Aligning Business Success with Learning & Development – Part 1


How can organisations link learning innovation with the ever-present need to align with business success? This was the topic of discussion at the 2016 edition of the Raytheon Symposium, organised by Raytheon Professional Services in partnership with CorporateLeaders, in London and Frankfurt. With assembled delegates keen to hear what tips and practices they should adopt to innovate their learning methods, the events saw presentations from leading L&D experts who shared their advice and experiences. Both corporate leadership training  events were packed with debate, discussions and networking.

Aligning to business strategy

Despite the complexity around aligning learning and business strategies, in her presentation Melanie Lepine, Head of Colleague Development at Dixons Carphone, was very much the voice of reassurance, arguing that if heads of L&D use four watchwords – ‘listen, learn, engage – and then align’ – the process of planning a strategy is much easier. If L&D heads spent time on the shop floor, she said, listening to what’s good, bad, and challenging, then the pathway to identifying appropriate HR interventions work will be much simpler.

She criticised the presence of lengthy (sometimes five-day long training workshops – even in her own organisation), because they no longer add value. “We’ve stripped back lengthy training plans, and are creating learning journeys instead – comprising shorter, sharper, modular training.” By actively listening, Dixons Carphone have begun to differentiate between learning that is regulatory versus training that is nice to have, looking at how to make learning more relevant and personalised. Melanie told delegates how she is now experimenting with coaching and observing people on the job, rather than taking them away from their jobs. “This is just one example of listening, learning and aligning to what the business needs – focus on what the business needs.”

Her call certainly got the London audience engaged. Some questioned whether training budgets allowed for such informal, and more agile learning (a point she answered by still being clear on what needs to be measured). But she also emphasised the importance of recognising behavioural change as a metric in its own right. “If we can’t really demonstrate what it is that we are achieving, then that’s a big problem.”

The changing workplace

Changing learning to be flexible to meet business needs was not just Melanie‘s advice. It was also the message from a lively Q&A discussion involving Nigel Jeremy, Chief Learning Officer at British Airways (BA), with the London audience. Because workplaces now have up to five generations in them, all with different approaches to learning, he said different solutions would be needed – such as just-in-time learning for the newest generation, but also blended learning approaches for Gen X are wanting to ‘catch–up’ with their younger co-workers.

The workplace in numbers

  • 3-4% are Generation Z
  • 15-20% are Generation Y
  • 35% are Generation X

Nigel outlined the blended learning approach that British Airways had begun to undertake – which has dramatically involved moving from a very traditional, paper-based style to one where learning happens electronically, and also through new simulations. To introduce the latter, he explained how BA had to work with the Civil Aviation Authority and European Aviation Safety Authority to allow learning to be converted. The reason the authorities agreed, he told delegates, was because they were convinced BA was now able to have staff ‘better’ trained this way – because simulators enable cabin crew to practice drills every day of the year if they want to (and virtually) rather than rely on just the two days a year training they might previously have had.

He revealed how this blended approach has reduced the number of days it takes to train a cabin crew member from 30 to 26 days. With 2,000 cabin crew members, the company had saved 8,000 flying days. He argued further use of e-learning would soon cut this down even further to 19 days. “My point,” he told delegates, “is that in order to secure investment for e-learning, we’ve done very tangible things that mean we have absolute credibility to go back to the business and say, here, that’s real, and it’s showing you the bottom line tomorrow.”