Why Learning And Development Is The Most Important Department
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Why Learning And Development Is Important

“Learning and Development, the most important department” wasn’t something I thought anyone would ever say, much less me. For the last 20 years, maybe longer, Learning and Development has arguably best known for “When the going gets tough, it’s time to cut the training budget”.

Truth is, it’s hard to argue that this was a bad business decision in the past. Products had shelf lives of 5 or 10 years and maintained their differentiation. So it made perfect business sense to be investing in product and innovation; not people. Today it is different though. A product’s shelf life is shorter than ever, and it’s tougher than ever to bring a new and innovative product to the market. Regardless if a company develops software, hardware, or pretty much anything in between, businesses have become the “ultimate fast follower”. It’s easier to move really quickly once something has been tested to work. There are tons of use cases, even something as simple as the iPhone 6 and its screen size.

Now on the point. There is one thing that companies cannot copy and it’s at the core of Learning and Development: People.

People are a competitive weapon and organizations that understand this create true differentiation over their competition, sometimes without them even knowing it. Take for example Chick-Fil-A. Sure the food is good, but it’s the consistent experience you get from their PEOPLE that separates them from the other fast food chains. Here is a question to ponder: “Do you think Chick-Fil-A would ever cut their customer service and onboarding process regardless of how bad business was?” Of course not!

3 Elements That Make Learning And Development The Center Of Your Organization

So what are the core elements that have to be present in order for a Learning and Development Department to be the most important department today?

  1. Being A Thought Leader.
    It’s just not good enough to stand on the sidelines and wait for a play to be called by a VP of Sales, CMO, or CEO. Learning and Development has to become proactive instead of reactive. The only way to do that is to bring new ideas and thought leadership to the organization. One of my favorite ways to do this is a concept called “finding the bright spots” from the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. The idea is to take big problems and solve them with small solutions. If Learning and Development can identify big organizations problems and look for individuals or solving or achieving them, there is an opportunity to be a thought leader and bring these small bright spots to the masses.
  2. Being An Innovator.
    Innovation and thought leadership go hand in hand. If you are looking for bright spots and bringing new ideas to the organization, you will then have the ability to introduce innovation that aligns with learner demand. Things such as learning platforms, social learning, microlearning, etc.: There has never been a time in my lifetime with more innovative ideas happening around learning.
  3. Flawless Execution.
    One simple way to do the opposite of being valuable is taking months, if not years, to bring new programs or new technology to bear. I hear it all too often; “Training isn’t relevant” or “That would have been useful last month”. Being able to identify and execute on a learning opportunity in a timely manner is vital if you want to make Learning and Development the center of your organization. Speed, speed, speed! It’s time to get programs and technology to 80% and perfect it over time. Trying to be perfect prior to an initial roll-out will cause paralysis by analysis and ultimately will drag out timelines and effectiveness.

The world around us is causing your Learning and Development department to be more important than ever. You don’t have to sell anyone on it, but you do have to have the vision and ability to execute it. Make these 3 elements a core part of your daily work life and you will make your Learning and Development department more valuable.

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