Learning & Development – your CEO doesn’t care.

Emma Weber


That hurts.

You are so committed to your organisation. You work beyond hard to create training programs and learning experiences. You keep up to date with the latest trends. You embrace mobile, social and are moving from ADDIE to SAM. You battle with evaluation. Often you battle with the business.

Why isn’t this enough? How can you be sure your CEO doesn’t care?

Their behaviour tells you. You haven’t been informed about the goals for the organisation. A key meeting about strategy and direction has taken place and your senior executive hasn’t yet had chance to brief you. Learning & Development wasn’t even mentioned in the board report. The measures your company is using are old school – number of program attendees and spend per headcount.

Even as the head of the department you are treated like an order taker. We need a Leadership program. We need a key talent initiative. We need more sales training. We need more e-learning and less classroom learning? We can’t afford for people to travel for training – why don’t you use technology more?

“What business outcomes do you want?” you boldly ask. ‘”What are you looking to achieve with the program?”

Your questions go unanswered.

No-one seems to really know. The business is happy with “programs”. They are failing to see the link between learning and key business initiatives. They don’t see learning is a priority, or part of a strategic solution. You might be watching programs designed for 25 people obtain 20 sign ups, only 17 attend on the day and of that 2 people have to leave early. Your budget has blown and your costing line in the board report will now be below plan.

Another ouch.

And it wasn’t your fault. It was a really great program. And everyone that does attend says so.

But what is the participant saying a week later, a month later, 3 months later?

“It was great.”

“I really must get back to my folder / action plan.”

“What program?”

I really care about this problem.

I believe that learning is of such intrinsic value to an organisation that it must be prioritised and taken seriously. To deserve that priority it is imperative that as Learning & Development professionals we create business impact from our work. This requires us to step boldly into the “after” program space, questioning the best way to create behavioural change.

Reinforcement and retention are buzzwords in the industry right now. It is so important to go beyond content, beyond reminding, beyond reinforcement. I see people being seduced into creating programs that happen over a number of months, modules working together so that the learning isn’t an event. No, learning isn’t an event and never should be. But making it a series of events doesn’t solve the problem either.

Resist the temptation to kill two birds with one stone by going mobile and embracing technology to reinforce the learnings. People in the corporate world are overloaded with emails and prompts right now. It’s your role to reduce interruptions rather than use them as a method to get to the top of the pile.

To create business impact and to be truly valuable you need to deliver behavioural change as a result of your learning initiatives.

I envisage a solution where you are talking business outcomes with confidence. When you know without a shadow of a doubt that behavioral change is guaranteed. When you can create business impact from your initiatives with certainty, and feel able to communicate this to the CEO and your senior executive team.

How? Through a systematic approach back in the workplace.

Use a methodology that relies on reflection, holding people accountable to change with a real person there to challenge, stretch and support. Pick your battles. Choose which initiatives you will follow through and support with a robust learning transfer strategy. Not every learning initiative is the same.

Ask yourself –

What is the learning required?

Where are the skills, knowledge and behaviour gaps?

What do people need to have, know and do to create the outcomes you want?

What actions will people commit to?

How can you hold them accountable to change?

Be brave. Stand by what you believe.

Embrace the transfer of learning from the classroom or content vehicle to behavioural change and business impact. Business impact creates value for the business, and a CEO that is applauding your contribution.

PS – Hurrah for you, your organization and your CEO if they are already enlightened in the difference that Learning & Development can truly make. Let’s have more people taking a stand.


For more information how to ensure the success of learning initiatives, watch our webinar “The Key Learning & Development Trends from the USA in 2015” featuring Emma Weber.


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Emma Weber

Emma Weber is a recognized authority on the transfer of learning. As CEO of Lever – Transfer of Learning, she has helped companies such as Telstra, Oracle and BMW deliver and measure tangible business results from learning. Emma has also been a guest speaker at learning effectiveness conferences worldwide and authored the hugely successful book Turning Learning into Action. Much more detail around the issues and solutions examined in this article are available in the book – please feel free to download a free chapter.