L+D Pros – Here’s How to Ensure You’re Seen as a Strategic Partner.

November 18, 2016

Learning and development teams can use this advice to become strategic partners to the business.

A common problem learning and development professionals face is that the organization occasionally treats them more as a service provider than a strategic partner.

For example, a head of engineering will come to the L+D team and say they have a certain need, with a solution in mind. They’ll say their engineering team needs to communicate better and for the L+D team to create a communication class in response.

And you know what’s likely to happen without further exploration? It probably won’t solve the real problem, and later the training will be deemed a waste of time, or worse, the L+D program will be seen as ineffective, according to learning and development consultant Britt Andreatta, in her LinkedIn Learning course Organizational Learning and Development.

Instead, L+D pros need to overcome this dynamic and ensure they are seen by the organization as consultants who partner with department heads. This allows the L+D team to address the root causes of problems, and drive long-term health and success of the organization, Andreatta said.

And there’s a simple process to make sure that happens.

How an L+D pro can ensure they are seen as a strategic partner.

When a department head comes to their L+D lead with a specific need, it’s time for the L+D lead to establish himself or herself as a consulting partner. The reason is problems are often complex, and require a strategic training solution to fix them, Andreatta said.

Say the head of engineering comes to an L+D pro with a solution on how to fix a problem, a common situation – “We need a class on communication”. Rather than accepting that solution, the L+D lead should dive deeper by asking some key questions.

These questions identify not only what the current state is, but they focus in on what the ideal state looks like. And this includes getting clear on measurable metrics, as well as specific words and actions employees need to be doing.

What questions should the L+D lead ask that director of engineering? The main topics to cover are:

  • What is the problem

Ask the director of engineering to walk you through exactly what the problem is that he or she is trying to solve. Rarely is it as broad as “communication.”

Instead, normally it’s something more specific, like two departments within engineering are doing a poor job collaborating. The clearer the picture you can get here, the better.

  • Who exactly needs the training

Once the problem is clarified, the next step is focusing on who precisely needs the training. Using the same example, if the problem is that developers and operations aren’t working well together, the training should be focused on those two teams.

Going deeper, the next step is to find trends within those departments. For example, maybe remote employees are particularly prone to this problem, or new hires. That can inform your training to both solve that problem and to avoid it in the future.

  • What the desired outcome is

Next, the L+D lead should find out what the director is trying to achieve. Two great questions to ask here – “What would it look like if everyone was performing optimally?” and “How would you measure this?”.

A good follow-up question to ask is if there is anyone within the department that’s doing a great job at whatever the director wants to fix. Those people are good to consult with when designing a solution, and perhaps could play a part in the training.

  • What the ideal solution should look like

Finally, it’s time for the L+D pro to include the director in the solution. Some good questions to ask here are:

o   Based on what we have discussed so far, do you have any new perspectives or ideas about the solution and how to solve it?

o   Based on how your team works, what length and method of training would be best?

o   Is there anything else we need to learn to design the best solution possible?

Next comes designing the solution

Once your meeting is over, it’s time for you to design a solution. Use the information you have already gathered, including insights you gained from people who are doing things well and who are struggling. Map out the content, form and delivery of the solution.

Once you have a solution designed, share it with the director you are partnering with and incorporate any feedback. From there, it’s time to provide the training and see if the key metrics start to improve.

If the key metrics start to improve, good work! While there might be some room for fine-tuning, you’ve done your job well.

If those key metrics don’t improve, it’s time to reiterate. By garnering feedback from both the director and the people who participate in the training, you can propose a solution that will work better.

Tying it together

The bigger point here is that some organizations tend to treat L+D pros more as order-takers. That’s not a good dynamic, as L+D departments are critical partners to any business, and provide solutions critical to improving the bottom line.

To make that happen, L+D pros need to overcome any organizational structures and ensure their talents are being maximized. And that happens by following the process above, and delivering learning solutions that have definitive business impact.

*Image by Scott, Flickr

Interested in hearing more from Britt Andreatta? Watch her full course, Organizational Learning and Development, or download her guide on how to build a culture of learning at your organization.