There is a growing fear in the L&D leader community of becoming redundant. The feeling is somewhat like being trapped on a downward escalator when what you want is to go up to the 100th floor!

With the disruption we’re seeing in business and ways of working, the L&D organization can play a significant role to future-proof its business. However, there are several phenomena that L&D professionals say are holding their teams back:

1. No Seat at the Table

The most common reason L&D leaders give for their team’s insufficient contribution toward business goals is that they do not have a seat at the table. In a blog post, consultant Paul Jocelyn hits the nail on the head when he quotes a Harvard Business Review survey where executives ranked a “results culture” as their first- or second-highest priority for their organization, while only 7 percent ranked a continuous learning culture as their top priority. This research highlights the reality that business executives often do not consider training leaders as strategic partners who can enable them to meet and exceed their business goals. To quote Charles Kettering, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”

2. Reluctant Learners

L&D also faces the challenge of attracting learners to training events. This challenge is exacerbated by the increasingly blurring lines between corporate learners and consumer learners. Changes such as constantly evolving roles, the shrinking half-lives of skills and the rising retirement age have prompted employees to take charge of their learning. Learners are taking personal initiative to strengthen their existing skill sets and build new ones. As Josh Bersin puts it, “the learning curve is the earning curve.”

Resources such as TedEx, podcasts, digital magazines and even LinkedIn are new and free sources of learning with easily accessible, up-to-date content available in varying degrees of depth and complexity. In contrast to these dynamic free resources are bureaucratic learning approval processes and the relatively static catalogs that many companies offer.

3. Inadequate Funding

Many L&D leaders have experienced budget cuts. In fact, cost reduction is one of the key drivers that leads our clients to consider outsourcing as an option. While L&D leaders feel the budget pressure, industry reports indicate otherwise. For example, according to Training Industry research, global training expenditures rose from $359.3 billion in 2016 to $362.2 billion in 2017. Perhaps when L&D functions as a demand-driven organization, the conversations naturally shift toward unit price, and businesses start questioning if they can find learning cheaper. However, when L&D functions as a value-driven organization, the conversations focus on how much more value L&D can create.

4. Archaic Skill Sets

One-on-one conversations with L&D leaders indicate nervousness with the archaic skill sets of their teams. Articles about the changing role of L&D are common, and there are even some conclusions on the new skill sets that L&D teams need to develop. However, the pace of building or acquiring these new skill sets is slower than business’ and learners’ expectations, and L&D is playing catch-up.

5. Measuring Impact

Even for L&D leaders who understand the significance of measuring and reporting impact, linking training consumption data with business performance data is still somewhat of a pipe dream. More manual measurement processes, such as comparing test groups and control groups, are labor-intensive, slow and not able to easily assess every asset in a learning catalog. However, being able to quantify the value of the key learning investments is key to gaining buy-in from the business to continue to make those investments.

Even with the many digital and technology disruptions, human resources continues to be one of the key business drivers for many organizations. L&D has a significant opportunity to create new value for businesses. Identifying the barriers holding us back is a start. Putting our collective thinking to find innovative solutions to surmount these barriers is the next step; in an article next month, we’ll explore some of those solutions.