L&D practitioners must develop their strategic and commercial acumen if they are to convince senior leaders to engage with L&D and to champion learning, claims Hemsley Fraser, the learning & development specialist.

“There is no substitute for the commitment to learning that will stem from having senior leaders engaged in the L&D process,” said Wendy Brooks, Director of Hemsley Fraser. “Leaders need to appreciate that they can have a transformative impact on the organisation if they support and champion learning – and if they lead by example. When senior leaders are committed to L&D, it becomes much easier to instil a favourable culture of learning and a genuine commitment to development. However, too often L&D practitioners lack the skills to engage senior leaders in the L&D process.”

According to Hemsley Fraser, L&D practitioners should start by understanding their organisation’s sector, its competitors, its strategic options and what drives profitability.

“L&D teams need to inspire confidence in senior leaders by demonstrating their business focus,” said Wendy Brooks. “They must know where their organisation is heading, what the strategic issues and key priorities are and whether employees currently have the capability and the capacity to succeed. Once they have a people perspective on the strategic priorities, they can start to engage with senior leaders to get the support they need to plug the skills gaps.”

Another challenge for L&D is to demonstrate that it shares the same focus on results as senior leaders.

“L&D practitioners have to be clear about what results they expect from development interventions and they have to be able to link specific learning activities to the metrics that matter to the business,” said Wendy Brooks. “Results which are reported in line with business cycles and aligned with major strategic initiatives are more likely to resonate with senior leaders and the broader business.”

Finally, L&D teams need to provide senior leaders with consistent value at every touch point.

“If they are to remain actively involved in the L&D process, senior leaders have to see it as worth their while,” said Wendy Brooks. “There will always be competing priorities for their time and attention, so L&D has to give them a positive experience every time. When senior leaders see the value of L&D, they are more likely to remove any blockages to progress and to champion the results achieved to other areas of the business.”