, when next December rolls around you may actually see those end-of-year bonuses handed out.

Did you enjoy this article? Would you like to learn about how you can do the same for your company? If so, please contact me. I'd enjoy hearing from you. I'm always seeking topics that shake the status quo. Who knows? It may be the topic of my next eLearning Industry article.

For more, please visit my recent LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) eLearning courses "Gaining Internal Buy-in For eLearning", "Increasing Engagement with Elearning Programs", "Foundations of Corporate Learning" and "Train-the-Trainer" courses designed for both recent and seasoned trainers.

When it comes to what leaders expect, don’t always believe what you hear. Recognize how leaders perceive the role of training within the organization and what they expect. They know training is essential, but it’s up to you to prove them right. This is your time to shine. #alwaysbelearning

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