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Aligning Learning with Business Goals
By Mark Burke, Ed.D.
Remaining strategic when creating corporate learning can be tricky. The logistics and effort to create training can become an all-consuming effort. Add in the complexity and excitement of launching the training, and you can understand how sometimes L&D leaders get distracted from the true purpose of the learning: to support the goals of the business.
We often work with L&D leaders that have been tasked with a training need. This begins the process towards training development, but it is only the beginning. When we begin working with these leaders, we jump right into questions about the business. What function of the business is impacted? How will the business measure change? Who are the functional stakeholders that have a vested interest in the success of the training? The value of these questions is that they put the focus back on the business and not just the training.
The following are three maxims we keep in mind when working with L&D leaders to help them focus their vision for how the training will impact the business.
- Get key business stakeholders involved early. 99% of the time, training is not developed for the L&D organization; therefore, the L&D leader is not the key stakeholder. And yet, they are often treated as such as the training project is handed to them for execution. The truth is that there is a leader – e.g., SVP of Sales, Operations Manager – somewhere in the organization that needs their people to do something differently to be successful. Find that person. Get to know them. Confirm their needs. Stay connected with them throughout the project. This is the best way that the project will stay focused.
- Understand the business need, not just the learning need. Training development often feels like it is developed in a bubble away from the business. Even with excellent methods like design thinking and agile development, there is still a focus on the learning that can unfortunately result in people forgetting about the business need underlying the training. To avoid this mistake, it’s critical to spend time throughout the project learning and confirming the business need. This is typically done during the analysis phase of the project, but we have seen too many projects where the learning need becomes the only focus and the business needs are forgotten. Work with the key stakeholder from the business to discuss, early and often, the reason the training needs to happen and the desired performance change.
- Focus on how implementation will impact the business. Creating training is fun. But it’s just a cool product if it isn’t implemented well. Too many times learning is developed without a plan to implement it. There’s this assumption that the training will appear on the learning management system or people’s calendars and magically everyone will take it. This usually results in slow and flawed implementations. To avoid this, L&D leaders need to start conversations early with business stakeholders to understand how their people are going to take the training. As a guideline, we encourage L&D leaders to have an implementation plan locked down before halfway through the training development; this gives them time to vet their plan with all stakeholders and start putting it in place.
Without support from the business stakeholders, training implementations will fail. The best way to avoid issues is to start out aligned with them and keep connected throughout training development. Doing this will help keep the L&D team aligned with the business and ensure that the training helps the business improve.
Want to talk more about this? Leave a comment below or reach out to us at JLS@judge.com. Our team of creative superheroes are ready to help – just let us know what you need.
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