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Phillip Squire

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An L&D route map to the boardroom


Philip Squire suggests how L&D can further secure its place at the head table.

"A cost centre to appease personnel development commitments that delivers positive feedback but no real business outcomes."

Stark words, but probably ones that many of us have heard from senior business executives when referring to the L&D function and recent research on the impact and perception of L&D would certainly support this perception.

For example, according to research from the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), only 24% of line managers believe L&D is critical to business outcomes and, even more worrying, 56% believe employee performance would not change or would even be improved if L&D was eliminated altogether. So it is unsurprising really that, according to Deloitte, 65% of large companies in 2013 have cut their L&D budget.

The myriad reasons why L&D finds itself in this situation could fill a book and, as L&D professionals, you will understand this. Furthermore, you will appreciate the pressures of a results-driven system that offers little support for activities whose benefits are often notoriously hard to quantify.  

However, this is absolutely no reason for doing little and for not striving to make a difference. L&D has to move on from building competencies to positively influencing – and being seen to influence - the business. The question senior L&D professionals should be asking themselves is: “where can I make the greatest impact”?

"I’m sure most senior L&D professionals have at one time or another been reminded of the unfair - but very real - truism that it doesn’t matter how good your training is because, at the end of the day, results are all that matter."

Given its immediate effect on the bottom line, the greatest impact you can have is probably in sales. All L&D professionals should appreciate the vital role that their industry should be playing in helping to ensure optimum quality standards in corporate sales teams. In addition to ensuring the highest levels of effective compliance, customer service and ROI, it makes for the best possible attraction, development and retention rates.

However, all of these are simply the successful outputs of what must be an overriding and innovative L&D strategy. The same CEB report succinctly addresses this very issue, suggesting three key practices to help transition L&D so that it becomes a commercial function that is seen to make a difference:

  • Focus your team on the behaviours and activities that matter most.
  • Empower your staff with the support to execute key initiatives for those behaviours. Of course, to avoid repeating the same mistakes, the sales function itself must consider a strategic transformation that will help improve the mindset, innovation and business results within their teams.
  • You must create a culture of learning agility through business relevance. Utilising day-to-day work to develop key capabilities can be a path towards the cohabitation of a learning and performance culture.

I’m sure most senior L&D professionals have at one time or another been reminded of the unfair - but very real - truism that it doesn’t matter how good your training is because, at the end of the day, results are all that matter. Furthermore, L&D faces an uphill battle to generate top-down support.

The three suggestions made by CEB above are precisely the kinds of issues that the sales training industry is tackling head-on in order to find effective answers and solutions. There is a huge opportunity for client growth if both functions are able to better align themselves in order that we can improve the impact of the L&D function on business outcomes.

Phillip Squire is CEO and founder of Consalia. For more information about Consalia's upcoming event, 'The case for transformation' with the chance to win tickets to the event, click here


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