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Zero to Hero: A Look At L&D’s New Role Within Business

Like it or not L&D went from zero to hero during the pandemic. The importance of learning within small and global businesses alike skyrocketed during the upheaval of coronavirus.

And don’t just take our word for it, check the stats: 53% of senior leaders now think L&D should have a seat at the executive table. Up from 24% at the start of 2020, according to LinkedIn's recently released Workplace Learning Report.

So you’d expect L&D managers to be rejoicing in unison wouldn’t you? Finally, the attention and budget from senior leadership they deserve!

Well, the truth is, it’s not that simple. With this new seat at the table comes a lot of responsibility; pressure to innovate and perform in new areas. It’s time to wave goodbye to the cookie cutters - the ‘rinse and repeat’ e-learning course just isn’t going to do it anymore, not at the top table. So, what’s driving this adjustment or as many L&D managers would call it, a ‘correction'? Who’s calling the shots? Who’s pushing for change?

Rather than being a ‘nice to have’, learning departments must now take a more active role in the business. Functions like career paths and mobility, wellbeing and re-skilling are now firmly in the remit of L&D. And this only gets more interesting when we look at the most challenging new territory for learning departments: culture. But hang on a minute, isn’t culture some intangible thing that happens around the water cooler? How can we possibly impact that without playing crazy golf?

Culture might seem like a grandiose term for everyone getting on and doing their job well, but it has real and increasingly tangible impacts, in an increasingly business critical way. The fact is, employees who like the workplace culture highly are 25% more likely to like their job and 31% more likely to recommend working at their organisation to others. And what's driving culture during the pandemic? Learning.

According to new data from Glint, getting the chance to learn and develop is now the number one factor that employees say defines an ‘exceptional work environment.’

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Weren’t people learning before the pandemic? And of course, they were, but it’s the type of learning that employees are calling for a change to. These days, we’re demanding more from work and we’ve seen this ourselves at Carrot. Why? Because our priorities have changed since the pandemic. It’s no longer about just having the tools to do your role better, people want to increase opportunities to move around the company within defined yet flexible career paths. They want to experience new projects and new teams with greater mobility and greater care and well-being support from the company itself. Individual career success. That’s what it’s all about. And it all starts with entrenching learning consistently within company culture and recognising L&D is rapidly becoming part of people’s daily work experience.

How can this work in real terms? Well let’s take care and well-being mentioned above...

Firstly, to stress the point, care and well-being have been put centre stage as employees rethink what they want out of their jobs. The stresses of the pandemic and modern life in general, can be seen with the initiatives like the ‘the right to switch off’ becoming law and having time off for a mental health day becoming increasingly mainstream. Glint data shows that employees who feel cared about at work are 3.2 x more likely to report being happy to work for their current company. The headline is clear, if you want to retain talented employees, care must be an valued arm of the company culture.

What’s the most critical factor in a caring employee experience? Managers. Especially with a widening translocated workforce, people's managers are often their only link to company culture and so it’s crucial to get it right. As L&D pros we need to be championing manager support, supercharging them with soft skills e-learning courses. At Carrot, we use scenario based content to map out a wide range of situations managers may face in the current climate. Stress management, work / life balance training, they need to be equipped to help. That’s why 49% of learning departments increased attention on manager learning support last year, according to LinkedIn's workplace report.

Remember, the stakes are high here. If businesses neglect these new priorities, the consequences are dire for the bottom line. Employees without an L&D department are significantly more likely to find it more difficult to switch roles internally than to get a new role at a different company. And, at companies that struggle with manager care,

employees are nearly 50% more likely to apply for a new job elsewhere. At the same time managers are people too and we need to be careful not to load other areas like HR onto managers under the banner of cross functionality.

So brands are frantically championing learning at every turn right?

Well, sadly, not really. Whilst 46% of employers said upskilling and reskilling was a top focus area this year, internal mobility and career pathing, as well as employee retention, fell toward the bottom. This year’s Linkedin Workplace Learning Report survey shed light on an awkward truth: only 20% of learners agree that their “organisation’s leadership values learning more now than ever before.”

Further, Red Thread research found that “L&D pros may feel underprepared, and they’re actively seeking leadership, business, and data skills as much as, if not more than, traditional L&D skills.” So L&D departments not only need to deal with the meatier topics of company culture with greater urgency, they require additional training on what this means themselves.

To do this they need to collaborate with other departments from their newly acquired seat at the top table. No longer can learning teams operate in a silo. They need to be proactive and challenge that stereotype of being more passive. Cross functionality is a must with teams like HR & Ops to create a business function that sits horizontally across the business, championing well-being and career mobility at every turn. This sharper and re-focussed strategy will be critical to business success long term. If it’s down to L&D to future proof entire workforces and increase employee retention and satisfaction, they’ll need the right support themselves.

To hear more about how L&D teams can be supported reach out to the carrot team at


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