Learning professionals around the world seem to share many of the same struggles, at least on occasion. One of those struggles is understanding the underlying business needs that drive requests for training programs or events. We must do our best to understand the root causes of these requests in order to realize our impact on the business in behavior changes and, ultimately, some form of return on investment.

Have You Asked “Why” Recently?

There are many ways to get to the heart of specific issues, and one of those ways is called the five whys. The idea is that you ask “why?” at least five times to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of the situation. The concept is rooted in Six Sigma and in reducing errors in processes. However, you can easily use it in any situation to determine a root cause. You must only ask “why” until the answer stops changing, or about five times.

The importance of understanding the root cause cannot be stressed enough. As a training professional, you need to be able to address the actual issues with full understanding, and all too often, a lack of details and analysis will lead to learning professionals’ becoming simple order-takers and delivering whatever is requested, regardless of its strategic value to the business.

Are You Aligned to Business Goals?

Once you have a better understanding of the root cause of a training request, or the reason a process issue exists, you can compare the cause to your known business goals and values. It’s important to frame your training solutions in business terms and in strategic alignment with business goals. Otherwise, you will not be contributing to the solution but, rather, to the problem.

Strategic alignment adds significant value to a training program. It helps to ensure not only that the business is in a position to succeed but also that learning professionals are less likely to need to start looking for work when budgets are reduced or spending is restricted. By speaking the language of the business, you demonstrate that you understand its needs and goals.

How Will You Measure Success?

How will you know that you’re successful in resolving the need or in passing on the appropriate body of knowledge to your learners? Is it enough that they enjoyed the course? Is it better that they tell you a specific way they can apply it to their job or that they have confidence they could do things differently? Probably not. Spend time defining the measures of success for your learning projects and training solutions before starting the actual content design. That way, the business understands what to expect, and you can demonstrate the success of the solution you delivered. Remember that if you cannot measure it, you also cannot manage it.

Before and after your training program or event, keep an eye on those numbers and data points to see the change that the training is having, and adjust as needed by providing additional training opportunities or revisions to the existing materials.

More effective planning and analysis of the heart of the matter will increase your training effectiveness and provide substantial value to the business. Ask “why” until the answer stops changing, and then align your solution to strategic goals. Wrap up your project by gathering and reporting appropriate data to know that you’re making an impact.