There’s a lot of discussion in the training industry around the need to determine how well training is aligned with the goals and missions of the organization. It’s an importrant topic well worth considering, because if training isn’t properly aligned, what purpose is it serving?

Creating that alignment is more than a short-term goal; it’s an ongoing mission. And it all starts with a clear understanding of what it takes to create that alignment between learning and business. It takes, in a word, greatness. But what does it take to be great?

For the past four years, has studied hundreds of companies to understand what makes a great training organization. Our objective was to identify the processes and critical practices that separate organizations that are average performers from those that perform at very high levels.

What we learned was that the underlying principle found in all great training organizations was the processes and practices they performed on a regular and systematic basis. Add to that, of course, the sheer excellence in how they execute those fundamental processes.

One important finding was that an overwhelming number of professionals in these organizations (79%) viewed strategic alignment as the single most-important process capability that allows a training organization to be great.

With strategic alignment being the most critical process capability, we then wanted to understand what practices associated with this process area was most important. We found there were five critical practices that separate great training organizations from others:

  1. Adapting training to an organization’s unique business culture
  2. Customizing training to meet the organization’s needs
  3. Establishing agreed upon business objectives
  4. Defining performance success metrics
  5. Developing consultative partnerships with clients

What I find most interesting is that all of these critical practice areas are practices that training professionals and consultants have been talking about for quite some time. So if that is the case, then why aren’t all training organizations great? Is it because some organizations choose not to do these practices? Or is it because doing each of these practices well is difficult?

I believe it is more the latter. I’ve worked with many training leaders over the years, and I ran a global training organization, and I know these behaviors do not come easy.

From where I sit, the most important learning from the study is that the organizations that are great performers are those that are great at process management. Performing at a high level requires well-defined processes, high expectations for performance management and the willingness to be held accountable.

Ask yourself: Is my organization great? What are we doing or can we do to strengthen training’s alignment with the business?

And as always, I welcome your comments and ideas that will help others to make their organizations great.

Note: Previously published in the 2012 Spring Edition of Training Industry Quarterly.