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What is the Role of HR in Learning and Development (L&D)?

6 min read
learning and Development

Learning and development (L&D) can be a great tool for bridging skills gaps, improving workplace culture, and increasing employee engagement and retention rates. What’s more, investing in L&D is being increasingly seen as one of the most reliable ways for businesses to increase their ROI and overall profitability.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of L&D. We’ll look at what it is and what your role is as an HR professional. We will also share some examples and best practices to help you create an HR learning and development strategy that sets your teams up for success.


What is L&D?

Learning and development, also known as L&D, is a continuous process of encouraging the professional development of your employees. It involves analyzing skills gaps in your business and designing training programs that empower employees with specific knowledge and skills that drive increased performance. You can do this by offering training courses, online learning, mentorships, and development activities. You can also achieve success by developing the behavior of individuals, sharing knowledge and insights, and cultivating attitudes that help employees perform better. According to Deloitte, the development of new skills has become a top human capital trend.

L&D tends to focus on upskilling or reskilling employees so that they can take on new roles in the organization or better perform their duties. Training can also teach employees new leadership skills that prepare them for potential promotions within the company. This helps organizations acquire, nurture, maximize, and retain talent. It also increases employee satisfaction, enhances the employee experience, and decreases turnover.

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What is L&D in HR?

Learning and Development is one of the main responsibilities of any organization’s HR department. Implementing L&D initiatives that take into account development at all levels of the company is usually the responsibility of the HR manager. However, in larger organizations, the development plan for employees may be managed by a designated L&D position or department. Some companies even choose to involve the COO or Operations Manager.

However you choose to coordinate learning and development in your company, HR and L&D need to work in parallel. This is because there is a degree of overlap in both areas. For example, both deal with people management, performance management, succession planning, and change management.

The biggest difference between HR and L&D is that HR professionals deal with a range of responsibilities, including processing payroll, recruitment, and managing employee relations. In contrast, the learning and development department is solely focused on one specific role: the professional growth and skill development of employees. This includes identifying training gaps and developing employee training programs that are aligned with the overall business strategy established by HR.

Creating an HR Learning and Development Strategy

There is no “one size fits all” strategy when it comes to learning and development. What works well for one company, may not be as effective for another. The strategy you implement will depend on the training requirements of your industry and the roles within your company. It will also depend on the size of your business.

For example, in larger companies, L&D is usually highly structured and training is often provided in more formal settings. In contrast, smaller companies with limited budgets are less likely to have a dedicated L&D department. This means that training is often informal and unstructured.

However, regardless of your industry and company size, there are a number of best practices you should take into account when you design and implement your L&D strategy.

Let’s take a look at the most important points to keep in mind.

Analyze Your Training Needs

The first, and arguably most important, step of any employee learning and development initiative is analyzing your training needs. The aim is to identify which skills sets are lacking in your organization and what knowledge will help your employees perform their duties. You need to consider where you are now, and where you want to be as an organization. This will help you develop new business capabilities that help you grow as an organization.

L&D programs need to be relevant, useful and beneficial for both you and your employees.

Design Your Learning & Development Material and Methods

The next stage in promoting learning and development in HRM is deciding how you will provide training. What teaching methods and learning activities will you use? Which materials and resources will you need? Will you use an external training provider or conduct all L&D in-house? And will your courses be trainer-centered or trainee-centered? Effective training usually includes a mix of learning methods.

Embrace Mobile Learning

If you are using an online learning platform, consider offering courses through mobile learning. Mobile access gives employees the opportunity to access learning material at any time, anywhere, strengthening the impact of L&D.

Use Technology to Personalize the Learning Experience

You can also use technology to personalize the learning experience. For example, you can create automated, intuitive, and interactive learning workflows that adapt to employee behavior. You can also conduct regular online surveys to get a clearer understanding of individual needs. You can then use this information to tailor each employee development training opportunity.

Measure the Impact of L&D on Business Performance

You also need to make sure the L&D programs you are offering are having a positive impact on business performance. After all, this is your ultimate goal with learning and development. Create KPIs to measure business excellence and monitor how closely aligned your L&D initiatives are with your business priorities. Is training having an impact on behavior and individual performance? What about employee engagement?

Monitor and Evaluate Learning and Development

You need to make sure you regularly monitor and evaluate your employee training and development program. How effective is your training over time? Are individuals meeting their learning objectives? Are they putting their new skills into practice?

A very useful model for evaluating learning effectiveness is Bloom’s taxonomy. You can use this educational model to classify your employee training objectives and analyze and bridge the gap between learning and application.

Make Learning and Development an Ongoing Process

Finally, you need to make sure you view L&D as a continuous development approach by integrating learning with everyday workflows. Instead of forcing employees to complete training in their own time, encourage them to make it a part of their daily work activities. This will increase participation rates and motivate employees to continue on their path of continuous learning and development.

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Learning and Development Examples

If this is your first time designing a learning and development strategy, then you may be wondering where you should start.

Let’s take a look at a few L&D examples from industry leaders to help inspire you.


Amazon committed to investing $700 million in retraining 100,000 employees in 2019. The aim was to upskill team members by providing nontechnical workers with access to technical skills training. Amazon offered training programs to workers at all levels of the company. The e-commerce giant was able to address skill gaps with this initiative. It also increased employee motivation by encouraging workers to follow their professional dreams.


Etsy also places a lot of value on employee learning and development. The company has founded “Etsy School” where employees can learn about a range of topics focused on both hard and soft skill development. Employees are also encouraged to share their own skills by teaching others and encouraging the career development of their colleagues. This, in turn, helps them further develop their own skills in organization, leadership, and perseverance. It also helps the company nurture a culture of shared skills and collaboration.


Reverse logistics company Optoro is another great example of a successful L&D initiative. Optoro encourages exempt employees at all levels of the company to participate in conferences, organizations, and learning programs. Employees and managers work together to identify appropriate development opportunities that help keep staff at the top of their game.

Learning and Development for New Employees

The best time to start working with an employee on their learning and development is the moment they join your company. This helps you reinforce the concept that your company both prioritizes and encourages HR learning and development.

Instead of focusing solely on training a new employee up for the role they are going to be filling, take this opportunity to assess their skill sets and identify which areas of professional development they need to work on.

A good way to keep track of the training needs and development of all your employees, new and existing, is by using a skills matrix. A skills matrix is a grid or framework, often created using Excel, that you can use to map and evaluate the skills of all your employees and keep track of their L&D progress. You can use it to manage, plan, and monitor existing and desired skills for a role, team, department, project, or your entire company. It’s a great method for understanding what skills are missing in each area of your business.


If you don’t already have one, you can download Factorial’s free skills matrix template to keep track of the learning and development progress of your entire team. Just fill in the form and we’ll send the free template directly to your inbox!

Cat Symonds is a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Originally from Wales, she studied Spanish and French at the University of Swansea before moving to Barcelona where she lived and worked for 12 years. She has since relocated back to Wales where she continues to build her business, working with clients in Spain and the UK.  Cat is the founder of The Content CAT: Content And Translation, providing content development and translation services to her clients. She specializes in corporate blogs, articles of interest, ghostwriting, and translation (SP/FR/CA into EN), collaborating with a range of companies from a variety of business sectors. She also offers services to a number of NGOs including Oxfam Intermón, UNICEF, and Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership.  For more information or to contact Cat visit her website ( or send her a message through LinkedIn.

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