Does L&D Have a Seat at the C-Suite Table?

Designing L&D for Success

The role of L&D expanded during the pandemic and is becoming even more crucial now. Despite all the challenges organizations have faced last year, there has never been a more exciting time for learning and development. Infact, there has never been a better time to ask this question – “Does L&D have a seat at the C-Suite table?” I’m sure most of us would answer this in an affirmative “Yes”. That’s what LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2021[1] states too. According to the report, 63% of L&D pros believe that the L&D seat at the C-suite table is secure in 2021, which is a huge jump compared to just 24% respondents who felt the same in March 2020.

There could be many factors driving this change but the most pertinent one being that workers, managers, and business leaders – literally everyone is feeling the pressure to upskill and reskill today. The report by LinkedIn also identifies upskilling and reskilling as the top priority in 2021 for L&D pros globally, followed by other priorities like leadership and management, and virtual onboarding. A recent survey by Degreed reveals similar insights – Six-in-ten respondents feel that Covid-19 and the resulting economic crisis has accelerated the need to acquire new skills. Josh Bersin also highlights this challenge through his viewpoint of the rising need for internal mobility, in his recent article.[2]

In the current scheme of things, organizations have to learn how to match their crew to new roles and activities. The new-collar worker’s rise reflects the need to emphasize skills and ability over someone’s academic pedigree. On one hand, these changes have left L&D leaders thinking about strategies to reskill and upskill their workforces rapidly while on the other, they’ve also earned L&D a much-deserved seat at the C-Suite table, something that they’ve been hoping for, since long. L&D is rightfully in the driver’s seat today, as a strategic enabler of this monumental leap. Clearly, it’s their time and opportunity to play a crucial role as a change agent.

Harbinger had the privilege of hosting some of the world’s highly accomplished learning and development leaders for a recent Power Hour that touched upon the same topic. These experts gathered to talk about ‘Designing L&D for success in the post-pandemic world: The CLO Point of View.’  The session included Joti Joseph (A Seasoned L&D expert with a 26-year stint at Standard Chartered Bank) and Ken Hubbell (Sr. Vice President of Instructional Design Strategy and Innovation at Wells Fargo Bank) as panelists. The discussion was led and facilitated by Dr Vikas Joshi (CEO at Harbinger Group). The panel had an intriguing exchange of thoughts about the shift in the role of a CLO and the redesigned L&D function and corresponding change in KPIs. Some very insightful points were raised in the discussion. Vikas opened the discussion by sharing some industry statistics and ran a poll to know our audience’s top focus areas for L&D programs in 2021. (Not surprisingly, the results were in-line with what the LinkedIn report mentioned earlier, stated – Upskilling and reskilling, a clear winner with almost 60% votes). This was followed by a deliberation on the shifting role of the CLO, coupled by the new skills that L&D pros need to acquire, and concluded with a discussion of new KPIs for the redesigned L&D function.

The panelists opined that the L&D function needs to step up and take up more and different responsibilities, than they’ve been handling so far, to deliver what is expected of them in the coming times. L&D leaders are in the most powerful position to impact the culture of the organization they’re working in.

Shift in the Role of CLO and the Changing L&D KPI

Chief Learning Officer as the Bridge

In her opening thoughts, Joti shared that she feels that the role of Chief Learning Officer as someone who holds the triangle of human resources, learning, and business together has fundamentally changed in the last one year, and that’s what has probably got them the seat at the C-suite table as well. She also touched upon some skills that L&D professionals need to acquaint themselves with, to thrive. These include but are not limited to consulting, curation, personalization, and technology adoption and enablement.

Ken emphasized why it is of paramount importance for L&D pros to learn how to speak the language of business today. He feels that this will also enable them to show the impact of what learning can actually do in terms of metrics that that rest of the business stakeholders understand. Joti had similar thoughts when questioned around the changing L&D KPIs. She felt L&D KPIs need to be completely in sync with business KPIs and these two units should not function in isolation.

Talking more about metrics for measuring L&D success, the panel discussed how it is crucial for L&D to systematically move from effort measures to outcome measures. Ken shared his experience and recommendation of moving from traditional reporting and measurement via surveys and questionnaires to Net Promoter Scores as an effective measure of L&D success.

Avoiding Distractions

While talking about some new focus areas for L&D like mental health, Covid awareness, diversity and inclusivity, Joti raised a very relevant point. She feels it’s important for L&D leaders to avoid distraction and highlight ‘concept fatigue.’ She reiterated that L&D leaders need not go about implementing every new strategy they hear of and should ideally stick with chosen strategies and plans till they can prove their hypothesis, one way or the other.

The Final Word

The session had some great insights and clearly laid out how Chief Learning Officers view the world from their vantage point. L&D does have a seat at the C-Suite table provided it takes up an expanded role in the post-pandemic world, and experts have this confirmed for you.

Check out the on-demand recording of the Power Hour to hear the whole discussion. Do share your thoughts through the comments section below or reach out to us at info@harbingerelearning.com to share your feedback.

 

[1] https://learning.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/amp/learning-solutions/images/wlr21/pdf/LinkedIn-Learning_Workplace-Learning-Report-2021-EN-1.pdf

[2] Not Enough Workers: Rethink Recruiting In The New Economy – JOSH BERSIN

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