One of the challenges that training professionals continue to face is how to align their learning programs with business objectives. Francisco Laborde, a contributor to the human resources division of the International Quality & Productivity Center, refers to accomplishing this task as one of the best kept secrets in modern management. Elaine Biech the president of Ebb Association Inc. contributed an article to the Association for Talent Management where she described this linkage as the underlying reason that companies keep trainers on the payroll. William Lee and Diana Owens, authors of “Multimedia-Based Instructional Design” refer to this alignment as crucial. Out of 96 Fortune 500 CEOs who participated in a study conducted by Fortune Magazine, 92 CEOs wanted to see proof that training solutions were aligned with business objectives. Failure to demonstrate this alignment has implications.
Donald J. Kirkpatrick wrote an article in Training and Development Magazine where he offered an example of how the corporate leaders of one company believed that there was a direct correlation between training and business results to such an extent that they invested in a large educational facility. Six months later the same executives closed the facility and fired 75 employees, partially because a correlation between the training delivered and business impact could not be proven.
Agile learning design, as a training development methodology, provides trainers with a fantastic opportunity to utilize a framework for aligning training initiatives with business strategies in a way that business leaders can accept. I realize, as an industry, it’s probably going to be a long time before we replace ADDIE with Agile. There is one Agile tool, however, that trainers can utilize right away even if they have not adopted Agile as an overall development approach- the product backlog.
The product backlog is simply a prioritized list of the top initiatives that the business is working on. Creating one is accomplished by meeting with business leaders and having them articulate their top business priorities. Training professionals then facilitate a conversation that allows the business leaders to go through a process of prioritization. The job of the training professional is to translate that list of business initiatives into training solutions with corresponding priorities. After the backlog is created, the trainer and the business leaders should have ongoing check meetings to ensure that priorities have not changed. If, for example, at one of these meeting it’s uncovered that business priority number one has shifted and is now business priority number ten, the training team needs to make sure that a corresponding shift occurs with the learning programs that they are working on. Having such a list also provides a great sanity check for training managers.
Simply comparing what your team is working on to the list of business priorities might prove eye-opening in terms of how your training resources are being utilized.