Formalized governance is a high-impact way to align learning and development (L&D) to business strategy. Through governance, L&D leaders can meet with senior leaders in the organization to review, prioritize, sponsor and partner on measuring the training requests that coming from the business. This process has the benefit of ensuring that senior leaders have visibility into all requests and are the key decision-makers on priority focus areas for the business, with L&D supporting the strategy and priorities.
Using a performance consulting approach, L&D can present to the business the anticipated business impact of an initiative and if any other supporting interventions outside of L&D are required. This business impact-focused approach, rather than a learning solution-focused approach, is a key input into governance conversations and decisions.
Here are six steps to ramp up governance in your organization:
1. Create a “Burning Platform” for Governance
Help key leaders understand the direct and indirect costs associated with L&D initiatives. Share a list of initiative requests, where in the business the requests are coming from, projected business impact (if any), and approximate cost to create and deploy the initiative. Ask leaders how aligned these requests are with their business strategy, where the misses are and what they see as the subsequent impact. Emphasize the importance of regular collaboration based on the frequency of initiative requests.
2. Connect With Leaders to Gain Sponsorship
Select leaders for the governance committee who have authority and cross-functional influence to make strategic prioritization decisions. Help business leaders understand that they have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization to maximize the investment the company is making in L&D. Demonstrate how their role is to determine the highest-impact initiatives for the business based on their business strategy.
Share with leaders how governance will function, their role in the process, what the governance meetings will look like and the anticipated benefit of their involvement. Help them understand that not only will they help to prioritize but that they will also have a role in sponsoring these initiatives as appropriate.
3. Communicate Governance to the Organization
Share with the organization that L&D will not be executing on any requests without first submitting them through the governance committee. As part of the submission process, each request should go through a business-focused scoping process with associates trained in performance consulting. They will partner with the requester to understand strategic alignment, business impact, deployment strategy and cost. These scoping documents can then inform the governance committee on the request, enabling the committee to use data to prioritize.
4. Develop Processes to Help Leaders Prioritize
For governance to be successful, it is important to have robust processes in place. Here are some of the tools you should use:
Instead of a solution-focused conversation, scoping documents provide a consistent means for creating a structured business impact. They ask, “What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that this initiative will impact, and what is the expected lift?”
Address performance issues and L&D solutions elsewhere.
Resource management shows the business what resources are required to execute on requests, compared to the overall resources available. This process also provides a foundation for requesting additional resources if demand exceeds available resources.
Performance consulting provides a business-focused process to identify and remove barriers to performance.
Matrix of Development Targets
To show where demand exceeds capacity (for the target audience as well as the L&D team), establish monthly and/or annual development hour targets by skill category and by role, and compare them to the initiative deployment schedule.
Business Impact Reporting
It’s also important to evolve toward reporting business impact as part of your meeting review process.
5. Meet on a Regular Basis
Set a regular cadence of meetings with the governance committee (preferably monthly when demand is high) to review new requests, resource allocation and initiative deployment schedules. Review how deployed initiatives are performing, and determine whether you need a leadership intervention to achieve the desired business impact. Keep a running tally of resources versus requests to determine if initiatives will be delayed, stopped or funded outside of the existing L&D budget.
6. Improve Iteratively
Continue to improve the process. Ask for feedback about what is and is not working, and make changes accordingly, and adapt your approach to your organization’s culture.
Without governance, L&D is at the center of balancing competing requests, determining which initiatives will move forward and informing the business of what they will or will not deploy based on their own decision-making process. Those decisions are best made jointly, by business leaders and L&D. Governance places senior leaders between requesters and L&D, ensuring that initiatives align to business strategy rather than a perception of need.