Organization Learning and Development (OLxD)

The Strategic Importance of Learning and Development in Organizations


In today’s rapidly changing business environment, organizations must continuously adapt to remain competitive. To do so, organizations need a highly skilled and adaptable workforce who possess the necessary competencies to drive innovation and growth. This is where the Learning and Development (L&D) function comes in. However, the Learning and Development (L&D) function in organizations is often overlooked, with many senior leaders and executives failing to appreciate its true value.  L&D has evolved from being just about training employees or a cost centre, as most business leaders think, to developing strategies and programs that align with organizational goals and drive success.  By providing employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to adapt to new processes, systems, and procedures, L&D supports change, and employee development, and creates a culture of learning and innovation that is vital for organizations to stay competitive in a constantly evolving environment.

L&D refers to the process of improving employees’ knowledge, skills, and competencies to enhance their job performance and drive business success. The scope of L&D encompasses a wide range of activities, including employee training, coaching, mentoring, and career development. This paper examines the strategic importance of learning and development in organizations and provides examples of how L&D initiatives have helped organizations to achieve strategic goals and why business leaders should start investing in L&D initiatives to drive organizational growth, profitability, and sustainability.

The Six (6) Crucial Roles of L&D Professionals

Learning and Development (L&D) is an essential function in organizations that aims to improve employees’ skills, knowledge, and behaviours to achieve the organization’s goals. L&D encompasses training, coaching, mentoring, and other developmental activities that enhance the workforce’s capabilities.  Research shows that L&D professionals have six primary roles: aligning L&D with organizational strategy, managing the L&D function, promoting learning organization, managing changes, supporting employee development, and cultivating and sustaining culture.

  1. Aligning L&D with Organizational Strategy

One of the primary roles of L&D professionals is to align their efforts with the overall strategy of the organization. It is crucial to ensure that employees receive training that supports the overall goals and objectives of the organization. By understanding the business goals and objectives, L&D professionals can identify skills gaps, and develop programs and initiatives that support these goals. This alignment ensures that L&D efforts are not just a cost center, but a valuable contributor to the organization’s success.

  1. Managing the L&D Function

Effective management of the L&D function is also crucial in ensuring organizational success. L&D professionals are responsible for managing the entire learning and development function within the organization. This includes conducting regular training needs analysis, developing customized training programs, managing the budget, and evaluating training effectiveness. A well-defined L&D process will help organizations develop the skills and knowledge required to support their strategic goals, leading to growth in the organization’s market share. By managing the L&D function, professionals can ensure that the organization’s learning and development efforts are efficient, effective, and aligned with the organization’s strategic goals.

  1. Promoting a Learning Organization

One of the primary roles of L&D professionals is to promote a culture of learning within the organization. This involves creating an environment where employees are encouraged to learn and develop new skills continuously. L&D professionals can help to create this culture of learning by developing training programs that promote continuous learning, facilitating knowledge-sharing sessions, and encouraging employees to take ownership of their development.  By promoting a learning organization, L&D professionals can help the organization stay competitive and adapt to changes in the business environment.

  1. Managing Change

Change is inevitable in any organization, and L&D professionals play a critical role in managing that change. By developing and delivering change management training programs, L&D professionals can help employees understand and adapt to changes – new processes, systems, and procedures in the organization. This ensures that the organization can implement changes smoothly and effectively. L&D does not just support change, it also helps to create a culture of learning and innovation that is vital for organizations to stay competitive in a constantly evolving environment. By providing employees with the skills and knowledge they need to adapt to new situations, L&D professionals can help the organization successfully navigate changes and come out stronger on the other side.

  1. Supporting Employee Development

L&D professionals play a crucial role in supporting employee development. By providing training and development opportunities, L&D professionals can help employees to acquire new skills, increase their knowledge, and improve their performance. This not only benefits the employee but also contributes to the success of the organization. Effective L&D helps organizations retain top talent, as employees are more likely to stay with an organization that invests in their professional development.

  1. Cultivating and Sustaining a Positive and Effective Organizational Culture

Another critical role that L&D plays in organizations is cultivating and sustaining a positive and effective organizational culture. This involves promoting a learning culture that encourages collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement. L&D can facilitate the development of a shared vision and values that guide employee behavior and decision-making. By providing training and development opportunities, L&D can help employees develop the skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary to thrive in a culture that prioritizes learning and growth. L&D can also support the ongoing development of managers and leaders, ensuring that they have the necessary skills to model and reinforce the desired culture. Ultimately, L&D’s role in cultivating and sustaining culture is essential for ensuring that organizations are not only successful in achieving their goals but also in creating a positive and engaging work environment for employees.

