Trust in L&D makes learning a business priority—even with reduced budgets

Posted on: February 27, 2024Updated on: April 16, 2024By: Maliyah Bernard

Trust isn’t just for personal relationships; it’s also essential at work. 

Trust gets L&D a seat at the table, so they’re supported in directing the business’ talent, time and budget toward architecting an exceptional learning culture. Trust also convinces everyone, from the frontline workforce to the C-suite, to buy into learning initiatives so they can do their best work and help the business achieve its goals. 

High-trust companies are more productive and engaged, and face lower rates of burnout. But trust isn’t just given in the workplace, it needs to be earned.

So how can you start building your organization’s trust in L&D? How can L&D feel empowered as strategic business partners—not order takers?

Recently, Dr. Keith Keating, workplace futurist, Chief Learning and Development Officer at BDO Canada and author of the new book The Trusted Learning Advisor, offered some suggestions in conversation with JD Dillon.

Dr. Keith Keating Headshot

Why L&D sometimes struggles to get credibility

There are branching paths to a career in L&D—the majority of which Keating says are “accidental”. So, it often takes time for practitioners to find their footing and get the respect they (and the occupation) deserve. 

Some other factors that Keating says can add resistance or impact perceptions about L&D:

To close these gaps and be positioned as the experts within an organization, everything L&D does needs to be in alignment with the company’s big-picture goals. Then, they are seen not just as an expense but as a valuable business function, able to keep up with change and prove its impact.

“Our role is to be holistically embedded in the organization, bringing business units together, bringing problems together and trying to solve them, even if they’re not necessarily L&D problems.”

Dr. Keith Keating, workplace futurist, Chief Learning and Development Officer at BDO Canada and author of The Trusted Learning Advisor

Top skills L&D leaders should be developing to become trusted advisors

A strategic, business-focused mindset can go a long way in L&D. Keating says that L&D folks who want to be looked at as trusted advisors by their business partners should first take a step back to learn the business, its vocabulary and its language.

In his line of work, consultative skills are also critical. That could include data-driven decision-making, change management, communication, learning agility, leadership, influencing or relationship building. There are endless options, but fostering consultancy and advisory skills is crucial to being able to connect what L&D is doing back to solving the learners’ problems is always the number one priority.

 “It really comes back to relationships, communication and building trust.”

Dr. Keith Keating, workplace futurist, Chief Learning and Development Officer at BDO Canada and author of The Trusted Learning Advisor

One thing learning and development professionals can start doing today to build trust

A practice Keating suggests starting today is spending time conducting qualitative research or empathetic research. 

Over his career, he’s found research to be the best way to prove that L&D really had developed a comprehensive understanding of the business, which was great for not only showing that the team could identify potential problems but also that they were capable of making data-backed recommendations to stakeholders.

“Just talk with your learners, your business, your stakeholders, to understand them, the challenge of the situation that they’re in, the way that they operate,” he says. “Conduct this qualitative research so you can distill down all that data to help you identify and uncover a problem that you may not have known exists.” 

Want to learn more about helping L&D evolve away from the order-taker role? Watch the full interview, part of In The Know, our bi-weekly LinkedIn Live series.

Maliyah Bernard

Maliyah Bernard is an academic writer turned content writer. As a former frontline worker, she loves writing about all the ways organizations can support these essential workers smarter.