Learning governance improves decision-making and helps align your learning strategy with your organization’s overall business strategy.
Whether you are building a learning program from scratch or updating an existing program already in place, learning governance will help you to prevent your program from becoming an unwieldy, disorganized, and underutilized mess.
Learning governance is a framework designed to bring clarity to your decision-making and, when carefully planned, ensures that your learning strategy aligns with overall business strategy. Although the governance structure will vary from organization to organization, there are some general principles that can be used to guide its development and make sure that the learning program meets the needs of the entire organization.
There are three key pillars to keep in mind when establishing a sound learning governance plan. These pillars are typically connected through a learning council, who is responsible for creating and maintaining the learning governance approach.
1. Identify and clarify common learning practices.
When an organization has an existing learning and development program and is looking to modernize it, one of the first tasks is to take stock of what exists and what the current processes are (for instance, where does the content come from, how often is it updated, who decides when new content is needed and so forth). This effort will help to define consistent/streamlined processes and establish guidelines, tools, and expectations for the creation and ongoing development of the new program.
Often, this leads to the identification of fragmented learning efforts happening in silos across the organization. Not only does learning fragmentation create a disconnect between the quality of the content and messaging, but it’s also very likely you’ll find that effort is being duplicated across silos, which means inefficient processes and higher program maintenance costs.
Let me give you an example.
A gap in employee onboarding drives different departments to create their own lessons/training to close that gap. Each one of those approaches includes its own twist on organizational processes or messaging. The result is that new hires on teams across the organization get very different learning experiences, depending on the department they are in and the lesson delivered. That’s not good.
But here’s the good news. When you’re collecting details around your current processes, it might become clear that there are many stakeholders across teams who provide solid insights into various aspects of those learning programs. This presents you with an excellent opportunity to form a learning council, with representatives from across the organization who provide input and guide the deployment of new initiatives.
Having various departments represented on the council will increase the input from teams that may not have felt their needs were being met before. It will also increase the flow of information back to those teams so they have a clear understanding of the logic behind the decisions and approaches put in place by the learning council. A clear flow of information and broad organizational involvement by those impacted by the learning program will ultimately increase program credibility and adoption.
2. Identify and prioritize departmental learning objectives
Every department has its top learning priorities. So, it’s critical that each department has someone responsible for collecting the details of those priorities and—keeping the enterprise priorities in mind— sorting out how those top departmental business objectives align with the organization’s top objectives overall.
This is another opportunity to lean on the learning council. When the council comprises representatives from across the organization, it offers varying perspectives and ensures that the needs of each department are represented. This can help increase efficiency, ensure all department needs are addressed, and facilitate communication around the long-term vision for the learning program across the organization. From the departmental or team perspective, involvement via a learning council means their learning needs are heard and acknowledged. From an organizational perspective, broad involvement in a learning council improves overall alignment to the organization’s overarching business strategy and allows the organization to better prioritize learning needs within and between groups.
3. Plan and connect the learning strategy to the enterprise business strategy.
In addition to establishing governance around the learning processes, procedures and tools, and gaining insight into the needs of specific departments, the learning council should also work with your organization’s executives to ensure the learning program is meeting the needs and priorities that are part and parcel of your organization’s long-term business strategy. As that strategy evolves, it is possible that the learning program may need to be adjusted based on new needs and priorities. For example, if the organization is entering a period of rapid growth and expansion, the learning program may need to evolve to provide self-led online learning to support new employees in dispersed locations. By bringing a learning council to the table for the long-term strategic planning, the business ensures continued alignment between business objectives and organizational learning strategy.
It is clear that the learning strategy and the organizational business strategy must support each other. Effective and efficient learning programs are the direct result of carefully planned and executed governance. Strong learning governance creates efficiency within the learning program, ensures effective support for all learners and keeps learning in lockstep with changing business needs.
Need help with establishing a learning governance framework for your organization? Talk to our Learning Strategy and Consulting team.