Time. Budget. Attention. They’re all in short supply in organizations today – particularly when it comes to learning. As a result, learning and development (L&D) professionals are under constant pressure to develop and execute increasingly strategic approaches to drive behavior change and improve performance.

These approaches involve sourcing or generating innovative content, creating engaging instructional activities, and leveraging cutting-edge technology that enables access to development. And yet, sustainable success may depend less upon these outward features and more on a subtle but essential strategy: Line of sight.

In the context of L&D, line of sight refers to articulated and acknowledged alignment between what people are learning and critical business results and challenges. Line of sight is key to both the transfer of new skills, insights and practices to the job and the leadership support required for success.

Line Up Your Support

Line of sight is a powerful tool, because it cultivates support throughout the organization – at the frontline, with managers and the most senior level.

A clear connection between learning and what matters most to the organization is important to employees who must decide how they deploy their limited energy, time and focus. Those who’ve lived through “flavors of the month” are looking for assurance that development is relevant. Articulating line of sight inspires employees to actively engage.

This clear connection also inspires managers to move from mere permission to passionate support of training. Even the busiest managers prioritize what they anticipate will deliver results. Connecting the dots back to business needs will inspire managers to do activities that ensure knowledge transfer: encouraging participation, following up on the learning, coaching, offering feedback, and providing recognition.

And finally, line of sight is a powerful motivator for executives. Senior leadership supports, resources and enables what’s vital to drive results – whether it’s head count, equipment or overtime. When learning’s connection to business results is made equally clear, it too receives attention and support.

Draw the Line

Line of sight boils down to connecting the dots between your development efforts and what matters most to your organization. Consider it a backward-engineered narrative that offers a business case for your efforts.

Begin by taking advantage of the natural line of sight that already exists as top-line goals cascade throughout the organization to divisions, departments, teams and individuals. Then, work backward from your learning objectives or performance outcomes – clearly articulating how people will behave and perform differently – to how these behaviors contribute to business results.

For example, if your organization wants to enhance sales enablement, you can easily draw a line of sight from listening skills to a greater understanding of customer needs to increase the number of prospective customers in the pipeline to increasing sales. Or, perhaps your organization is challenged by shrinking market share. How easy is it to connect the dots from design thinking and collaboration skills to enabling greater innovation, expanding new product development and ultimately creating additional revenue streams?

The Bottom Line

As a learning professional, you know you don’t have the time to offer training for training’s sake. We must externalize this thought process, because for line of sight to succeed, it must be highly visible to others. Consider the following to demonstrate the necessity of your training to your organization:

  • Write course descriptions that place business goals and challenges front and center.
  • Amend learning outcomes to include the clause, “So employees will be able to…,” and overtly reference goals.
  • Speak with executives exclusively about business impact rather than learning activities or technologies.
  • Reference business goals and challenges as context and use them as a focus for practice within learning experience.

Business outcomes and challenges may seem far removed from your current learning effort, but only until you consciously connect the dots and create line of sight.