Heads together: combining L&D and HR for maximum performance

Reading time: 5m

AuthorNick DaviesChief Commercial Officer (CCO)
Reading Time5 minutes

The people profession is evolving. In a previous blog post we explored how, as the business landscape changes, the concept of the ‘siloed’ organisation is slowly being broken down to allow collaboration across different departments. As business leaders become increasingly focused on performance and capability outcomes, it’s becoming more crucial than ever that HR and L&D work together to deliver a greater return on investment (ROI) for training and development in their organisation.

Yet, according to research, split responsibility is still common, with 57% of companies having at least two departments with some responsibility for training. This can lead to confusion and a lack of cohesion between departments, adversely affecting the growth and development of the individual, as well as that of the organisation.

While the responsibilities of HR and L&D can seem similar, the focus of their work is actually very different. Both departments play a key part in the onboarding and training of staff, but it’s HR that is responsible for acquiring, developing and retaining talent in an organisation – the ‘hiring and firing’, so to speak. L&D, on the other hand, is responsible for improving performance and equipping people with the skills required to do their jobs.

If we look at this metaphorically, we could place this in the context of a doctor treating a patient – but let’s say, for example, we have a ‘skills’ deficiency. The doctor (HR) would prescribe a certain medicine (L&D) to the patient (the learner) in order to treat an ailment (the skills gap). In the same way as the doctor should monitor their patient, adjust doses and reassess at the end of treatment, HR and L&D should work together to monitor development, identify problems, and provide solutions when and where they are needed.

So, how do you facilitate this in your organisation?


1. Communication is key

“HR and L&D can so much better add value to the business if they’re integrated within the business…actually working with managers, understanding the business, understanding the issues that they’re facing, where they want their business to be and then developing a range of solutions to help them achieve it.” – Brad Taylor, Director of People, CIPD

In a 2018 CIPD podcast, Brad Taylor noted how working with other stakeholders can help both HR and L&D drive the business towards an overarching goal, as described above. In addition to this, a recent report revealed that 88% of high-performing learning organisations ensure there is a communication plan in place for all key stakeholders and that 91% of them have L&D that is fully aligned with the strategic goals of the organisation. The message is clear: communication is crucial (for more details on how to work with individual stakeholders, take a look at our previous blog post on the power of collaboration).

Once HR and L&D are aware of these goals and are committed to working towards them, it’s vital that these departments are in regular contact. HR is invested in the individual development of learners and plays a key part in identifying skills gaps and assigning the relevant training, helping L&D develop learners into the best possible employees they can be.


2. Share responsibility for performance management

Performance management. Talent management. Talent development. With so many buzzwords and new roles being created in both HR and L&D at the moment, it’s all too easy to feel confused.

But what the creation of new roles relating to ‘performance’, and in particular, ‘talent’, implies is that individual functions within HR and L&D are now seeing a convergence in the shape of new roles. One real-life example of this was recently demonstrated by the learning sector recruitment specialist Blue Eskimo, which recently expanded its business to include many different HR vacancies. Nick Jones, the company’s director, highlighted that “many organisations now see L&D and HR as two aspects of the same thing – the skills-acquisition strategy.” This has resulted in a whole range of new roles, including:

  • Rewards/benefits managers
  • Organisational development managers
  • Talent managers

Knowing the specifics of each and every role isn’t crucial, but what is important is that we link performance management with both HR and L&D. According to Towards Maturity, bringing learning into every performance discussion drives significant value – which is precisely why, in the top-performing organisations, 85% of L&D leaders agree that learning and development is always discussed as part of a performance review or appraisal.

L&D needs to follow up with HR after individual performance reviews to keep abreast of skills gaps and how each learner needs to develop to reach their career goals. This helps ensure that the right learning is delivered at the right time, so that every employee is equipped and ready to perform to the best of their ability.


3. Gain insight through technology

We are all aware of the advantages of great learning technology in any L&D strategy. But how can technology be used to help bridge the gap between the functions of HR and L&D?

In this new blog series, we’ll be looking at how to measure critical information relating to competencies and performance, including ‘soft skills’ or ‘intangibles’. After all, development isn’t just about core skills – values and behaviours are also critical.

Currently, there are two different types of technology for HR and L&D. According to the Human Resource Management Review, human resource management (HRM) systems “should offer a comprehensive view on the competencies available within and across organisations and should be able to assist in considering the challenges associated with particular combinations of knowledge attributes for those assigned to complex projects.” L&D systems, on the other hand, are more concerned with the actual delivery and assessment of learning. This got us thinking here at CDSM Thinqi. What if we had a function that could actually link the two together?

Imagine being able to input specific goals and capabilities into a system and analyse exactly where skills need to be developed. The learner could be directed to the relevant training, with competencies and performance being closely measured throughout the process. This would form a continuous feedback loop linking HR, LD and the learner throughout a thorough and targeted process of talent development – potentially reducing the risk of money and time lost to missed skills gaps and irrelevant training (as well as reducing the headache of all that admin).

The result? A highly-skilled and competent workforce – and optimal performance for your business.

With this in mind, we are now looking at ways to equip our cutting-edge Thinqi platform with the features to do just this in future. And as organisations start breaking down departmental silos, there’s never been a better time to start.

In summary…

Is your organisation’s vision of success one that includes…

  • a highly-skilled and productive workforce?
  • a diverse range of knowledge, shared openly across departments?
  • a ‘people ready’ business that continuously adapts to a changing market?

It's time L&D and HR teamed up to make it happen.


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