Wave the L&D flag! But not a white one.
The difficulty facing many learning and development teams in organisations is the lack visibility in the executive team and board. There are a number of reasons for this and I have spoken with some who have resigned themselves to the ‘this is the way it has always been’ mindset. It is partially true but this should not prevent you from changing this situation if you and your team are working in such an environment.
The tactics to employ are pretty basic; there is no magical formula to change this reality other than coup d’état or your career taking you to the c-suite. Anyway here are some ideas that I have discussed with a few of our clients and the results have usually been positive if not transformative.
The most obvious way to gain some visibility is to approach members of the executive management team directly. Of course you may have met and mingled but have you taken an opportunity to schedule some time and really talked about your learning and development projects? This is not a meeting that is undertaken without preparation. You need to ensure that you link everything to what is important to the executive, for example;
- Reducing risk with better compliance tracking.
- Enhanced productivity.
- Training cost reductions [careful with this one but good if you have recently implemented an LMS!]
- If you have an LMS or similar, take this chance to show the person the types of information you are able to supply with your reporting capability. This one always causes raised eyebrows.
That all sounds ok but what do I do if there is a moat between me and the executive team? I do not know any of them and doubt the gatekeepers would grant a meeting. In this case you need to plan your approach using your network within the organisation. You need to find a person that supports your cause and is well connected. These people are not always obvious; strong connectors can be in any role.
Recently I heard an example of a IT support person with a husband who played tennis with a CFO. The IT person had no hesitation in saying a hello to the CFO and mentioning how impressed she was with the LMS implementation undertaken by the l & d team. Guess what? The CFO responded with, “What LMS?” The rest is happy history that depended on some synchronicity. People are more connected than ever and you will find it easier than you think to get an intro to a senior executive and gain some visibility.
One more tactic that has shown some success uses technology. If you have an LMS consider enrolling the executive management team in a course that demonstrates what you are doing. Corporate induction courses are always good for this as you can justify the enrolments in the interest of gaining valuable feedback and ensuring awareness of the content included in the induction programs. Surveys are also an excellent tool to gain better visibility for your learning and development team. One government agency we work with conducts regular surveys that are designed to communicate the learning and development strategy and gain input on planning future initiatives.