Should Learning & Development Fall Under HR or Operations?

Recently I read through a discussion on the Chief Learning Officers Network that caught my eye: "Should L&D report to HR or operations?" As a learning professional, I have reported directly to both operations and HR, and I definitely have a strong opinion about where the learning department should report. However, when it comes right down to it, what matters most is the culture of the organization.

This discussion was inspired by Karyn Romeis' blog post, "An operational attitude towards learning," in which she argues that since learning is what happens at work, in the work setting, the learning and development department should live in operations where the work happens. The argument for L&D to report to HR, as proposed by Mike Petersell, goes like this:

"If learning reports directly to the VP of sales, there will be far too much reacting to every whim of the VP, who too often sees training as a solution to every performance problem that arises. The training manager, who works for the VP of sales, will have to respond to the constant demand for training even if training is not the best solution."

In this case, if the training manager reported to HR he/she could step back and think more strategically about the request, the performance problem, and the best solution.

Both arguments have merit, but one thing is for certain: A learning and development organization should exist for the sole purpose of helping people perform well at their current jobs and prepare them to perform well at the unknown job tasks of the future, so that the organization can achieve its goals. Whether this can be done most effectively with an L&D organization reporting to HR or operations depends on the particular culture of the organization.

Do you report into HR or operations? Do you think L&D should report to HR or operations? Post a comment below.


Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at well-known companies like E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable. In his leadership role at Knowland University, Bill focuses on helping clients get the most out of the products and services provided through a combination of guided and self-paced learning opportunities. He believes all learning experiences should be grounded in real-world application and designed to improve sales performance.

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