Here are some ways research has shown that L&D contributes to organizational success.

  1. Increased productivity: Well-trained and skilled employees are more productive and efficient, leading to increased output and revenue for the organization. According to Mckinsey, research indicates that companies in the top quartile of leadership outperform other organizations by nearly two times on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Moreover, companies that invest in developing leaders during significant transformations are 2.4 times more likely to hit their performance targets.
  2. Improved employee retention: A study by IBM found that employees who feel they cannot develop or learn new skills are 12 times more likely to leave their job than those who feel they can. Offering opportunities for career development and growth through L&D programs can improve employee engagement and retention. Research by Gallup found that highly engaged employees are more likely to stay with their company, have higher levels of productivity, and are more likely to drive innovation and growth. Additionally, companies that invest in employee development have a 34% higher retention rate than those that do not.
  3. Enhanced innovation and creativity: L&D programs can foster a culture of innovation and creativity, enabling employees to develop new ideas and solutions for the organization. A report by Deloitte found that organizations with strong learning cultures are 92% more likely to innovate, 52% more productive, and 17% more profitable than those without.
  4. Adaptability to change: A study by PwC found that 73% of CEOs believe that lack of skills is a significant business threat, and 79% are concerned about the availability of key skills. L&D can help employees acquire new skills and knowledge to adapt to changes and manage risks in the business environment, such as changes and threats that come with technological advancements and market shifts.
  5. Higher Profit Margin: According to a study by the Association for Talent Development, companies that invest in employee training and development have a 24% higher profit margin than those that don’t. A study by Bersin & Associates also found that companies with strong L&D programs have a 24% higher profit margin than those with weak programs. Another study by the Association for Talent Development found that organizations with formalized L&D programs are more likely to achieve strategic goals and have higher employee engagement.

Here are some examples of how L&D initiatives have contributed to the overall success of organizations:

  • Microsoft offers a range of L&D programs, including the Microsoft Certified Professional program, which provides technical training and certification to IT professionals. This program has helped Microsoft maintain its position as a leading technology company by ensuring its employees have the necessary skills to develop and maintain innovative products.
  • Toyota’s L&D program, the Toyota Production System, has been instrumental in the company’s success. This program emphasizes continuous improvement and waste reduction, leading to increased efficiency and quality in Toyota’s production processes.
  • General Electric has a strong commitment to L&D, offering programs such as the GE Crotonville Leadership Development program. This program has produced many successful leaders within the company, contributing to GE’s overall success and reputation.
  • Coca-Cola’s “Managing with Impact” program, which was launched to improve leadership capabilities. The program led to significant improvements in employee engagement and retention, as well as a reduction in costs associated with turnover. Another example is Google’s “Project Oxygen,” which identified the key characteristics of effective managers and provided training to develop these skills. The initiative led to improvements in employee performance and retention.
  • Nigerian banks invested in their Management and Executive Training, and as part of CBN regulations, they expected to train 100% of their staff annually. Currently, most banks have separated Training and Digital academies that develop employees with the right soft skills, digital skills, and specialized banking skills.
  • Mackinsey highlights five key benefits of investing in Learning and Development (L&D) for organizations. Firstly, L&D contributes to attracting and retaining talent, as employees now prioritize personal and professional growth and development. Secondly, investing in L&D helps to develop people’s capabilities and retains the value of human capital. Thirdly, L&D can contribute to building a values-based culture and a sense of community, particularly as workforces become increasingly virtual and globally dispersed. Fourthly, investing in L&D can enhance an organization’s brand and reputation as an employer of choice, especially as the competition for top talent increases. Finally, providing opportunities for L&D is a critical way to boost your employee morale and engagement.

According to Mckinsey, human capital requires ongoing investments in L&D to retain its value. When knowledge becomes outdated or forgotten—a more rapid occurrence today—the value of human capital declines and needs to be supplemented by new learning and relevant work experiences. If you’re a business leader looking to drive organizational success, investing in your L&D function and partnering with L&D professionals can be a game-changer. Ensure that you have a highly skilled and adaptable workforce by aligning L&D with organizational strategy, promoting a culture of learning, managing change effectively, and supporting employee development.


About the Author:


Fola Vincent is a skilled HR professional, L&D specialist, and Leadership Coach with a diverse industry background spanning 9 years across various industries, including but not limited to finance, communication, construction, Travel/Tourism, education, NGO, and banking. Fola has a track record of designing and executing HR tactical programs and L&D initiatives that enabled organizations to achieve their business goals and tackle complicated people and organizational problems. He is highly respected as a reliable HR advisor and Business Partner by top executives, as he offers expert guidance on HR matters that affect the company's bottom line.

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