Why Don’t They Like Me?
Many learning practitioners often ask us one question: how can they gain business acceptance for Learning and Development (L&D) from their organizational leaders? The truth is, there’s no hidden secret to this. The key is to showcase the tangible business value of your learning initiatives plainly. While this may sound straightforward, we acknowledge that putting it into action can be challenging. But is it truly as daunting as it seems?
Until workplace learning can prove its direct impact on improving business performance, leaders won’t ever be fully enthusiastic about it. Unfortunately, learning practitioners continue to grapple with achieving this perceived holy grail. So, if you’re wondering why your leaders aren’t fully on board with your initiatives, it might be because of what you’re doing or not doing. The root cause of why your leaders are resistant to the value you believe you’re offering varies.
It’s tempting to place the blame solely on your leaders not “getting it.” But remember that a significant portion of shaping how others perceive learning rests in your hands, not your leaders’. If you’re genuinely committed to changing minds and gaining support, consider reevaluating three common behaviors that often go unnoticed among learning practitioners.
Rethink These 3 Common Behaviors And Gain More Business Acceptance For L&D
Overvaluing The Importance Of Learning
It’s true practitioners tend to overemphasize the significance a learning effort will have in achieving business or operational success. Do note, and to dispel a common myth, your leaders do recognize the relevance and importance for organizational learning. However, it’s vital to realize that learning is just one of many enablers in their toolbox that will add organizational, or operational, value. An operational enabler is something that facilitates the accomplishment of achieving primary operational objectives. For instance, much like car oil reduces friction among engine parts, workplace learning minimizes the “friction”, or rather uncertainties, ensuring that the business operates smoothly.
But before you enthusiastically label yourself as a business or operational “enabler,” remember that your organization relies on numerous moving parts and enablers. Some enablers, with similar expectations as learning, are areas like IT, finance, manufacturing, and HR. And like learning, all of these enablers are also cost centers.
The real magic occurs when these enablers collaborate harmoniously to achieve specific business goals. Learning truly becomes indispensable when it collaborates effectively with other enablers and demonstrates its ability to add substantial value, and business acceptance for L&D follows. While some leaders might view learning’s role as a tool for onboarding and compliance, forward-thinking leaders see it as an opportunity for change management, performance enhancement, and risk reduction.
Taking Learning Too Seriously
There’s no question learning practitioners are dedicated to their roles, and that’s a commendable trait. Those advocating for learning should, of course, be committed to continuous self-improvement. However, there’s a fine line between being dedicated and taking oneself too seriously. The field of workplace learning often becomes excessively intense, leading to heated debates with little or no consensus on how deep one should delve into the intricacies of Learning and Development. Furthermore, many of these internal learning debates are essentially valueless discussions for the organization.
It’s crucial to enhance your skills while also maintaining a broader perspective on what you need to learn if you expect to have meaningful organizational impact. But rather than wasting time on pointless learning debates, focus on what’s relevant to your stakeholders. Embrace the fact that leaders see you as a part of the solution and an increasingly crucial business function. Break out of the learning myopia and broaden your perspectives by making yourself operationally relevant to gain business acceptance for L&D. Whether you’re an Instructional Designer or a Chief Learning Officer, diversifying your perspectives will significantly boost your organizational and professional value.
Being An Event Rather Than An Integral Part Of The Process
Learning practitioners will often claim that their solutions seamlessly integrate into business processes, but in reality, too many learning initiatives remain isolated events disconnected from operational realities. This isn’t necessarily a problem, as long as it’s a deliberate choice. It becomes a problem when the value it delivers is fleeting (like in an event), which translates into a perceived waste of resources and money. For learning to gain credibility with leadership, your efforts must be deliberate, thoughtful, and intentionally woven into business processes.
While practitioners focus on learning, business leaders concentrate on performance improvement and change management, both of which require constant learning interventions. This fundamental difference underscores the notion that learning is often seen as an “event”–a course, an activity, or a technology. In contrast, performance improvement and change centers on the entirety of the process. Learning leaders who shift their perspective quickly realize that learning doesn’t happen at a specific moment. Instead, progressive leaders get learning to become an intrinsic part of the organization. It is part of their culture, and eventually leads to business acceptance for L&D.
Toyota is an exemplary case and poster child for learning integration. For over four decades, Toyota prioritizes learning as an operationally integrated process. Their approach encourages continuous learning throughout design, production, delivery, and support, creating considerable opportunities for innovation and quality improvement within the business processes. This continuous and integrative learning approach is as far from being event-driven as it can be. Competitors continue to wonder how Toyota maintains its high-quality standards and market leadership through this approach. But as much as some competitors try to emulate Toyota, it has become their imitable, competitive, advantage.
Simply, stop treating learning as an isolated event and start treating it as an integrative contributor to improving performance and helping to manage the unknowns in the organization’s constant change process. By doing so, employees will actively embrace learning within their activities, rather than having it imposed upon them in the hope that something will stick. And your leaders, well, they’ll embrace you as part of the team.
Many learning practitioners continue to desperately seek approval and support from their leaders. Instead of trying to persuade or beg for their buy-in, focus on demonstrating how a lean and integrative learning approach will enhance organizational processes. Recognize that you are just one cog in the organizational machinery, and sometimes, learning isn’t the sole solution to business challenges. By nurturing this kind of relationship with your business leaders, there’s a chance they will become more invested in your efforts, and a flourishing partnership can develop.
Want To Develop Your Skills?
As you can appreciate, one article will point you in the right direction, but it only scratches the surface of the positive impact your learning efforts can have on an organization. Force yourself to go deeper and grow into the value you know learning can deliver to your business. eLearning Industry is offering a course to accompany you in your professional development. Enroll in their course, “How to Sell eLearning to Internal Stakeholders” at a limited special rate.
Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We would enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbelearning!