April 21, 2021

3 Tips to Keep L&D & HR Separate in Your Organization

By: ELM Learning

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keeping L&D and HR separate
Artwork by Kevin Bannister

What is L&D?

L&D stands for Learning and Development and is a long-term process that is designed to keep individual skills and performance aligned with the organization’s goals and requirements. A subset of human resources, L&D is an ongoing process focused on helping employees learn new skills and keeping them motivated and productive.

L&D (learning and development) vs. HR (human resources)

On the surface, human resources (HR) and learning and development (L&D) have a lot of similarities: both deal with onboarding new employees and both are responsible for educating employees within an organization. 


One big difference is that HR is typically reactive when it comes to employee management: when there’s a problem, HR steps in to mediate. In contrast, L&D takes a proactive approach to increase employee satisfaction and retention, with a focus on providing tools for employees to learn on the job and chart their career path.


In some organizations, HR and L&D are lumped together with the thinking that they provide similar services. They don’t—and shouldn’t. Following are three reasons to clearly separate the two functions in your organization. 

1. Stop “Training,” Start “Learning”

It’s true that there is some responsibility overlap between HR and L&D. But the real difference isn’t the responsibility itself, but the approach to fulfilling those responsibilities. HR departments typically follow a by-the-book approach to training: focusing on checklists, compliance, and reactive rules, order, and reporting. While these elements are often vital, they are sometimes seen to only benefit the organization and not the individual learners.  


Rather than training employees, L&D professionals seek to continually educate learners. They recognize that learning is an integral part of employee growth, and that it’s an individual effort that leads to an overall positive company culture.

2. Get Personal

Dress codes and corporate conduct? That’s HR’s realm of expertise. It’s HR’s job to set clear expectations, both fundamental and legal, for employees across the organization so there’s no room for interpretation. All of this is necessary, but ultimately unyielding and impersonal.


An L&D focus recognizes that HR functions are vital to the success of a company and its employees, but carves a different path for talent management, education, and employee development by focusing on individual skills and unique needs.From compliance training to soft skills, a personal learning environment gives each employee the tools they need to be successful.

3. Value Performance over Completion

When a new employee starts with an organization, there’s a laundry list of HR functions that need to be taken care of, from explaining vacation policy to discussing office conduct. Once those functions are completed, HR—for the most part—withdraws until their services are needed again. The best L&D professionals understand that development is an ongoing process and are much more concerned with the employee experience over task management. They ask questions about sales numbers, track learning paths, measure customer service satisfaction and job efficiency, and continually develop processes to improve each role. All of this can be tracked with performance measurement tools such as an LMS or informal surveys. With an L&D mindset, growth is the ultimate goal; learning doesn’t stop after onboarding. 


We’re starting to see a distinct shift in how CLOs are handling training: In many companies, L&D is moving out from under the HR umbrella to its own department. We think this is a good trend: Recognizing that HR and L&D have distinct roles in an organization elevates them both and creates a culture change that benefits all employees.