As a learning organization, are you aligned to your business’ strategy? Are you prepared to support the organization in reaching where it needs to go in the next five years? Are you optimized when it comes to the people, processes and technologies that you need to support organizational goals?

If you answered “yes” to any of those three questions, how do you know? How are you benchmarking your performance as a learning organization? What metrics are you using?

If those last two questions made you stop in your tracks, it’s time to do things differently. If you do not have the right benchmarking data, you are at the risk of not being able to support your learners or your business.

As a profession, we tend to measure ourselves and our organizations by a few different points, including the data we can generate (e.g., number of courses attended, learner satisfaction or costs avoided) or by the awards we win — which are often limited or judged by subjective criteria. And, time and time again, when times are lean or the organization needs to make budget cuts, learning is one of the first places where they happen.

It’s time to ask ourselves: Whose standards are we bearing, and what makes a great training organization?

What Makes a Great Training Organization?

Over the past decade, Training Industry, Inc., has studied both the supply side and the buy side of the training market to investigate what makes a great training organization. Based on that research, it has developed a model for what makes for a high-performing training organization, which is organized into the following eight process capabilities:

    • Strategic alignment
    • Content development
    • Delivery
    • Diagnostics
    • Reporting and analysis
    • Technology integration
    • Portfolio management
    • Administrative services

The Training Industry model provides a framework for learning professionals to consider when evaluating the performance of their training organization and identifying opportunities for change and improvement. (Note that while they are the eight process capabilities of a high-performing training organization, an organization may not be high-performing in all eight areas all the time.)

Consider the Following:

    • If your organization is going through a major culture revamp, perhaps you need to focus on your content development capabilities.
    • If you need to ensure you have the right skills in the organization for the next five years, perhaps you need to focus on your strategic alignment, content development and delivery capabilities.
    • If you need to rationalize your learning technology stack, catalog and service management processes, perhaps you need to focus on technology integration, portfolio management and administrative services.

The process capability framework provides a structure through which you can examine how your organization delivers learning, identify potential gaps and develop strategies for improvement.

It’s What Keeps You Up at Night

The learning leader’s dilemma is what keeps you up at night, wondering if you are doing the right things. How do you prove the value of learning? How do you make sure the training team has a seat at the table?

The good news is that, with the process capability framework, you have a model on which to center your discussions. You can start by asking yourself the following question for each of the process capabilities:

    • How well are we doing in this area?
    • What opportunities are we missing to be better in this area?
    • What are we doing in this area today that, if we stopped doing, would help us be more strategic?

For this process to have even more value, consider phoning a friend: Invite a colleague from another organization of a similar size to go through this process with you. Are you facing similar issues? Are its challenges different? Are there innovations that you can share with each other? Is there an opportunity to set up process hackathons to learn from each other and drive the innovation you both need?

Another option is bringing in an objective third party to help you navigate the process of introspection, discovery and realignment. A trusted partner could help surface areas in which perceptions might not be aligned and facilitate the discussion to establish the baseline and the benchmarks that you have yet to achieve.

It is important to select a partner who understands your goals and who is committed to your vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Make sure you find someone who fits your culture and will put you and your organization on a path to success that aligns to your business strategy.