Thursday, December 23, 2010

L&D Strategy: Report to HR or Operations?

Last week I came across this post: An operational attitude towards learning on Karyn's erratic learning journey blog.  In it, Karyn Romeis expresses the point of view that Learning & Development departments should be moved out of HR and report up through operations.  This got my attention because at my company we are currently doing the opposite.  Our Learning & Development functions are being consolidated and moved from the business units into a Shared Services model that will report up through HR.  While I agree with Karyn's point that,  "L&D's job is all about performance, and performance is an operational thing."   I don't think it is necessary to report up through operations to be an effective business partner to them.  Throughout my career I have moved back and forth from reporting to HR to reporting directly to the Line of Business leaders that I support.  Having these varied experiences has made me a better all around learning professional.  I understand my business leaders' concerns and priorities and I am able to leverage the development resources available through HR.

In characterizing HR, Karyn makes a point that I don't agree with when she states, "HR is responsible for looking after people: their payroll, their working conditions, their treatment under employment law, etc. and has no direct accountability in terms of the organisation's business objectives."   In my company, the most most important aspects of the HR function are Organization Design, Talent Development, and Workforce Planning.   These are critical to achieving our company's business success.

I do believe that learning should be embedded in the workstream.  I don't see any reason why my department can't accomplish this while we are plugged into HR rather than our business unit leaders.   We are becoming an HR shared service, but we will still be part of our business leaders' extended teams.   Our business is rapidly transforming.  With the amount of change we have going on right now, we are in need of some major talent upgrades, new ways of managing, and there are many new work tasks to be performed.  I think L&D will be better resourced and well-positioned to help address these needs on a global scale operating from within Human Resources where we can easily partner with our Strategic Talent Management and Organizational Development counterparts.  Plus, since all of the learning professionals are coming into this department from the business, we will retain the operational perspective and networks.   Also of note, there are no geographical changes planned.  We will be consolidating into one department under a federated model, but the field based team members will still be embedded in their current locations. 


  1. Thanks for your views, Mike. I've sent a link out via Twitter.

  2. Karyn,

    Thank you for your comment. And thanks for being open to a different point of view in this discussion.


  3. Hi Mike
    Great post and thanks for the insight - the one question that always comes up in this debate is how does the L&D department maintain its in depth knowledge of the business, processes and what's happening on the actual work floor once they move to a centralized unit? How will your team keep that business and operational knowledge up to date and relevant?

  4. Hi Debora,

    As you point out, the major concern about rolling up under HR is becoming disconnected from the business. Two factors that will help us stay relevant: (1) All of the department members will continue to remain in the physical locations they currently work, so we remain embedded in the daily workings of the business. (2) Each business leader will have a Learning & Development Business Partner on their staff - solid line reporting relationship. So there will be someone who is dedicated to maintaining the linkage between the business and the work the L&D group is doing on their behalf.

    Thanks for your comment.


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