Is Maintaining a Learning Strategy and a Learning Council Worth the Effort? 

CURRENT STATE 

In the 2023 Learning and Development Benchmarking Survey by Brandon Hall Group™, 78% of respondents reported they have a documented learning strategy, 

And 70% reported they maintain a learning committee or learning council, while 30% do not. 

Certainly, maintaining and revising a documented learning strategy can be somewhat resource intensive. A learning council is even more of a lift requiring multiple resources from across the organization on a recurring basis. Why do the majority of organizations invest the time and resources into both of these efforts? Is the return worth it? Our research shows that organizations who maintain a documented learning strategy and a learning council or a similar type of oversight committee are far more effective at meeting the most commonly reported challenges facing today’s L&D functions than organizations which do not.

COMPLEXITIES 

For organizations which do have documented learning strategies, 42% of respondents reported they reviewed or updated their strategies either annually or more frequently, while 49% reported less frequent reviews. 

Frequency of review did not have a significant statistical impact on how well learning organizations handled common challenges. 

One reason learning councils seem to be so impactful is their composition. 62% of our respondents reported business stakeholders serve on their councils as well as a healthy segment of employees (23%). It is self-evident that a recurring stream of communication and feedback between the L&D function and their critical audiences across the business, is going to surface both problems and recommendations at a far faster rate than ad hoc interactions. Common sense suggests organizations with learning councils will be alerted to problems and challenges more quickly and, in turn, will be able to respond more quickly and with more informed accuracy. 

CONSEQUENCES 

So what difference does a learning strategy or learning council make? When we compared the frequencies of the primary challenges reported by organizations with a learning strategy and/or a learning council versus organizations without, the difference was stark. For instance: 

When comparing how well L&D organization with both a documented learning strategy and a learning council against organizations which featured neither, it’s clear why the majority of our surveyed organizations support both approaches. 

With one exception, L&D challenges were reported at significantly higher frequencies amongst those organizations which do not have a learning strategy or a learning council in place. 

CRITICAL QUESTIONS 

  • Does your organization have a documented learning strategy in place? If not, why not? 
  • If you do have a documented learning strategy in place, should it be reviewed and revised more frequently? 
  • Does your organization have a learning council or committee in place? If not, why not? 
  • If you maintain a learning council, what changes, if any, to its membership might be useful? 
  • How does your L&D function uncover challenges, issues, and problems which can be addressed by learning or performance enablement solutions? 

BRANDON HALL GROUP POV 

Correlation is not causation, but correlative evidence, especially recurring evidence, is convincing. It stands to reason that organizations with a documented learning strategy are better able to respond to challenges in a more thorough and unified way, especially if those challenges (such as how should we best measure the effectiveness of our learning programs?) are addressed by that strategy. A learning strategy can also help pull together organized, cross-functional approaches to learner learning technology acquisition, how best to address a hybrid workforce, and how best to incorporate new or emerging learning modalities. 

Similarly, a learning council enables a level of communication and responsiveness that brings not only early awareness of emerging issues but serves as a source for ideas on how best to address them and heighten L&Ds awareness of critical audiences and the challenges they face. Corporate cultures have, in the past, have commonly seen Learning and Development as a standalone, order-taking island of a department with little to contribute but overhead and some occasionally necessary learning content. Active participation in a learning council can dramatically change that perception and help weave L&D into the fabric of the organization in a way that offers up learning as a strategic solution to meeting organizational goals. A learning council can ensure lines of communication remain open and can demonstrate the L&D function understands what drives the organization, speaks the same language, and can readily contribute to achieving its performance goals.

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