Learning and Development (L&D) is on the upswing. In the past few years, spending on L&D has been increasing at a rapid pace. One explanation is that as companies grow their workforces, they have an increasing need for onboarding of new hires, skill training, and other L&D services.

Yet even if your L&D budget is increasing, it’s possible that your organization is just continuing business as usual. Relying on L&D departments only for routine tasks like onboarding and skill training is a huge waste of potential. Learning and Development can be a powerful partner in growing a skilled, enthusiastic workforce that can help an organization advance and achieve its goals.

So how can you tell if your L&D department is being asked to live up to its potential? Here are three signs that your organization can make better use of this strategic resource.

Sign #1: L&D is reactive, not proactive.

Is your L&D department chiefly a service provider that responds to requests from other departments? If so, you’re not making the most of a potentially valuable partner.

A proactive L&D department is usually headed by a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) who takes a strategic view of learning and development. Even organizations that are not large enough to hire a dedicated CLO should incorporate some of the job functions of a CLO into their L&D department. A good CLO is skilled in:

A CLO should communicate daily with both the top management and with departmental managers to make sure L&D is fulfilling its functions and anticipating needs.

Sign #2: L&D is not involved in strategic planning.

This is a corollary of sign #1. A department that is mainly used as a service provider is unlikely to be seen as strategic; however, a good CLO can be an important addition to the organization’s strategic planning team. After all, employee development – the D in L&D – can be crucial to an organization’s success.

With the CLO on the planning team, training will no longer be an afterthought, but a partner in the company’s strategic initiatives.

Sign #3: L&D metrics are not gathered, or not used.

Moribund L&D departments don’t rely on real metrics. After all, if the purpose of training is to onboard employees, then the proof that the training department is doing its job is the fact that people have completed employee onboarding, and no further metrics are needed.

Dynamic L&D, on the other hand, thrives on metrics. A well-designed and well-executed curriculum has data gathering and analysis built into the design from start to finish. A good CLO will calculate Return on Investment (ROI) as well as specific measurements for each program to show how a specific learning initiative contributes to the organization’s bottom line.

If the L&D department is gathering these metrics and no one is using them, that’s a different – and even sadder – story. The solution for this situation is to refer back to sign #2, and be sure the CLO becomes involved in strategic planning.

A new role for learning and development

The good news is that more organizations are seeing the importance of corporate learning. With L&D budgets growing, learning professionals are in a good position to step up their contributions to the enterprise. They can do this by:

Learning and development are two key processes that can drive an enterprise forward. Make sure your organization is making the most of them.