People Culture

The Power of L&D Leaders over Organisational Culture

Arunima Shrivastava

Arunima Shrivastava

May 22, 2023 6 min read

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Organisational culture, refers to the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that shape up organisation’s unique social and emotional work environment. A culture is ‘exclusive’ for every organisation and it is often said that the culture is nothing but the consistent, observable patterns of behaviour in organisations. It is mostly governed by the leaders of the organisation to be only followed by the employees.

A great organisational culture is the key to achieving business success. Research supports that organisations with ‘healthy cultures’ are 1.5 times more likely to experience higher revenue growth and productivity. Despite this, only 31 percent of HR leaders believe their organisations have the culture they need to drive future business. Sadly— 85 percent of organizations fail in transforming their cultures. Some of the reasons of this failure include- lack of robust business and L&D strategy, unclear values, incompetent leadership and employees’ dissonance with the organisational values and beliefs. Recent research cites ‘toxic organizational culture’ as number 1 reason of employees leaving their organisations.

How employees think and feel about their workplace and its culture is critical to competitive advantage and sustained organisational success. The importance of culture is especially elevated in recent time when the phenomena like ‘The Great Resignation’ as well as ‘Great Firing’ are prevalent. The millennials and Gen z’s at the workplace have their own ways and seek continuous growth and learning to make an impact. Managing such individuality and diversity in the workforce further raises the need to have more streamlined Learning and Development (L&D) practices and efficient leadership skills to build strong and resilient organizational culture. L&D leaders can play a pivotal role here! In addition, if we look at the future trends, studies report that automation may displace 85 million jobs by 2025- this will greatly alter the workforce dynamics as well as skill sets needed to perform the tasks. Many businesses as well as L&D leaders are mindful of this need to upskill and reskill the workforce and understand that learning will no longer remain only a retention measurement but will be a key in realising business strategy.

It is often believed that L&D function is only associated with conducting programs and training for enhancing the skill sets of the employees. But this function has a very big role to play in shaping up the organisation culture by influencing the top leadership and their business strategy.  L&D leaders today influence all parts of an organisation, across job levels, functions and business units, from new hires to senior leadership and everyone in between. By weaving organisation’s purpose and values into every aspect of learning, L&D leaders can become ‘Cultural Ambassadors’. Let’s delve deeper into the ways L&D leaders can shape culture:

Align L&D with the organization’s goals and values

By aligning L&D programs with the organization’s goals and values, L&D leaders can help promote a culture of accountability and a shared sense of purpose. This alignment can commence as early as the induction process where employees are given good overview of the organization, its values, processes, practices and expectations. L&D leaders must be cognizant of the cultural signals they are sending through a new employee’s early learning experience and ensuring alignment with the core organizational values.

Relevant training programs

L&D leaders are responsible for developing and implementing training programs and initiatives that are essential for the professional growth and development of the employees. These programs should be crafted in sync with organizational culture, for example, R&D heavy organizations may conduct programs which encourage innovation and experimentation, instilling values such as risk taking, learning from failure and continuous improvement. Similarly, if an organization values diversity and inclusion, L&D leaders can design training programs that focus on those topics, making it clear that these are essential elements of the organizational culture. Effective L&D programs can lead to increased employee engagement, retention and performance. When L&D leaders create a culture of learning, it can impact the overall organizational culture positively. When employees are encouraged to learn and grow, they feel valued and it creates a sense of community within the workplace.

Promote knowledge sharing

Learning and development leaders can facilitate knowledge sharing by creating opportunities for employees to learn from one another, share best practices, and collaborate on projects. They may set up relevant workshops and open sessions where employees feel free to exchange ideas and suggestions

Lead by example

L&D leaders should lead by example, demonstrating a commitment to their own development and modelling the behaviours they want to see in others. At the same time, L&D leaders need to involve other key stakeholders in their initiatives so that everyone remains on the same page and demonstrate core values and persistent behaviours.

Measure the impact of learning and development

By measuring the impact of L&D initiatives, the leaders can demonstrate the value of continuous learning and development and reinforce its importance to the organization culture.

Organizational culture is the backbone of any successful organization and without it, no organization can survive for long.  L&D leaders can play a significant role in building strong organisational culture by linking and aligning organisation’s vision and values with employee learning programs and practices. Strong and positive culture is directly linked with employee engagement, happiness, productivity and retention. L&D leaders should direct their every effort towards achieving these outcomes. At the same time, they also need to upskill themselves and grow their own cultural intelligence to come up with the best learning initiatives.

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