The Missing Link Between Learning and Strategy

Linking learning to strategic business objectives may be the secret to organizational success, according to new research from Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. In the 2018 State of Leadership Development: Meeting the Transformation Imperative, researchers found 66 percent of companies that link learning and strategy and see L&D initiatives as critical to success have a stronger market position than their competitors. This is an important differentiator in a world undergoing constant change.

This year’s report sought to examine the role of L&D and leadership development as it relates to business transformation, which is considered the “new normal” for organizations in all industries. Of the 734 L&D and line-of-business practitioners surveyed, most reported either recently completing a transformation or undergoing one currently (32 percent and 54 percent, respectively).

Study authors noted that for organizations to capitalize on transformation, rather than sink in a sea of change, they need to become more agile to adjust to the evolving business landscape. L&D initiatives will need to focus on churning out leaders who can quickly and efficiently drive change while aligning employees with the corporate strategy.

Perhaps not too surprising, the degree of importance placed on L&D programs varied greatly among L&D professionals and LOB managers. Approximately half of all LOB respondents said that leadership development played a key role in business transformation compared with 69 percent of L&D respondents.

Barriers to successful L&D initiatives and leadership development, ironically, have to do with too much organizational change and time constraints. Businesses in the middle of a major transformation should also be focused on L&D, but in reality, these development initiatives are often a low priority because too many other balls are in the air.

A report on leadership development wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the next influx of leaders. Millennial respondents strongly agree that leadership development is in need of some serious innovation, listing the following as barriers to effective L&D programs: poor content, insufficient thinking and expertise from outside sources and failure to create a persuasive ROI.

Taking these findings into consideration, the study authors developed three areas of focus for L&D professionals to stay ahead of the transformation curve: build organizational agility, deliver learner-focused programs and expand the definition of partnership.

Building organization agility requires leaders to:

  • Develop a new take on teams;
  • Foster new behaviors and mindsets;
  • Streamline capabilities; and
  • Focus on resilience.

Creating learner-focused programs will require L&D leaders to:

  • Encourage storytelling;
  • Use reverse mentoring;
  • Enable experimentation; and
  • Leverage new technology.

Finally, to expand the definition of partnerships, leaders must deliver development programs to front-line leaders closest to the customers, learn from innovators outside of the organization and foster talent mobility. If companies act on these three areas they’ll be leagues ahead of the competition and fully prepared for any type of business transformation.

Danielle Westermann Kinghttp://
Danielle Westermann King is a former staff writer for HRE.