It can be tough for leaders in Learning & Development (L&D.) While progressive companies consider learning and development crucial for their employees, many firms see it as "a nice to have" not vital. For countless organizations, L&D is the first budget cut when a company's hurting financially, thrown into chaos by a merger or is undergoing a significant change initiative. 

It should be the opposite. L&D can provide the emotional and psychological support through financial crisis and change. And, when a company invests in outside experts, coaches, trainers, etc., it can provide its workers with a sense of perspective, optimism, and expertise that truly motivates. When employees feel they have options and are developing new skills, their level of engagement rises. 

Whether an organization is stable or in flux, L&D must align to its business goals. Learning has to appease concerns and meet a business need. The same old programs you do every year won't cut it. The plan you made last year may be outdated. So if you genuinely want to succeed as a Learning & Development leader, use these four powerful tips:

1. Get into the meetings that count. The only way you're going to know what's important to the leaders of your company is to hear what they're concerned or excited about. If you haven't established strong relationships with those at the top, doing so should be your immediate priority. All companies struggle with finding the best and the brightest, and innovative learning programs can assist in attracting and retaining top talent

2. Create a select advisory committee. This is where the leaders of your organization can discuss learning and development goals as they pertain to hiring and retaining talent. Another approach might be to hold interviews with individual stakeholders to understand better how your curriculum can support their needs.

In either case, it's critical you develop an extended network of key people who will support the company's L&D strategy so that you're able to align with the business and meet employee's learning goals.

3. Measure results, even retroactively. Most C-level executives pay attention to metrics so if you haven't measured the impact of your learning programs, start doing so immediately. You do this with paper evaluation forms you have participants fill out at the end of a workshop. Or, like many companies, you can switch to an online evaluation. 

Another idea is to measure before and after using a self-assessment or 360. Trainees identify areas of strength and areas of development before taking courses and putting what they've learned into practice. Then six months later, they retake the same assessment, identifying where they have improved. 

One program I rolled out for managers showed an average increase of eight points in NPS scores for those managers who went through the program versus those who did not.

4. Promote, promote, promote. Learning & Development professionals tend to be more academic. We're educators, facilitators, strategists but not necessarily marketers. But if you want your department, people, and programs to be recognized and appreciated for their excellent work, you'll have to communicate what, why, and where on a regular basis. 

Set up a communications "department" and use social media both internally and externally to talk about offerings and events. Hold executive briefings (tying the content back to the company and individual leader's goals.) Share knowledge across business units, provide content to your communication departments, partner with the marketing department, and just get out and spread the word. 

The more you publicize, the more executives will want to be associated with you and your work in Learning & Development.

Using these four simple, yet effective strategies, you'll not only align the company's goals with your L&D goals, but you'll also provide valuable learning opportunities that inspire, engage and motivate. 

Have questions or need more information? For additional resources, contact me.