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Learning and Development is often, mistakenly, thought of as being the Training Department. This is because it is what the L&D team are seen as doing so often becomes seen as being an end in itself.

We would suggest that more accurately the L&D team are responsible for ensuring that the organisation is actively matching resources to meet strategic demands. As such, it could be better described as the organisations performance enhancement team.

Looked at in this light, L&D becomes the very cornerstone upon which the success of an organisation is built; if we don’t have the correct resources in place to deliver a corporate strategy, no matter how ambitious, it is unlikely that we will be successful.

So far, so good – but how does this work in practice?

Starting right at the very top is the overarching corporate strategy; this should be very easy to understand so that everyone can see their part in it. I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of JFK touring a NASA facility and asking a man sweeping the floor what he did – only to be told ‘Mr President, I’m helping put a man on the moon’.

True or not, this demonstrates what a clear strategic objective looks like how it can be understood throughout an organisation. This is vital because it is from this strategy that organisations will develop workstreams which then break the strategy down to the departmental level. Here it will be converted into tactical plans for implementation giving an organisation key metrics, such as a Balanced Scorecard, to assess delivery against the strategy.

In the case of L&D teams this may ultimately involve training – but more importantly it first requires talent management. This is identifying ways of attracting, identifying, developing, engaging and – most importantly – retaining key staff who are seen as essential to delivering the future strategy of the organisation across the short, medium and long-term.

The true role of L&D then becomes one of identifying what skill sets will be required to successfully achieve these workstreams and helping the organisation to ensure that they have them in place in a timely manner to deliver on the strategy.

Talent management will therefore become a core issue with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) where it is suggested we will see a reduction in directly employed staff, greater workforce fluidity and an increased demand for highly skilled staff that can't be met by simply hiring in new staff.

So, if your organisation wants to meet the challenges of 4IR it’s crucial that the L&D team is at the very centre of your strategic planning from an early stage; oh, and if someone asks what you do in L&D try saying ‘we drive corporate performance’!

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