How to Partner With the C-Suite for L&D Success

White chess pieces on a green background, symbolizing learning strategy

Do you know how your L&D program maps to your organization’s strategic goals?

If the answer is no, you’re not alone, but you’re likely leaving opportunities on the table. According to “Elevating Learning & Development” from McKinsey, 60% of companies say learning has no explicit connection to their business strategy, but—when aligned with strategy—learning is a powerful tool for creating business value.

The value of learning strategy alignment

Business success—or failure—starts with people, and knowledge makes up a significant percentage of a company’s market value these days. That’s why McKinsey promotes collaboration between L&D and the C-suite on setting learning objectives for the company. With objectives set, L&D can drive up company value by developing and retaining skilled talent, improving services and boosting productivity in target areas.

Partnering with the C-suite is especially vital during periods of change, such as mergers. A strong learning culture allows for quicker reskilling and upskilling in times of planned—or unplanned—transformation. That can reduce change-driven talent loss and achieve the results of transformation more quickly.

Here are some ways that L&D has the opportunity to support specific C-suite priorities.

CFO :Chief Financial Officer

The CFO knows the personnel risks that lose the business money, but L&D can work with the CFO on a learning agenda that reduces the most costly risks. Those risks may be general, like poor management and churn, or industry-specific, such as non-compliance. It’s equally important to collaborate on financial opportunities, such as upcoming mergers or acquisitions. Planning early to meet deal goals could mean preparing curriculums to support the onboarding of thousands of new employees quickly, or launching a learning campaign to promote cultural unity.

CXO: Chief Experience Officer

The CXO is interested in learning that brings value to customers and the employees at the front lines of customer interactions. Internally, sales and customer success training programs can help the CXO boost customer rentention and NPS. Companies like Salesforce also invest heavily in external learning, creating customer-facing experiences that boost the stickiness of their products. An LMS that supports in-the-flow learning can deliver more value in these cases by being accessible when and where the learner needs it most.

CTO: Chief Technology Officer

Nearly every CTO struggles to find skilled talent to fill fast-changing technology roles. While the company races to innovate, L&D can partner with the CTO to develop a roadmap of competencies that the company will need down the line. From there, on- or off-site employee trainings can stay ahead of skills gaps. A program that helps engineers gain AI expertise, for example, supports ongoing learning while ensuring that qualified personnel are ready when the company needs to tap into those skills quickly.

COO: Chief Operating Officer

It’s tough for a lot of COOs to find time to plan for the future workforce, but L&D can help. Analyzing LMS task activity and interviewing employees can help inform what today’s processes and tasks could look like tomorrow. From there, future roles and talent needs will be become more clear. Day-to-day training on current processes is just as important, especially for global organizations with a sprawling workforce. Yelp is one company known for keeping its employees engaged and productive through a strong executive mentorship program and daily learning opportunities.

CEO: Chief Executive Officer

Every CEO has a significant interest in building their own employer brand, and L&D is a bonafied competitive differentiator. McKinsey explains that “opportunities for learning and development” are huge draws to join an organization. Now, of course, there is competition over the quality of those learning opportunities. Brands like Adobe and Facebook have become known for their rich leadership trainings and the effort they’ve put into personalizing their courses. To build a compelling case for your CEO, research what your target employees want out of their learning experiences and develop a strategy to attract and retain their interest.

Start proving L&D value

Promoting the value of your L&D program starts with approaching the executives in your organization with questions about their top business priorities over the course of the year, and even the next five years. Map L&D capabilities to those goals and work with the C-suite to develop the KPIs that will determine success. This kind of strategic approach will elevate the culture of learning at your organization and win you a seat at the table for broader conversations around achieving organizational change.