The Future of L&D: Business Partner and Trusted Advisor

Dec 07, 2016

The Future of L and D Business Partner and Trusted Advisor

In recent research, business leaders have voiced concern over the ability of L&D to deliver what their companies need to address the growing skills gap. Bersin’s Human Capital Trends 2015 report showed growing disconnect between the need to develop leaders and L&D’s ability to deliver.

The following year, the Human Capital Trends 2016 report showed L&D still struggling with old platforms and static learning approaches. Employees are demanding dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning, but many L&D organizations cannot deliver it.

Users are not happy with their learning management systems, and many companies are doing something about it. In Brandon Hall Group’s 2016 Learning Technology Study, 48% of respondents said they are exploring new technologies, and their priorities are collaborative tools and mobile delivery.

They are behind the change curve. Impatient with L&D’s ability to deliver, employees and their managers have turned to resources outside their firms. We saw the growth of “shadow IT” in the past few years as tech teams could not keep up with the demand for consumer-grade cloud software. In the same way, employees and their managers have increased their reliance on solutions outside of L&D and the LMS.

  • Marketing departments use customer-facing learning delivery and content management integrated with their CRM applications.
  • Use of collaboration tools is rising, making it easy for team members to create, curate, and share learning content.
  • MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, have been growing exponentially. Stanford University started in 2011 with 10 courses. Only a few months later we were taking free online programming courses from MIT. By early 2016 about 4,200 MOOCs were offered by more than 500 universities. Coursera, one of the most popular platforms, offers courses in arts and humanities, business, science and engineering, personal development, and social sciences.
  • After rapid growth in the early part of this decade, e-learning is now in decline worldwide as more effective virtual learning grows. Game-based learning, simulations, mobile learning and cognitive learning products are gaining rapidly. The number of virtual learning solutions providers is increasing, bringing leading-edge learning practices into the mainstream.
  • Extended enterprise learning systems are growing and becoming more capable, expanding from mere product knowledge to sales and leadership training.

The LMS is often no longer at the center of corporate learning. The needs of the business and its people are at the center, and the LMS is now one essential part in a universe of learning. This fragmentation creates endless possibilities in duplication, poor quality control, and misdirected strategies.

Align Learning and Development to Business

How can L&D make sense of this? 
Attempting to gain control will meet with resistance. The right approach is to form partnerships with line-of-business leaders as you build out your L&D strategy for the future.

Other business functions have adapted to new realities. IT has transformed itself from a siloed technology provider to a services and consulting business within the business. Marketing has grown from an action-oriented sales focus to data-driven demand creation and buyer enablement. Finance has developed from a bookkeeping operation to becoming the investment advisor for the business.[1]

What the future requires is a new mindset.

  • The future requires a change from internally focused learning management to becoming a customer-focused partner. This will require understanding the needs of the business and the vision for the future. This begins with an honest assessment of the current state and working with business leaders to establish the roadmap for closing the gap.
  • Waiting for business leaders to request training courses will not drive the business forward. In today’s economy, a proactive approach is necessary. L&D professional need to become performance consultants. To do that, they will need to know every aspect of the business and how it operates.
  • Today’s need for rapid development of blended virtual learning stretches the capability of corporate learning developers. Excellent learning programs exist for almost every need, and virtual learning providers enjoy an economy of scale small L&D organizations can’t match. Learning professionals need to become skilled content curators, both to source content and control quality. MOOCs and commercial consumer-facing online learning have a high non-completion rate, and much of that is due to quality.

It’s time for an L&D transformation. Much has been written about the need to realign learning with the business it supports. Our e-book Align Learning and Development to Business is a practical guide on how to get started in building partner relationships throughout the organization. We encourage you to take advantage of it to start your transformation.


1. Lambert, Brian, Ph.D. and Rob O'Such. Webcast: "The Future of L&D: A Vision to Modernize the Learning Function in the 21st Century." Human Capital Institute. December 2, 2016.

Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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