Should L&D be part of HR? This question, again?

It comes around regularly enough.

Should L&D sit with HR?

I used to think about this question.

Until I got over it.

It got raised again last week at the Learning Live conference.

It got me thinking about several different points.

L&D isn’t a lobbying group. We don’t have organisational power to change where we sit. If we are part of the HR function – who gives a flying fuck? (It’s my blog I can swear)

The answer to my question, no – one. No one cares in the organisation. No one cares so much, they couldn’t care any less or any more than they need to.

Because it’s only ever a question that anyone in L&D asks.

I don’t even know why there’s such bemoaning about this question.

The simple truth of it is this. Regardless of where L&D sits, if we want to be valued by the business, we have to do valuable work.

In the main, it won’t be ‘HR’ who stops us from doing valuable work. It’s our lack of influence.

If we want ‘HR’ to be on-board with our great ideas and great initiatives that will have business impact, we have to prove our ideas have value beyond our own opinions.

But don’t stop thinking there. ‘HR’ have a connection to business leaders, and business leaders also need to see and understand where the business impact will be with L&D’s proposals.

That influence comes from a number of factors:

  • How involved are L&D with active support and promotion of HR activities, policies and strategy?
  • How does L&D uphold and advocate for company values and embedding of values in design of solutions?
  • How does L&D draw a clear line of sight of L&D solution to business impact? (Note, business impact can mean many things)
  • How does L&D build solid relationships with ‘HR’ so it’s seen as a partner?
  • How does L&D create and deliver great learning experiences? (either as a team themselves or with suppliers or a combination of both?)
  • How well does L&D understand business drivers and designs solutions that directly support them?
  • How well does L&D understand about modern learning design principles and provide easy solutions to the business?

There’s probably more and other factors I’m missing, too.

You could ask anyone in the organisation from the most senior leaders to the more junior staff if they have an opinion on where L&D sat as a department, and not one of them would care enough to give you an answer. Why? Because it doesn’t matter to any of them!

People in the business will honour and appreciate that there is an L&D department at all. How well they regard the function depends on how well the function provides its solutions. What they do care about is having relevant solutions that help them do their job better. That can be done by L&D, and if not directly, be facilitated by L&D to happen.

I’ve kept ‘HR’ in apostrophes because HR covers a broad brush. It includes employee relations, organisation development, culture change, employee engagement, recruitment, L&D, transactional stuff, and so much more. So when we throw out this broad reaching term, we’re often referring to a particular person, who sits in HR, and are too lazy in our thinking to find a better way to articulate our frustration.

If you’re concerned about the question of whether L&D should be part of HR, you are completely focused on the wrong thing.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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