Learning leaders across the globe know the training industry moves at a rapid pace, with demands and best practices shifting alongside evolving business goals. In today’s dynamic business environment, the learning and development (L&D) function must keep its training portfolios fresh with content that addresses not only current business needs but future ones as well.

Mark Doty, MSTD, CPTM, sales training manager at Constellation Brands, defines portfolio management as the training function’s “ability to identify, collect and curate resources aligned with business goals.” Effective portfolio management ensures that all training initiatives are up to date and, more importantly, driving business results.

After over a decade of research, Training Industry has identified portfolio management as one of the key process capabilities among great training organizations. With the coronavirus pandemic impacting businesses worldwide, it is vital that learning leaders continuously assess their training portfolios to ensure all training initiatives are strategically aligned with business goals.

Follow this three-step process to master the art of portfolio management and position L&D as a critical business asset.

Step 1: Identify Business Needs

When managing your training portfolio, Dr. Theresa Horne, CPTM, CSM, SHRM-SCP, senior program manager for the National Labor Relations Board, suggests looking at “where the money is invested” and considering each course’s organizational impact based on “where the future of the business is going.”

Review your training portfolio after conducting a needs analysis to drive strategic alignment between training and business goals, Horne says. After all, part of achieving strategic alignment is ensuring you have the “portfolio elements” to support the organization’s future needs.

To stay abreast of business priorities, Julie Kirsch, CPTM, director of training and development at Calibre CPA Group, PLLC, suggests:

    • Conducting regular needs assessments.
    • Meeting with leadership annually or based on the “cycle of your organization.”
    • Reading and staying up to date on industry trends and best practices.
    • Participating in professional activities to “create and maintain a network of industry peers” who can offer tangible insight.

Step 2: Strategically Assess Your Portfolio

After identifying business goals, training professionals should review each course in their portfolio through a “strategic alignment lens,” Doty says. To strategically assess your training initiatives, he suggests asking the following three questions:

    • How does this course support business priorities?
    • How does this course build the capabilities required to drive human capital performance?
    • How does this course impact organizational culture?

If the answer to all three of these questions is “yes,” it is safe to say that the course should remain in your training portfolio. If not, it could be time to update or retire the course.

As L&D often has limited time and resources, effective portfolio management means prioritizing courses that address the most urgent business needs, Horne says. For maximum return on investment (ROI), learning leaders should include multiple delivery modalities for high-priority courses in their portfolios, she notes.

Assessing your training portfolio against your organization’s most pressing business needs and retiring, updating and adding courses accordingly is essential to successful portfolio management.

Step 3: Adapt When Necessary

In today’s corporate landscape, effective portfolio management requires “managing change in a fluid industry,” Horne says. “This means being able to quickly rework the budget to the shifting business needs and offer multiple modalities for critical learning needs.”

As business needs shift, L&D leaders need to provide “quick and effective training” on the technologies and skills learners need to succeed in the remote workplace. For example, after many companies shifted to a remote workplace in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, learning leaders across industries have had to adapt their portfolios on the fly, embracing remote learning and adding timely courses on topics such as agility and leading remote teams.

Adapting your portfolio to current business priorities and delivering training initiatives “on time and on budget” will help “maintain the L&D function’s credibility within the larger organization” and generate stakeholder support, says Doty.

While Walker says portfolio management is not necessarily the most exciting part of the training manager role, it is an essential one. It ensures all training initiatives are up to date and aligned with the business goals they support. By following the three steps outlined in this article, you will be well on your way toward mastering the art of portfolio management and increasing your L&D function’s business value. In today’s turbulent economy, that is pretty exciting.