Everyone is busy. With the accelerated pace of change, it’s easy to get overly focused on keeping up with everyday tasks and hitting quarterly KPIs. But as individual business units scramble to stay on top of their deliverables, there’s a danger of slipping into a silo mentality that can be harmful to corporate culture, employee morale and the organization as a whole.
Learning can be a powerful force in breaking down organizational barriers and helping everyone operate in ways that support the overall vision.
To ensure that your organization’s learning and development programs are serving this foundational purpose, it’s critical that your learning strategy be aligned with business goals. Holly Whitaker, a learning strategy consultant at D2L, says that you’ll know you have alignment when “there are transparent links and well-articulated connections between your strategy and organizational priorities.”
To see it written that way seems logical. Yet according to McKinsey, only 40% of companies say that their learning strategy is aligned with business goals. If you don’t think your organization is in that 40%, it could be time to step back and reexamine your learning strategy to make those connections to organizational priorities. Here’s why:
1. Learning Programs Support Organizational Outcomes
The path to achieving organizational goals is a lot clearer and smoother when everyone can see where they’re going and have the knowledge and skills they need to get there.
In the case of employee training programs, for example, learning programs support:
- communicating the vision of organizational success so everyone is moving in the same direction
- upskilling and reskilling to ensure individuals and teams have the skills needed for success
- attracting and retaining top talent who want to grow in their careers
- building the organizational culture you want to be known for
Alignment between learning strategy and organizational goals is important for learning programs designed for external stakeholders as well. When creating member education for associations or extended enterprise programs like customer and partner training, alignment can help with:
- establishing the role of learning programs in the member, customer or partner experience
- designing courses and programs to maximize value for learners, which builds trust and loyalty
- determining what learning data should be collected and shared with internal teams such as product development, customer support and marketing to inform strategic decision-making
2. Demonstrating the Return on Learning Is Straightforward
When you can make direct connections between learning strategy and organizational outcomes, it’s easier to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of learning programs. When alignment exists, each performance metric can be tied to one or more organizational performance indicators.
Being able to clearly report the impact that learning initiatives have on business outcomes leads to buy-in from stakeholders across the organization and ensures proper resourcing to meet current and future needs.
3. Learners Are Set Up for Long-Term Success
The decreasing shelf life of skills fueled by rapid change makes learning and development programs a critical component of organizational success. But if there isn’t a strong alignment between learning strategy and organizational goals, the education programs you design may support neither the learners nor the organization.
Employee learning programs that are aligned with organizational priorities will achieve several things, including:
- providing the skills and knowledge that enable people to do their jobs with confidence
- preparing employees for career progression opportunities within the organization
- improving employee engagement by giving people the ability to challenge themselves
- increasing employee adaptability, which in turn leads to greater organizational resilience
Similarly, member, customer and partner education programs that are aligned with organizational priorities will, by definition, be learner centered. Their success—and therefore the degree to which they support organizational success—hinges on the value that they provide to learners.
When you help learners gain the knowledge, skills and competencies they need to be successful, you empower them to be agile, innovative and passionate. Internal learners feel supported to grow with you and achieve their key results. External learners who get value from your learning programs will be loyal advocates of your organization.
Watch the Webinar: How to Upgrade Your Learning Strategy
Holly Whitaker, a learning strategy consultant at D2L, walks you through the process of developing an effective learning strategy and provides some tools you can use to get started today.