For decades, learning and talent management leaders have talked about earning a seat in the C-suite. The fact that this is still a goal for many Learning and Development (L&D) organizations is proof that it’s difficult to get there. To gain strategic influence, L&D leaders must understand their company’s goals, align their activities to those goals and execute their plans to deliver results for the company, its employees and customers. Then to clearly articulate those contributions, they must be fluent in the language of business. Namely, business goals and strategy, impact on those goals and especially ROI and measurement.1
Managing learning like a business will help teams serve their business partners more effectively. Through performance development, they can help the business manage costs, and increase revenue and profitability.
Learning organizations, which could be an L&D department or a team responsible for learning within the business, have multiple dimensions to manage, in order to drive business performance.
I will refer to these various 10 dimensions as strategic learning levers. They include:
- strategy and alignment with the business,
- governance and the learning organization
- learning culture,
- talent development
- learning content
- delivery methods and modalities
- technology infrastructure
- learning administration
- financial management
- learning/performance analytics
These dimensions are called levers because they’re areas you and your L&D team can pull to better meet the needs of your business.
In this 3-part blog series, I’ll provide an overview of the strategic learning levers, describing key aspects of each, and help you assess where your organization’s business may be in terms of maturity today. We will explore the criteria within these levers to determine where you need to be in order to achieve your company’s business goals. Then, we’ll look at how you can optimize your learning strategy to maximize organizational performance. Finally, identify the key questions to consider as you work to pull the levers.
Let’s start with an overview of the criteria that each lever encompasses. The 10 learning levers will allow you to explore how well your L&D organization is functioning within the various dimensions, using industry best practices as benchmarks.
1. Strategy & Alignment with the Business
This lever is about having a shared vision for the future, and aligning the learning strategy to help meet business goals. Having a well-defined needs assessment process in place, and actively engaging with the business to co-define the ongoing strategy will help you pull this lever.
2. Governance and the Learning Organization
With this lever, you’re looking at building buy-in with top executives and stakeholders. It also involves having an organizational structure that supports meeting the needs of the business with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
3. Learning Culture
The Learning Culture lever explores the extent to which learning is part of your organization’s DNA. You’ll answer questions such as: is learning a key component of the employee experience? Does performance development influence your business strategy?
4. Talent Development
This lever is about the alignment of initiatives to develop your company’s talent. We’ll explore how well your employee development programs are linked to job roles and learning initiatives. As well as the alignment between development and performance management.
5. Delivery Methods & Modalities
We’ll assess the learning delivery blend as part of this lever. How balanced is your learning blend? Is your team aligning the delivery methods and modalities to meet your company’s business needs? How can you use the blend to enhance performance outcomes and the learner experience?
6. Learning Content
The Learning Content lever focuses on how robust your process and tools are in identifying and analyzing learning needs, to help you determine if you should design, procure or develop content. You’ll also evaluate and measure the effectiveness of your learning content, and assess how well the content meets your company’s performance goals. In this lever, we’ll also explore how well your content is managed, how easy it is to store your content, and how well your learning platform ranks in terms of content accessibility.
7. Technology Infrastructure
With this lever, you’ll map your infrastructure and work to optimize your organizations learning architecture, integrating systems across the enterprise. You will also want to assess alignment with Organizational Information Technology team and further develop that relationship.
8. Learning Administration
This lever delves into your processes for estimating and planning learning. Optimizing training administration activities, leveraging evaluation and measurement of delivery to provide a feedback loop for continuous improvement.
9. Financial Management
With the Financial Management lever, we’ll look at how your organization funds learning and how you account for and manage the business of learning. Part of this lever is discovering your total cost of learning, along with tracking and analyzing of budget vs. spend.
10. Learning/Performance Analytics
With this final lever, you’ll establish processes to track the business impact and return-on-investment (ROI) of your learning initiatives. Your will also discuss how to optimize analytics to improve business performance.
In Part II of this Blog series, we’ll explore the maturity model for assessing where you are today and how you can define the maturity level required to support your business’ performance goals. For each of the levers, there are five levels of maturity, with clear industry best practices.
What are your initial reactions to the levers? Which levers are you pulling today to strengthen your learning strategy? What areas would you like to explore more to gain a bigger impact on business performance? Please share your thoughts below or connect with us on LinkedIn, or at @RaytheonRPS using hashtags, #learning, #workforcedevelopment, and #learninganalytics.
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Our Workforce & Business Performance Consultants can help you explore how you can pull these levers, partnering with you to drive performance. We start by understanding your business’ needs, to help you deliver learning more effectively and with greater impact. Working together, we will drive business results through workforce performance, increasing revenue and profitability, while managing costs. Contact us today! Learn more by visiting us at RPS.com.
1 Chief Learning Offer. (May 4, 2014) How to Run Learning Like a Business. Retrieved from https://www.chieflearningofficer.com/2014/05/28/how-to-run-learning-like-a-business/.