Strategic businesses view the learning and development of their employees as a part of what makes the organization successful. When stakeholders collaborate to create better performance across the business, everyone wins.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen everywhere, and L&D strategies are often not seamless. In many organizations, there are decentralized or rogue learning and development functions that have either developed organically, when subject matter experts (SMEs) become trainers, or intentionally, for more control over what is taught and how it is taught (often without understanding adult learning). This approach to learning and development creates risk, especially when there is no guidance on how the learning is developed or implemented.

When different departments do the same thing differently, it is not a recipe for success. If an organization is lucky enough to be talent-mobile, it may end up with performance challenges in different pockets of the organization based on how and what people have learned and whether the learning was created to drive performance.

Without clear and structured guidelines and governance, there is no alignment with how training happens and how training decisions are made. Some departments do what they have always done, accept the status quo, and never really ask questions or measure the outcomes. Others know it is important and do their best with the information they have. But when learning departments are grown from SMEs who don’t have a background in learning, there is often a belief that “knowledge equals learning.” Then, stakeholders often blame the training department: “They went through training and they passed all the assessments, but they still cannot do the job!” It takes effort and intention to drive performance through a learning program. Without that effort and intention, the whole program is at risk.

To be effective, stakeholders and learning groups must focus on performance outcomes. Not knowing how to measure performance is a risk that’s driven deeper by poor discovery processes. If we don’t create programs by asking the right questions and doing good discovery and analysis, and then tie it to the measurement of the program, it’s a risk. Training programs are more effective when we know how performance is measured, what learners need to do and where the business wants them to perform.

How can we reduce the risk of being ineffective? Here are five steps.

1. Create a Process for How Work Comes to the Department

This step will give learning teams the opportunity to look deeply into what is requested of them and determine if training is the best solution for each problem. If a department believes that knowing something is the same as learning it, the L&D team may need to educate its stakeholders. It’s a scary thought for someone who has never done it, but the truth is that to be a good partner, you have to tell the truth about how learning works and how learners learn.

2. Create a Standard and Process for Looking at Performance Gaps

This step will start you on the path to measurement success. Make sure your measurement process is focused on who the learner is, what the learner has to do, and what is or is not happening now (think task analysis and audience analysis).

3. Talk About How You Will Measure the Success of the Learning

Have a plan for measurement. Focus on performance outcomes, and use a tried and true methodology.

4. Ask About Environmental Barriers

Every department has them, and they are a risk to performance success. Some stakeholders will be more likely to discuss these barriers than others, but the more you know, the better you will be able to work around or within the risk.

5. Make Sure Your Strategy Is Aligned With the Business Strategy

Strategic alignment makes it easier to measure results; plus, you are better equipped to gain buy-in with stakeholders when you know what their vision and goals are. Alignment will help you design training and select modalities that align with the objectives of the business and the way the work happens “in the real world.” Be sure that you work with a knowledgeable subject matter expert who can help identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) as you build the program.

Regardless of preparation, every learning program has risk — but good measurement is the key to success. When L&D teams have a standard process with a solid measurement strategy in place, they can tweak the program over time and reduce the risk of unsuccessful learning and poor programming.