Improving L&D‘s relationship with business impact
On this day, the day of taking time to think about loving relationships, Laura Overton takes a unique look at L&D and business impact in this insightful and fun but equally thought-provoking article.
By Laura Overton
In L&D it strikes me that we all long for that perfect relationship with business impact. The satisfying harmony that evolves when actions and consequences are completely in line. That sweet connection that completes us, provides the recognition we crave and gallantly pulls out that longed for seat at the business table!
And yet, like true love the perfect relationship between L&D and business impact often seems just out of reach. As a result, some feel taken for granted as we take orders and clean up the business mess. Others of us try so hard to be seen and heard as we fight to connect with that illusive impact goal, only to be ignored by those who could help and sent back to the L&D kitchen!
So, in our struggle for true love, we might settle for less, contenting ourselves with the comfort of course completion stats and hints of a happy sheet. Always slightly jealous of those who are flaunting their wild romances from the conference stage with statistical bouquets of sales improvements, customer retention, reduction in time to competencies and general business fabulousness!
Personally, I am inspired by those L&D professionals who have built a healthy relationship with business impact. One that is sustainable, that isn’t easily rocked by the outside world or spooked by hiccups along the way. I’m inspired when I see a relationship that brings out the very best in both parties because when the relationship is working well, it brings out the very best in the people around them.
So on Valentine’s Day, I think it is worth spending the time to rekindle our relationship with business impact.
Let’s draw on the worldly wisdom of the likes of Oprah, Psychology Today and esteemed couples’ counsellors around the globe to understand what might be holding us back and what we can do to move forward.
10 tips to help L&D build a healthier relationship with business impact
1. Focus on your shared values
When values are misaligned, relationships struggle to go the distance. The L&D Value Spectrum illustrates the priority values for business impact – performance, improvement on critical tasks, agility, talent. A great relationship develops when both parties start by valuing the same thing. Check out the L&D Value Spectrum to see how closely your values align!
2. Nurture regularly – not just in a crisis.
Business impact really struggles in the relationship when they are treated as a last-minute thought or pulled out to prove a point & prevent a breakup! To avoid this, nurture your relationship from the get-go, putting its needs first before you put pen to paper in your solutions, nurture your relationship through design process and explore the richness of working together throughout your day rather than just at the end.
3. Spend quality time together.
Business impact is a gregarious beast – it really only comes into its own when it is co-created with others. It feels crushed when it feels it is being isolated and owned by just one person. L&D need to spend quality time with those who value business impact as much as you do (managers, project owners). Work out ways to become part of the team and watch your relationship bloom!
4. Build your communication.
If you want to connect with business impact, we need to communicate well – take time to find out what they need, what’s holding them back, the challenges that they face. They don’t always respond well to our language of completions, platforms and hours spent training so find out and speak the love language of business impact (hint - data helps here!).
5. Figure out the recurring issues and then act.
Relationships fail when we accidentally sabotage them. We tackled this very issue in our last Impact Lab and identified 3 typical ways in which L&D sabotage impact – confusion, obstruction, and miscommunication. The gurus recommend that we start to surface these reoccurring issues – and consciously act to prevent them from killing your relationship!
6. Don’t be afraid to talk about money.
It’s tough for all of us to talk about money – it feels awkward and we don’t want to crush a budding relationship! But establishing a common understanding about our mutual KPI’s is important. It is essential to tackle this head on if we want a relationship that will last the distance.
7. Be patient and realistic.
A strong relationship with business impact takes time to grow. Be realistic with your expectations - it will hit bumps along the way, there will be times when you put the work in and see little in return. That’s ok, the important thing is to trust the process, learn from mistakes and get up stronger.
8. Learn to give and take – don’t make winning your goal.
Our relationship with business impact isn’t about proving ourselves all the time (a bit narcistic don’t you think?!), it is about journeying together so that both parties improve as a result of their relationship.
9. ‘Love is a verb’ – this relationship is about action.
A successful relationship isn’t about an ideal. The romance we see on conference stages or listen to in podcasts might be inspirational but our own relationship starts with action - the small ways in which we acknowledge the importance of business impact in our day to day lives, the influence they have on our decisions about the questions we ask, the experiences we design, and how we prioritise our resources.
10. Leave a toxic relationship.
The signals that put therapists on high alert in a relationship include – cynicism, criticism, silent treatment, and blame. These can all be addressed by investing in the relationship with the right advice and support from others. We know when one party feels unsupported, that their needs are not met, that they are isolated from their network, the relationship is becoming toxic. Don’t be the reason that business impact walks out on you!
I had great fun thinking about this but on a serious note, I do believe that when it comes to business impact, mindset matters! Our traditional approaches to business impact (those models and measures) can prevent us from exploring the richness of a meaningful relationship and benefiting from the result!
If we only think about impact as a measurement of our own success, then we’re probably doomed from the start. If, like me, you believe it is genuinely time to rethink our relationship with impact then I hope you enjoy these tips and feel you can add to them!
If you also want to meet up with others who feel the same, it would be great to see you at our next Impact Lab, hosted by Lepaya on 21st February where we’ll be exploring the idea of nurturing our relationship with impact through great design! Here's the link to register for the event https://lepaya.com/en/events/impact-lab/
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