L&D strategies often include a focus on developing employees’ skills and improving their job performance. In these areas, there is significant overlap with performance management, an area of focus that is often found under the HR umbrella.
Learning leaders can effectively advance L&D goals within an overall strategy that addresses performance management and related concerns—while also developing and deepening strategic relationships across departments.
What is performance management?
In many organizations, the closest employees get to performance management is an annual performance review. But that’s often too little, too late.
Effective performance management is an ongoing process that entails setting goals; providing feedback, check-ins, and monitoring of progress; and recognizing progress—or identifying and addressing barriers that impede progress.
The desired result is, of course, improved performance.
Learning leaders understand that the purpose of materials that their teams produce extends well beyond “training” to address a specific gap. Improving employee performance takes on a more strategic focus when learning leaders recognize that an individual’s or a team’s knowledge or skills gap in a specific area can reflect broader needs or challenges—and that not all performance gaps can be resolved by having the employee complete “a training.”
Instead, improving performance requires a big-picture look that starts with a clear understanding of the organization’s business goals and needs. This includes:
- A thorough understanding of the skills present within the organization and which teams and individuals have those skills
- Anticipated needs and any skills gaps presented by these needs
- Design of learning journeys and curriculum to maintain employees’ skills and upskill employees for future needs
- Performance management and regular check-ins and reviews that include setting goals around future-proofing and upskilling
Astute learning leaders leverage the overlap of these goals with both goals of a performance management program—areas such as employee retention, career pathing, future-proofing, identification and development of potential leaders—and common HR initiatives, and factor in collaboration with HR as they develop their learning strategies.
Collaborating on performance management is strategic for both L&D and HR
According to McKinsey, “To get the most out of investments in training programs and curriculum development, L&D leaders must embrace a broader role within the organization and formulate an ambitious vision for the function.”
Part of this vision requires supporting business priorities by ensuring that the workforce has the necessary skills and knowledge. This entails both attracting, hiring, and retaining skilled employees, and upskilling and reskilling existing employees to meet changing needs.
Drilling deeper, attracting and retaining employees depends on a mix of nebulous factors, like organizational culture and employees’ feeling of belonging and community, as well as more conventionally learning-focused factors like individual learning journeys and clear advancement paths. These and other elements of culture that figure prominently in employee retention, like employee engagement, the ability to move to new roles within the organization, or access to leadership opportunities, rely on strategic collaboration between HR and learning leaders.
McKinsey’s and other research shows that “When highly engaged employees are challenged and given the skills to grow and develop within their chosen career path, they are more likely to be energized by new opportunities at work and satisfied with their current organization.” This reduces turnover, builds deep institutional knowledge, and improves an organization’s performance.
Where to start
Building strategic relationships with your peers in HR or L&D starts with clear communication and asking the right questions. Leaders in both departments can act as “connectors,” according to Learning Solutions Magazine writer Lynne McNamee; connectors who develop “the habit of meeting regularly with managers and practitioners across the organization, to learn what frustrations they face and to unearth the points of friction.”
Collaborate and build on one another’s strengths: Learning leaders may offer coaching or share expertise on anything from presentation skills to identifying skills gaps. HR professionals may bring a bigger-picture view of the organization’s goals and business needs. Some areas, like employee wellness and organizational culture, may draw on strengths of both, as companies adjust to employees’ changing expectations.
HR professionals may have the most current knowledge of new hires and applicants—what skills they bring, what they are looking for. And L&D has up-to-date knowledge of the existing workforce—current skills, who’s pursuing what training, and how individuals are progressing in their learning journeys.
Human Resources Executive suggests a more practical collaboration: “Hiring managers are tapping the potential of powerful HR technology that enables better candidate matching with jobs. They are also tapping into the insights and experiences of their L&D neighbors to close skills gaps faster—and take new hires from good to great.
Explore the intersection of HR and L&D—or take a deep dive into either of these areas—at the 2024 Learning & HR Tech Solutions Conference and Expo. The Learning Guild’s expanded talent development event takes place April 23–25 in Orlando, offering the familiar experience of Learning Solutions with an added focus on HR solutions and technologies.