Invisible L&D – How can we address the disconnect between business leaders and L&D teams?

How do business leaders view L&D’s impact? What do they think L&D functions should be doing? And most importantly, how can L&D professionals better demonstrate the value of their work to leadership?

Written by Priya Dharni
Published 15 November 2021
Invisible L&D – How can we address the disconnect between business leaders and L&D teams?

These are just some of the questions we aim to address in our latest article which shines light on a challenge that many L&D leaders face; how to create an impactful relationship with business leaders. 

Following the aftermath of the global pandemic the role of learning and development has become crucial for the success and survival of businesses. However, for L&D to have real impact in an organization their needs to be synergy between L&D teams and business leaders.   

In our report published earlier this year Same team, different sides we found that L&D’s relationship with business leaders is one of the top challenges the industry faces, with 78% of learning leaders reporting not being a management priority as a major concern[1]. This is concerning. Especially when we are finding 97% of business leaders expecting staff to learn new skills on the job[2] and 87% of executives and managers “experiencing [skill] gaps now or expect them within a few years”[3].  

What do business leaders think of L&D? 

Before we address the disconnect, we need to understand more about what leaders think of L&D. Although generally leaders were enthusiastic about the role of L&D in their organization our findings did highlight some key problem areas which we have summarized below.  

  • Isolation: To leaders, L&D feels removed from the rest of the organization. Leaders want cross-organizational communication. 

  • Invisibility: The impact and internal processes of L&D functions are not immediately apparent. Leaders want to understand the role of L&D within their organizations.  

  • Disorganization: L&D is seen to be “messy” and poorly orchestrated. This is perceived as causing friction within the organization, delaying growth, and reducing competency.  

  • Transactionality: Leaders referred to L&D as “transactional” or “reactive”. They want learning programs with longer-term goals that seek to do more than address immediate training needs. 

Addressing the ‘invisible L&D’  

As mentioned above one key insight from our data was that many leaders were not in the know about what their L&D functions were doing, with one leader describing L&D as “invisible” within their organization. A cause of this lack of acknowledgement comes down to the divide between leaders’ priorities and achievements of L&D. If its not the impact they are looking for the role of L&D is bound to be invisible to leaders, and its therefore no surprise that only 24% of leaders understood how L&D adds value to their business.Perceptions_of_LD_Blog_03.png

The power of communication & quantification  

For the impact of L&D to become more visible in organizations leaders and L&D functions need to focus on two key areas.  

  • Communication: By discussing what they are doing and why they are doing it L&D can better demonstrate the impact they are having on the business and become more visible. 74% of top performing L&D functions regularly communicate how learning benefits the business, compared to only 10% of those performing the worst[4]. 

  • Quantification: Leveraging data analysis and performance benchmarking is crucial. leaders who collaborate with L&D functions to identify quantifiable goals for learning are around four times more likely to see the strategic value of L&D activities. Tools such as our Learning Performance Benchmark are a prime example of how measuring an organization’s learning strategy can lead to greater impact. 

For L&D to become more visible there needs to be more focus on communication and quantification. This will give a better understanding of the important role L&D plays within an organization and the impact it can make.  

You can read the full research report Same team, different sides for more insights into leaders perceptions of L&D and find out more about what L&D can do to better demonstrate value to leaders.  

View our full infographic below, or download a larger version here.



[1] [4] Same teams, different sides, Emerald Works, 2021
[2] The Future of Jobs Report 2020, World Economic Forum, 2020
[3] Beyond hiring: How companies are reskilling to address talent gaps, McKinsey, 2020

About the author

Priya Dharni

Priya Dharni

PR & Communications Manager
Priya has worked in marketing and communications for over six years and is experienced in writing compelling communications that connect with audiences. She works closely with our Impact & Insights team to create campaigns that bring our research to life and better help people understand the impact of L&D.

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