The Purpose Gap For L&D

L&D need to develop and articulate a clear purpose and consistently deliver to build trust and influence

According to a recent report by Mckinsey having a clear purpose for business is more important than ever. Organisations need to have clear and well-defined answers to questions such as 

• What is our core reason for being? 

• Where can we have a positive impact on society?

McKinsey identifies a purpose gap; where there is a disconnect between the perception of business and potential for good, and employee’s desire for meaning at work versus what they experience.

The purpose has to be clear, well defined and lies at the core of everything. This reflection and embedding of the purpose, needs to be achieved at individual, team and organisational levels.

This is an area where L&D should be able to step up to the plate and help support the development of a purpose driven organisation.

However, I would argue that there may well be an internal purpose gap within L&D that can inhibit its ability to effectively support the changes at the speed and scale required to achieve this.

In many organisations I believe there is a disconnect between perception of L&D and the ability of learning to impact the business and the desire for employees to be developed and their actual experiences.

L&D needs to create a clear purpose to enable it to support an organisation purpose.

For L&D to be seen as a strategic partner, rather than a support function it firsts needs to identify and articulate its purpose. L&D needs to be able to answer the two simple questions, in language that makes sense to the whole organisation:

• What is our core reason for being?

• How can we have a unique and positive impact on the business?

Having this clear purpose, that is clearly understood will enable L&D to create a strategy that converts the why into the how. Consistently linking the actions of L&D to the purpose develops trust and understanding.

Creating an L&D purpose it not a top down approach, it requires commitment and buy-in from individuals in the team. Therefore, one of the first steps to take is to develop a team charter or manifesto. Here are some tips on how to create a purpose driven team;


Working in collaboration with the team facilitate discussions where potential tensions and differing opinions can be aired and explored. Creating space where individuals can align to an agreed team purpose.

Once the purpose is agreed it is then important to explore how the purpose can be delivered. What actions and behaviours will be required to achieve this. Who will L&D need to build relationships with to ensure the purpose is delivered.

The good news is; once individuals have agreed the purpose and are aligned to it they are more creative, enthusiastic and determined to deliver. Therefore, having open discussions about achieving the purpose will help tap into the collective wisdom of the team.

Once the purpose, behaviours and actions have been agreed it is time to publish. Let the team, and the wider organisation know why you exist, the value you add, and how you plan to achieve this. This provides the basis of all further actions, it is your brand promise.

'A brand’s strength is built upon its determination to promote its own distinctive values and mission.' – Jean-Noel Kapferer


One of the easiest ways to lose trust is to act in a way that is inconstant with your charter/manifesto. What you say you will do, you need to deliver. This is not something that you and the team do every once in a while, it is something that you do consistently.

Ensure that each individual knows your brand promise and is comfortable in how they can help support it. What actions or behaviours they do, and how they may impact on the promise. Ensure that the actions are aligned.

Having the published charter/manifesto is a great start to have conversations with the team, provide a safe space for them to explore what that means to them, and how they can act to support it.

To keep it alive, and in the minds of your team it is important that these conversations and agreements are reviewed on a regular basis. Consistency and reinforcement are the keys to developing habitual behavioural change. 

When new members of the team join, revisit the charter/manifesto and give them the space to connect with it. Don’t expect new members to join and then just go with it, give them the same opportunity to connect.


'Keep your promises and be consistent. Be the kind of person others can trust.' - Roy T. Bennett

Working on developing an internal purpose and brand promise, and consistently delivering on it will help reposition L&D within organisations. It can help close the internal purpose gap that exists.

This places L&D at the heart of driving change in the organisation, as it is seen as a trusted strategic partner. Supported by a track record of delivering on promises and working with stakeholders in a consistent manner.

L&D will be known and trusted for what it stands for and what it can deliver. People are much more likely to listen and invite L&D into conversations.

Get in touch to see how we can help you create a team charter/manifesto and develop a framework to reinforce the behaviours to support and deliver it.