L&D has historically been viewed as a cost center rather than a strategic partner. But times have changed.
Here's what you need to know about thinking of hiring your first L&D employee? 6 points to consider:
- Learning teams can play a strategic role in developing your small business's personal, organizational, and professional capabilities.
- A hybrid model may have some L&D team members supporting the entire organization, with smaller decentralized teams handling domain-specific groups.
- Investing in your first L&D hire means you care about your employee's growth and development.
Have you ever attended a killer onboarding program, sat through a workshop that left you feeling inspired, or done a team bonding activity that had a lasting impact? If so, you can bet a savvy learning and development (L&D) professional was behind it!
Learning and development is a function within your organization dedicated to developing your employees’ skills, empowering their growth, and inspiring their learning. Learning teams can play a strategic role in developing your small business’s personal, organizational, and professional capabilities.
Are you thinking about bringing on your first L&D hire? Below we’ve provided 6 points for you to consider.
1. L&D structure: What teams usually look like
Under a centralized model, L&D teams typically sit under the HR or Knowledge Management function. Their work would serve the needs of the entire organization. For example, they would own programs like new hire onboarding or company-wide management training.
In a decentralized model, the individual business units have their own L&D functions responsible for driving their mandates and work. For example, a sales department may have its own L&D team that focuses strictly on sales enablement.
A hybrid model may have some L&D team members supporting the entire organization, with smaller decentralized teams handling domain-specific training and knowledge transfer.
Regardless of the model you chose, L&D teams will typically have instructional designers, e-Learning designers, content producers, and facilitators.
2. Signs your employees need formal L&D
Signs your organization needs a formal L&D structure can be obvious or more subtle. Some clues to look out for include the following:
Exit interviews and pulse surveys
Your employees may be leaving feedback that they want more opportunities for formal development. If there is no onboarding process in place, they may indicate that integrating into the organization is challenging, or they are unsure what the rest of the teams around them really do.
According to LinkedIn research, ¾ of Gen Z employees are placing greater emphasis on careers that provide opportunities for them to continuously learn. If fact, “40% of Gen Zers are willing to accept a pay cut of up to 5% of their salary for a role that offers better career growth.”
Slow ramp-up due to lack of onboarding
Having a robust onboarding program is increasingly important to employee retention. Gallup states that only 10% of companies onboard their employees effectively. Typically, onboarding programs are led by your internal learning and development team. Without structured onboarding, you may notice that your employees are slower to integrate into the company and culture.
Failure to meet compliance training
Depending on the requirements mandated by your state, there may be specific training compliance requirements you’re obligated to deliver to your employees. Common examples of compliance training include:
- OSHA training
You could introduce risk to your business if your employees are not trained on these topics.
If you’re consistently noticing issues being raised, it may be time to invest in your L&D team.
Increased helpdesk tickets for processes that could be addressed through training
Your IT team may have a ticketing system that could be a good place to look for training opportunities. If your IT tickets are constantly flooded with common problems, this may identify a clear training need.
If you’re consistently noticing these types of issues being raised, it may be time to invest in your L&D team.
3. Establish your business case
Getting buy-in from your executive team when it comes to the first L&D hire can be difficult. This is because L&D has historically been viewed as a cost center rather than a strategic partner. But times have changed. Today, L&D teams serve as a value-driving component of any successful business.
Highlight the opportunity
When building your case, it’s essential to communicate the organizational benefit of having learning at the forefront of your culture. These benefits include but are not limited to the likelihood of:
- 46% more profitability as a company
- 17% more likely to innovate
- 37% higher productivity
- 34% better responses to meet client demands
These statistics correlate the value of investing in L&D directly to the company’s bottom line.
Demonstrate the problems L&D can solve
Think about what kinds of problems you’re trying to solve and the financial impact solving these problems can have. Think about the pain points you’re experiencing and how L&D can help ease that pain.
For example, if you’re looking to hire someone to build an onboarding program, you could highlight that:
- “69% of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding”
- “Organizations with a standard onboarding process experience 50% greater new hire productivity”
To demonstrate the opportunity cost, you can highlight the fact that employees tend to churn within their first 6 months due to a poor onboarding experience. Replacing a new employee is costly and can lead to a:
- 26% delay in client projects
- 21% loss of productivity
- 2% increase in hiring costs
The list goes on! Once you have this information clearly laid out, you can present your business case to your executive team to gain buy-in.
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4. Define the objective
Once you’ve got buy-in to make your first L&D hire, it will be critical to zero in on their objective. In an agile company, this could change, but having a north star for this employee will help set them up for success.
Decide on the most important projects
It’s good to think big for your new hire. You’re excited. You want them to hit the ground running and build all the learning programs your employees desire! But it’s unrealistic to think this new employee will be able to do it all. So, before bringing someone on, decide on what you believe the most significant priorities will be.
You can find inputs for this information in the exit interview and pulse surveys mentioned above. You can also have your HR team do an early needs assessment with groups of employees to get an understanding of where the most extensive areas of opportunity exist.
Identify your organization’s biggest soft skill and hard skill gaps before this new hire arrives.
Secure the necessary budget
Once you have these ready, you can start thinking about what kind of budget will be available for these L&D programs. If the budget is small, but your employees are telling you they need a modern, flexible, and customizable learning management system, you may run into conflict.
Think about the long-term vision for this role.
Learning technologies are expensive, and cutting corners on an effective system will leave your employees with a poor experience. If you’re looking for an onboarding program, consider costs like swag kits, offsites, and office setup spending in your T&D budget.
Create your long-term vision
Finally, think about the long-term vision for this role. Is the intention that this employee remains a team of 1? Or are you considering expanding the team in the next 6-12 months? All these decisions impact the kind of objective this new hire will have to take on.
5. Create the appropriate L&D job description
Once you’ve made your case and your mandate is in clear sight, you can start creating a job description to attract the right L&D professional. L&D professionals come with all different kinds of specializations, including:
- Workshop design
You should also consider the level of seniority you’re looking for. This will depend on how much time and the resources you can dedicate to training, mentoring, and teaching your new employee.
6. Consider partnerships for the most significant impact
While hiring an L&D person can be very impactful for your organization, they won’t be able to accomplish everything on their own. Consider creating partnerships with different training vendors to help your employees develop while expanding your portfolio of learning opportunities.
For example, you could provide Pluralsight accounts for your employees looking to sharpen their technical skills. Companies like GeoComply partner with larger educational institutions like Oxford University to help level up their management skills.
Is it time to bring on your first L&D specialist?
Bringing on your first L&D hire can be an exciting time for your organization! It means new opportunities for employees while helping your organization be more competitive in today’s market. Set your new hire up for success by having clear directives, buy-in from the executive team, and a reasonable budget to work with.
Investing in your first L&D hire means you care about your employee’s growth and development, which is great! Take the time to get it right, and your employees will surely thank you down the road.