The importance of leadership buy-in

L&D has to have business leaders on its side if it is to have real business impact. That’s the subject of this blog post, the sixth and last of a series on aligning L&D to business strategy.

Any kind of organisational initiative, L&D or otherwise, will only work if it has support from the very top – the MD or CEO and the senior leadership team. Without that support, it will have limited impact at best. Many initiatives that aren’t backed by the top team fizzle out before they have even got off the ground, not least because it’s hard to get the necessary budget without leadership buy-in.

So getting leaders on board with any L&D initiatives before they are implemented can make the difference between success and failure. After all, it’s business leaders who ultimately determine the strategy and culture of an organisation – if you want your organisation to have a strategy and culture of continuous learning, then that is something that the leadership team need to buy into.

In order to have leaders buy into your L&D vision, your vision needs to be aligned to business drivers and needs. Your L&D vision is the vision for the business, not the vision for the L&D function. You set that vision in partnership with the leadership team. When L&D and the business are aligned, leadership buy-in is much more likely to happen because you’re all in it together.

L&D, as was discussed in the first post in this series (link here), still sometimes suffers from an image problem. This can make leadership buy-in harder to come by, but even more necessary to have. In these instances, L&D really needs visible sponsorship from the MD down.

There is a problem here in that several pieces of research demonstrate that many business leaders are not convinced that their L&D department is up to scratch. CEB Global, a best practice insights and technology company, published some research called ‘Aligning L&D’s Value with the C-Suite’; research that showed that only 34% of business leaders think the L&D function impacts on business outcomes. Do they think L&D provides learning solutions that are relevant to their needs? Only 31% say yes. And only a small number (12%) are confident or highly confident about L&D and HR spend.

Those figures make for sobering reading for L&D professionals and they are by no means the only ones painting this kind of picture. Of course, L&D already knows what it’s up against. The CIPD’s Learning and Development survey 2015 (, found that roughly a third of survey respondents experienced ‘apathy’, ‘lack of insight and understanding’ or ‘interest’ from senior management. They complained of ‘misunderstanding of the purpose and capability of L&D’. And a quarter said that a lack of investment in L&D hindered their efforts.

These two bits of research highlight the importance of L&D being in strategic partnership with business leaders. L&D has to be aligned to the business and working in close partnership with business leaders, if it is to achieve its aims. It cannot afford to operate in isolation.

The good news is that business leaders are increasingly recognising the importance of learning strategies that deliver great results. As the world of work becomes ever more competitive and change is a continuous process, leaders realise that having the right skills and the right people is of paramount importance if their organisation is to succeed.

That’s the last in the series of six blog posts on the topic of aligning L&D with business strategy. To find out more about the topic and read about it in more depth, please download the following white paper  ‘Aligning L&D with the business’ – simply click here

Missed the first 5 posts in the series?

1. ‘The image of L&D’ – View here

2. ‘What value can L&D add to business growth?’ – View here

3. “Talking to the business” – View here

4. “Diagnosing business issues and identifying learning solutions” – View here

5.  “Creating an L&D strategy that supports the business” – View here  

About the author – Cathy Hoy:

Passionate about finding new opportunities in learning, embracing new technology and innovative approaches to development.

Cathy decided after 16 years working in various senior L&D roles for a number of fantastic companies, to set up her own business. She now helps in-house L&D teams to develop their capability, identify and promote their brand and strategy and help them align more closely to the needs of the business.

Cathy also works with Line Managers and leaders to help them develop and coach their teams to better embed learning into the work flow. Cathy believes in developing people through multiple touch points to create connected learning journeys and to ensure learning has a better chance of embedding.

Cathy is a Fellow of the LPI and also an approved accreditation mentor.

Connect with Cathy on LinkedIn

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