One of the recommendations for new ways of working within L&D departments is, ‘a deliberate focus on strategic business partnering’. I think it’s important to clarify exactly what that means for us, for our customers and for the organisation.
In 2018 learning in the workplace looks and feels very different from what it was. The amount of information people need to carry out their jobs has altered; there is more of it than ever before and it’s changing all the time. Part of this change comes from knowledge-based work, and part of it springs from technological and communication advancements. Previously the role of L&D was to provide ‘just in case’ knowledge and skills for use at some time in the future. Now, the L&D role is to:
- align learning to performance and business improvement
- help to develop learning capability in the workforce so that people get better at learning
- develop learning content in collaboration with subject matter experts to provide ‘just in time’ performance support
- support ongoing professional development
So, what does ‘a focus on strategic Business Partnering’ mean in practical terms?
There are many different roles of a BP and I think the diagram below gives a good sense of what the role may look like in practice (source http://www.nick-wright.com/a-partnership-approach.html)
A business partner’s main role is to support performance improvement and this can be broken down into different functions:
- Consultant – developing ‘unit self-reliance’ – helping others get better at doing things for themselves
- Governance – advice on good policy, good stories and good practice in L&D
- Service Provision – providing information and guidance on ‘services’ and the wider L&D ‘offer’.
- Co-Leadership – running joint initiatives in collaboration with others
Business Partners (BP) will be the first point of contact between the L&D teams and their customers. They will work with senior stakeholders to identify specific performance improvement goals over a set period e.g. 12 months.
For the BP to be credible in their role they will need to hone certain skills, knowledge and expertise.
|BP role||Performance Indicators|
|Discover performance improvement objectives||· Unit leaders can identify and articulate key performance outcomes related to organisational priorities|
|Consultant||· Advises on developing a learning culture – e.g. understands a learning organisation, how adults learn, learning literacy and modern workplace learning (MWL)
· Outlines practical steps for unit leadership and management to embed a positive culture of MWL
|Governance||· Contributes to, and shares good stories and good practice to embed co-creation and support for local initiatives
· Develops, uses and shares templates and examples that help units take ownership of performance improvement strategies, planning and development
|Service Provider||· Provides information, signposts and raises awareness of L&D interventions to meet performance outcomes|
|Co-leader||· This part of the role is linked to ‘consultant’ – the learning culture ‘interventions’ are useful for building relationships and therefore may suit the BP rather than another facilitator.|
The BP can then work with learning designers and facilitators to plan L&D programmes that are locally led, co-created, supported over time and can be evaluated against performance indicators.
Business Partnering is a key role within the L&D function or should I say Performance Excellence Dept….? There are other main roles such as digital and learning designers, and facilitators – we need to explore what all these roles mean in practical terms so that we can maintain relevance in the changing work environment.