Is Your In-house Learning Function A Cost Center Or A Strategic Enabler?

Photo From Pinterest

Photo From Pinterest

A global survey by HCM Advisory Group found that 48% of executives view their company’s learning function either as a necessary but high-cost contributor or as sunk cost. 52% see the learning function as a strategic enabler for the organization.  86% of the survey participants were US companies.

A learning function becomes a strategic enabler as it becomes better aligned with business needs and the business strategy.  Employees need to have a clear and up to date personal understanding of the strategy and be able to discuss your customers.  And because strategies need to change based on market needs, technological advances and business environment shifts, it is essential that learning functions develop employee skills in competencies such as innovation and change management, as well as in the latest job-related advances and technologies, to maintain the company’s competitive advantage.  Employees need to be able to articulate the company’s products, services, differentiating value to customers, and to identify key competitors and how they differ.  These are all training areas to keep your workforce in the loop and engaged.

One essential way in which H.R. can contribute strategically is to partner with executives to ensure there is an effective annual review of business needs and the strategy, and identifying training and development programming that will equip employees with the knowledge and skills to perform the right work.

Further, H.R. can expand its learning function’s contributions. Per HCM’s survey report (page 3), learning functions that are viewed as strategic enablers are:

•”4-6% more likely to deliver training to customers.

• 8-9% more likely to deliver training to partners/channels.

• 4-6% more likely to deliver training to suppliers.

• 25-42% more likely to report that training is aligned with business strategy.

• Twice as likely to use objective measures of employee performance to align their learning to the business strategy.

• Twice as likely to do formal learning requirements planning.

• Four times more likely to have a learning advisory board with members from the business and the learning function.

• 26-43% more likely to have an annual process of mapping the learning strategy to the business strategy for the year.

• 39% more likely to have been demonstrating the impact that training has on the business.”

A function that is seen as a strategic enabler, contributing to the organization’s current and future success,  is valued and more readily funded despite the intangibility of its “products”.  It’s also less likely to go to the chopping block when cost savings are required.

Finally, today’s challenging business environment is right — it’s better than ever before — for H.R. to make its strategic impact:

  • A survey by Success Factors, reported in the article “Having HR ‘at the table’ improves profitability: Study” by Tim Gould at HR Morning, and posted by Joe Boone on LinkedIn, found that Fortune 500 companies who have an H.R. Executive on the executive team are 105% more profitable than industry peers.
  • S&P 500

    S&P 500

Click on this photo and you’ll find that the value of tangible assets and intangible assets has flipped!  Today, it’s the intangibles, including Human Capital area of H.R.’s expertise, that are most valuable.

As an HR leader, you’ll want to assess your learning function.  It’s a integral component of your Human Capital platform.   Is it viewed by employees and leaders as value added?  As a strategic enabler? Or is it seen as a cost center, or as sunk cost?  

Whatever your starting point, chart your steps forward.  Your learning function can make an increasingly meaningful, lasting, positive impact on the business and its people.


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