Five steps to boost L&D's influence


What do L&D professionals need to do to improve their influence and reposition themselves as strategic partners to the business? 

 Ashridge research suggests that L&D have struggled to shift perceptions of their role because they often have limited status, influence and impact in their organisations. In order to overcome these challenges, professionals need to focus on developing three key areas:

  • Becoming the trusted advisor (the ‘grit’ who irritates and challenges the organisation) 
  • Establishing their position as the L&D expert (the specialist who understands how people learn and change their behaviour)
  • Becoming an organisation development expert (who understands how organisations change and is able to translate individual change to change at an organisational level)

So as an L&D practitioner, what steps can you take to get started on this journey and become a more strategic player and influential presence?

Added on 04 March 2015 by Lee Waller,Inge Wels


1. Build your self awareness

To be truly effective as an L&D practitioner, you need to develop a deep understanding of who you are, how you like to operate and what your personal impact is.   There are a number of established psychometric tools which can help you get a handle on your working style preferences, influencing skills and key strengths.  But it’s also about asking people for feedback – whether that’s through a formal 360 process or via informal conversations.  You may be surprised (hopefully pleasantly) by what you learn about yourself and about how others see you – and the feedback and insights will also help you identify areas where you may need to strengthen your skills. 

2. Understand your stakeholders

To become the trusted advisor, you need to be able to develop relationships with critical stakeholders.  This will get you close to the business, ensure you’re involved in strategic conversations and help you to understand where the business is headed so that you can plan L&D activities accordingly.  Building an understanding of where key stakeholders are coming from will also help you keep up to speed with constantly changing business priorities, will ensure senior managers are engaged with what you are trying to do and will help you identify where you may need to ‘push back’ and challenge. 

3. Network in and outside the organisation 

Build robust relationships that will help you understand the real issues in the organisation.  Explore what is important to managers on the front line.  What are the challenges they are facing and how can you help them meet their objectives?  Make the connections and have the conversations that will help you get underneath what is really needed to move the business forward.  Of course it’s not just about networking internally.  It’s also important to develop an external perspective and learn from what your L&D peers are doing in other sectors or industries.  Attend the conferences, meet and engage with other L&D professionals and discover what best practice you can bring back to your own organisation.

4. Invest in your own learning and development

In a recent Ashridge webinar, L&D professionals were described as ‘cobbler’s children with no shoes’.  In other words they are focusing so hard on other people’s learning and development that they are neglecting to invest in their own.   Are you up-to-date with latest developments in adult learning, such as how neuroscience affects the way learning is designed and delivered?  Are you ahead of the curve on the future direction of digital and e-learning?  Do you understand how to design a really impactful intervention and ensure, and demonstrate, that the learning is transferred back into the workplace?  Make sure you practice what you preach and are acting as a role model in the business by investing in your own continuing professional development.

5. Give yourself time to reflect, plan and experiment

Make sure you take the time to reflect on what is going on, the impact you are having and the results you are getting.  This reflection will help you with your own development – but will also enable you to remain agile and responsive to changing needs, reframe if necessary and plan the next step.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with new tools and approaches.   Experimentation doesn’t have to mean making a massive, seismic shift in the way you go about things. Sometimes even small steps can bring about significant results. 

You may be intereseted in:

Our Open programme: Delivering Excellence in Learning and Development.

360° article From grit to pearl: Enhancing the role and influence of the L&D professional.

Attend one of Ashridge’s forthcoming events for L&D professionals.