Over the years, the training profession has developed a habit of creating learning programs that essentially consist of offering courses and checking a box. We can continue going down the same path, but we’re at a crossroads in the industry. Executives expect more from us. Learners expect more from us. We’re more visible than ever, and we’ve got to deliver.

A key responsibility of the training manager is ensuring strategic alignment of the training function with the organization. This is especially true in times of change, or transformation. As business needs evolve, training organizations must evolve in order to continue performing at a high level. That means re-evaluating not only training content but also how that content is delivered and managed across the organization. It means changing learning to drive performance and change at the individual and organizational levels.

What Is Transformation?

Transformation is a process of profound and radical change that orients your organization to an entirely different level of effectiveness. It is not about doing the same things differently. When transforming the training function, there are two major considerations. First, “What are we transforming the function into?” and secondly, “What is the change management process will we use to get there?” For example, most successful modern training organizations are changing from course-based, learner-centric, topic based learning models to role based, business-centric, demand-based, adaptive learning programs.

This is nothing new, of course; after all, the only thing constant is change, and that’s true in the training industry, as well. But today, we have a new set of rules – new tools, new approaches, new expectations – that impact what we’re transforming into and how we’re managing the transformation. Every training manager is challenged with managing learning more effectively, and transformation is all about creating value and ensuring performance actually improves. It’s strategic rather than reactive.

Seeing the Forest and the Trees

It’s all too easy to go for the shiniest, newest model or program and then wind up spending money that gets us nowhere. Individually, tools or courses might be fine – but the value a good training manager provides to the organization is using systems thinking to implement the right programs at the right time to the right learners in a comprehensive learning program.

This means returning to the basics and understanding learning theory. How do adults learn? From Ebbinghaus and the spacing effect to Skinner and conditioning, and now Ericsson and deliberate practice, what do these theories mean to us as training managers, and how do we apply them effectively in workplace training?

For example, most of us would say the best way to learn something is by doing it, and research bears this out; most learners want and expect on-the-job training, but they want it to be more structured and purposeful. When we simply send learners to generic, off-the-shelf courses, we’re checking a box – and that box says, “We provided training” rather than, “Training actually impacted performance.”

The 5 Stages of Transformation

How should a learning leader start the process of transformation? There are five stages.

  1. Baseline: Determine where you are now.
  2. Optimize: Start with the easy wins, and then recalculate your baseline.
  3. Plan: Develop an L&D plan based on your new vision.
  4. Implementation: Transition your team to the new model.
  5. Re-Assess: Measure progress, and ensure alignment with the business.

Throughout each stage, keep your focus on strategic alignment, clear goals, defined and measured processes, and business performance. By transforming your learning function from one that exists merely to check a box to one that strategically supports performance and business outcomes, you can ensure that training is a valuable – and valued – function of the organization.

Want to learn more? Sign up for Training Industry’s certificate program on transforming the training function. Learn more here.