Connecting the Dots: Learning & Development as Strategy

Rachell Robson | 4 min read

What is L&D, who oversees it, and what is its purpose? 

Learning and development is a specialized responsibility of a company’s Human Resource professionals. Whether it’s an entire department devoting its efforts to L&D, a team, or in small companies, a single individual, L&D is vital to business success. At its heart, L&D is talent management, and it’s designed to empower employees with the skills and knowledge they need to improve their work performance, but the alignment function of L&D is often overlooked.

L&D Basics

L&D programs are designed to provide employees with the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their work well. New-hire training defines the employee’s role, imparts specific information regarding the company and industry standards, and ensures regulatory compliance rules are well understood. L&D teams are responsible for onboarding, identifying skill gaps, and building and implementing L&D tools to address those gaps. 

L&D professionals seek cost-effective solutions appropriate to the audience and industry they serve and accessible to trainees at a variety of skill levels. This sounds like enough challenge for one department — or individual — to tackle, but L&D programs serve yet another essential purpose. Owners, managers, team leaders, and employees all need to be in sync with the company’s vision and goals, and L&D is where alignment begins.

The Big Deal About L&D

The terms “learning” and “development” typically go hand in hand in the context of corporate training, but they address two subtly different aspects of employee improvement. Learning refers to the specific training employees receive to perform their job effectively and the introduction of new skills necessary as your company, their workplace, evolves. Development happens when company leaders work with an employee to plan for their professional progress in concert with company goals. 

With job openings in the U.S. at an all-time high, employers are looking for effective ways to attract and retain talent. The best job candidates tend to prefer companies with a demonstrated commitment to their employees’ growth. More than 80% of job seekers are specifically looking for businesses with robust L&D programs. Acknowledging the value of L&D, and creating a learning-friendly workplace, is the first step to successful employee alignment in today’s competitive job market. So, how do your company’s L&D efforts measure up? Consider the following benefits of a strong L&D initiative:

  • Employee engagement. We know engagement leads to increased productivity, better attendance, and a higher level of employee commitment. L&D exists to nurture your team’s talent. Your company’s commitment to helping its employees gain experience and build their skills results in a stronger company culture and more loyalty and motivation from employees across the board. 
  • Hiring and retention rates. Hiring and retention is a challenge. Providing employees with career development opportunities is one way to keep them onboard. The next generation of business leaders is particularly interested in learning and growing within their jobs and will consider a solid L&D program a plus when making job choices. 
  • Promoting from within. Development programs allow employees to progress within your company and apply the knowledge and experience they’ve gained to the ongoing success of your business. Development opportunities may include coaching, mentoring, and specialized education in legal and regulatory requirements, management, conflict resolution, and other skills specific to company and industry leadership. 
  • Bridging skill gaps. As the business world changes, keeping up becomes more challenging and more critical. Identifying skill gaps is a key function of L&D, and once they’re identified, accessible training opportunities are crucial to closing the gaps, preventing stagnation, and encouraging employee retention. 
  • Employee empowerment. When employees feel empowered, they are more engaged, and they enjoy their work more. Motivating employees with your company’s vision from the start — and emphasizing their role in achieving it — acknowledges their inherent value and inspires them to work for their own success and yours. 

All Aboard for L&D

Building an L&D curriculum to align with your company’s goals and values is vital to both business and employee success. Programs must be relevant, useful, and designed to help individual employees and the whole of the organization. Begin with a clear definition of your company’s goals, the strategies necessary to achieve them, and the metrics you’ll use to evaluate progress and achievement. From this strategic framework, you can pinpoint the tools, skills, and proficiencies necessary now and a forecast of what will be necessary in the future. 

Once you have concrete ideas about what you need, you can move to developing L&D strategies for closing skill gaps and increasing employee knowledge in both the short and long term. The key is to balance current L&D needs with preparation for what comes next. Evaluate potential leaders early, and start engaging them in strategic L&D initiatives to develop their leadership skills and keep them engaged in company success as they progress toward their personal career goals. 

Outside of Human Resources, L&D is often viewed as a reactive force driven by a company’s need to respond to short-term problems with quick training solutions. But HR professionals recognize the strategic value of L&D for business success now and in the long term. Effective L&D programs will anticipate a company’s future needs and build company-employee alignment from the beginning. 

Learn more about the strategic value of L&D — and the tools you need to make it happen — at