Can L&D and HR work well together?

Something I have been considering recently is the working relationship between L&D and HR...

Written by Peter Casebow
Published 24 September 2015
Can L&D and HR work well together?

As an L&D professional, my own experiences of this have varied considerably. But I keep coming back to the same conclusion that the benefits of collaborative working between the two functions are so clear that it's in everyone's (not least the organisation's) interests to work at it.

It was rather timely, then, to receive this recent article from Training Zone advocating the integration of L&D into HR to deliver true value to organisations. While I broadly agree with this proposition, my experience is that this isn't a 'quick fix'. It has to be well thought out and reviewed on an ongoing basis if it is going work as well as it should.

So I now can't help but wonder, what are the 'essentials' to ensure a positive working relationship between L&D and HR? I've listed some of my thoughts below, based on my own experiences. Some of these may seem 'hit over the head' obvious but it's surprising how many of them get overlooked, particularly when people are pushed for time.

Regular communication between the two functions

Screamingly obvious I know, but I have worked in organisations where the HR and L&D functions barely exchanged a word despite sitting a few feet away from one another! I have also experienced the two roles working separately on the same project, only to find that their ideas (and the work they put into them) clashed.

The most straightforward way to counter this is to set up regular meetings between the HR and L&D staff where past, ongoing and upcoming projects are reviewed and discussed, and plans are put in place for joint and cohesive working.

Collaborate to ensure business partnering is effective

While business partnering is traditionally seen as HR's role, there is plenty L&D can do to support this. On one hand, I have helped HR specialists with great technical knowledge but lacking face-to-face skills put together presentations or facilitated sessions that really sold the benefits of what HR can do for departments.

At the other end of the scale, I worked with HR on larger effectiveness and efficiency projects, helping to pinpoint areas where capability needed to be developed and implementing appropriate solutions.

Shared responsibility for the performance management system

As highlighted in the Training Zone article, HR and L&D should have joint discussions to establish where performance issues (from a capability perspective) lie and to decide whether these are isolated instances or evidence of something more widespread. L&D would be well placed to put together learning solutions to react to this. Also, both functions can design a system that supports the work that they are trying to achieve.

For example, as an L&D professional I would want input into the design of a Professional Development Plan that not only captured learning needs but also provoked the right kind of discussions between staff member and line manager, as well encouraging post-learning evaluation.

Recognise the importance of both functions

A fear that I hear expressed again and again is that L&D will be seen the 'poor relation' to HR. This should not, and need not, be the case. Shared understanding of both functions' job roles is key here, particularly drawing out how each can complement the work of the other.

This is, obviously, just a very small list and is just for starters. It would be great to hear others' ideas regarding how the two functions could work well collaboratively. I must say, I can only speak in encouraging tones regarding fostering a good working relationship with my HR colleagues.

Of course there have been differences of opinion and some debate about the best way to approach things, but the positives, not least a shared understanding between the two functions and the end benefits to the business, have been well worth any effort.

About the author

Peter Casebow

Peter Casebow

Former CEO, Emerald Works
Peter has been working in Learning and Development for the past twenty years, becoming the CEO for Emerald Learning in 2017. He writes and speaks internationally on leadership and management and the development of high-impact learning and development solutions.

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