The key to ensuring success for your learning and development (L&D) department is staying connected to business priorities and goals, and how they go about achieving them outside of L&D. If you don’t have true insight into the needs of stakeholders and what the broader organization’s vision truly is, then you end up as an “order taker.”

The key to staying strategically aligned to business goals as a L&D professional is to understand the human aspect of L&D, the goals and vision of the business you support and the tools available to you. Knowing and understanding these foundational pieces of information will allow you to transition your deliverables into metrics that make sense for driving business. Strategic alignment is such an overused buzzword that it should probably have its own meme-based cryptocurrency by this point. On the other hand, what may often seem like just another buzzword tossed around in business meetings and articles like this one, strategic alignment can serve as the best tool in your arsenal to combat the “order taker” mentality that seems to take root in so many otherwise great L&D departments. In fairness, the “order taker” mentality shouldn’t always be considered a negative, as all organizations have different goals, with varied approaches and assets to bring to bear. For the purpose of discussing how to fundamentally align L&D with the broader organization’s initiatives and goals, however, assume that your L&D department has evolved beyond merely following orders.

In essence, you want to think of L&D not as its own separate entity existing on the outside, but as an integral piece of the broader business focusing on enhancing others, reducing friction and alleviating pain points. Do not pigeonhole your department into “just” training or a place where other organizations place orders for awesome slide decks. Be as serious about L&D as every other business-critical function is about their departments. You are not “just” L&D, you are a strategic business partner to your internal clients, which in this case means all of your employees, teams, leadership, departments and other business units. L&D is the department responsible for the initiatives driving company value, culture, and growth. After all, a ship can’t move forward if everyone rows in a different direction.

Riding the Waves of Change

Today, the corporate training industry is rapidly changing. We can see that with new technologies hitting the market, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way we work and learn, and even with the fast-paced economy itself. As a result, it’s never been harder for L&D to align with the business in a way that also keeps up with changing industry shifts.

By connecting L&D to business goals and needs, and letting senior leaders know you are a trusted adviser, you will position your department for success. This leads us to another point. When working with a subject matter expert (SME) or someone for whom you are creating content, it is important to drive what outcome they are trying to drive and also, understanding minor things, that are actually big pain points in training. For example, rolling out a sales training program at the end of a quarter may not be the best timeframe. It’s important that L&D isn’t a road blocker but, rather, a business partner in your organization.

The concept of economic growth is imperative for learning leaders to understand, as this allows you to make more strategic choices and align with your learners’ needs. For your company to become more adaptable, you might need to adjust its objectives and key results (OKRs).

You can also position your L&D department as a trusted partner by building influence. The more you know, the more you can become a credible partner and, in turn, can influence your leadership, company and clients in moving the needle on L&D. The more you can move the needle that aligns to the business, team or organization, the more you can deliver what your clients need versus what they think they need.

L&D can earn its seat at the table by truly understanding what the business does and how they do it, which will help ensure that training is aligned with business goals. When you have true insight into the needs of stakeholders and what the broader organization’s vision truly is, it becomes your vision as well.

Register for the Spring Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to hear Alexandra Smith’s session, “L&D’s Seat at the Table: Align Company Goals With Training to Increase ROI.”

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