Glossary
Essential terms used by HR and their meanings.

Learning and Development


Learning and development is a term used to describe all the ways that an organisation can facilitate professional development for employees. This can cover a wide variety of activities, from formal training courses to informal development initiatives.

What is learning and development?

Learning and development, or L&D, is part of Human Resource management. Traditionally seen as one of core responsibilities within the HR and people function.

As it covers a very broad range of activities, the L&D function and strategy will look very different in each organisation. Larger organisations - especially those operating in many different countries and industry verticals - are likely to have a dedicated L&D function with one or more teams managing multiple learning programmes. On the other hand, SME organisations may put the L&D responsibility under a HR Manager with the overall strategy under the ownership of the senior member of the Operations team (COO or Operations Director).

Benefits of continuous learning and development

Continuous learning and development is the implementation of ongoing development of new skills within an organisation. The process can encompass many different activities from formal learning and training sessions to more casual social learning, such as work shadowing.

Continuous learning and development has numerous benefits for both organisations and individuals, including:

  • Greater knowledge base – The cycles involved in continuous learning and development mean that a greater number of employees will grow their knowledge of the business and in specialist areas of activity. This allows this knowledge to be shared and accessed more widely by colleagues directly.

  • Cost effectiveness – By investing in continuous learning and development you should be saving money in a number of areas, retention rate of employees should be expected to rise, and internal mobility should improve, both driving reduced spend on recruitment.

  • Employee experience – Continuous learning and development encourages employees to use their own initiative and self-start their professional development using the infrastructure you have put in place for them. Empowering employees in this way gives them a much more positive learning experience, creating more engaged and satisfied employees.

Learning and Development

L&D and the HR function

As mentioned above, depending on the size of the organisation responsibility for learning and development could sit with a variety of stakeholders. However, in most organisations the day to day delivery of L&D will be part of the HR remit, whether that is as part of a dedicate L&D team or as part of the responsibilities of a smaller generalist function. HR professionals should therefore be considering the following when it comes to L&D:

  • Define your measurable goals – Setting goals is essential for having effective L&D. It is also important that these goals are measurable so that you, the individual and the organisation’s leadership can see tangible benefits for the investment in learning and development.

  • Get leadership buy-in – Having your senior and mid-level leaders are supporting your L&D activities will not only make it far easier for you to get initiatives adopted but will also ensure you will be aligning learning to the wider goals of the organisation and filling any know skill gaps in the workforce.

  • Identify activities that fit best – Knowing what motivates your employees and where the key areas of improvement are in the organisation, will mean you can pick activities that will get great engagement and deliver tangibly results in important areas for the business.

  • Create a varied programme – One-size is very unlikely to fit all in L&D, don’t be afraid to try a variety of activities to find out what works. Use performance data and participant feedback to guide the make-up of your programme in the future.

  • Think about employee wants and needs – Building a strong alignment between the overall goals of your L&D plans and the personal development plans of employees will make activities more effective. Getting this alignment right will make participants in activities more invested, generating better results and improving the future development potential of teams and individuals.

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