The BIG L&D opportunity and how to embrace it!

By Laura Overton, Managing Director, Towards Maturity


There is no doubt about it that this is THE hot topic for L&D leaders in 2014. Aligning business and learning has become the hot topic at every L&D conference, all the training magazines and across all the social media.

Research also reflects the trend.The CIPD/Cornerstone On Demand Learning and Development Report 2014 showed that the top two changes anticipated over the next couple of years from L&D are:

  • Closer integration of learning and development activity with business strategy
  • More emphasis on monitoring, measuring and evaluating training and effectiveness.

Over 50% of the CIPD research participants say business knowledge and commercial awareness is critical to success in L&D/OD. This  echoes the first of the nine essential recommendations from the Towards Maturity New Learning Agenda which was created by analysing the performance of top learning companies over the last 10 years: two-way alignment is critical for successful learning teams.

It's clear that the 21st Century L&D team has to become more business savvy - understanding, responding and meeting the needs of the business are essential compnents of success. 

However, alignment is common sense but it is still has not been common practice.  For example, early trends in the latest Towards Maturity Benchmark study  show that only 3 in 5 L&D leaders agree that their L&D team activity is fully aligned with the strategic goals of the organisation. It's time to embrace alignment , rather than just talk about it and here's why.

The impact of alignment

Last year Towards Maturity started to dig deeper into the behaviour of the top learning companies within the Towards Maturity Benchmark to identify what constitutes the 'well aligned' learning and development function. We isolated seven habits of highly aligned L&D teams and used them to define a new Alignment Index to consider how well organisations are aligning learning and business priorities.

We found that those organisations that scored highly in the Alignment Index are more likely to report achievement of a range of business and staff benefits and that their managers agree that online learning delivers additional business benefits.

Compared with those in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of the index are at least four times more likely to realise:

  • Increased organisational revenue
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved staff engagement
  • Reduced staff turnover

Alignment clearly is the BIG opportunity for L&D in 2014 but the evidence shows that we need to do things differently , not just debate the merits. Turning our talk into action will ensure that L&D add bottom line value back to business and top performing L&D teams highlight that this is just the beginning of a virtuous cycle of building stakeholder engagement.

So where do we start?

Alignment requires someone to make the first move and that move is probably down to us. So where do we start? One way to accelerate progress is to learn from those who have already been successful.  Of course you  can download the 7 habits of highly aligned learning organisations or better still , why not take time out to benchmark your current learning strategy directly against the effective practices of your peers. By finding out your own Alignment Index ( and a whole lot more!) you will be able to refine your alignment approach faster.

It's free for CIPD members to take part in the Towards Maturity Benchmark until 19th August and you'll receive your Personalised Benchmark Report with your alignment and engagement index by mid September. You'll also be able to download the 7 habits of highly aligned L&D teams and 7 habits for building staff engagement on completion of the benchmark review.

So what are you waiting for?

   Benchmark your L&D Strategy (closes 19th August 2014) 

Find out more at

Laura Overton is a CIPD Academic Fellow. You can follow Laura Overton at on Twitter: @towardsmaturity and on the web at

Towards Maturity is a Strategic Partner of CIPD.

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  • I am both bemused and saddened by this. What are we doing as HR leaders if we are delivering HR solutions that are not demonstrably aligned to business need? And yet the feedback from a CIPD business forum which also dropped into my inbox this morning indicates that this is clearly a problem Everything we do in HR&OD surely starts with business need and the return on investment that is needed from any intervention we make or the solution we deliver.

  • I feel the same Carole, bemused and saddened.  However, I can also feel positive in some respects too.  Fortunately I have access to a number of L&D and HR practitioners who are very clear about the business needs and are very clear on their value add and impact.  

    That said, I do come across a number of people who work in HR/ L&D who are actively encouraged not to stray too far from their desk and reel off policy regardless of the needs of the business. They work in environments where policies are created and put on the intranet for all to ignore!  There is a lot of good practice -  it is just not evenly distributed!

  • OK, that makes three of us that are bemused and saddened. I am also surprised that it is STILL the hot topic for the profession. It was a big issue when I first looked at the area in 2006/7 to change a previous company's L&D strategy and I am amazed that it is still a problem which the research appears to say that it is.

    I would have thought that the questions that should be asked are

    1. Why it is still the “hot topic”

    2. Why has it taken so long for L&D professionals to realise this

    3. How will we know we have achieved alignment, not just ROI

    4. What are the barriers to alignment and

    5. What practically can CIPD do to help and move it forward?

    I await the publication of the report with interest but not a lot of hope or expectation.