Written by: Patti P. Phillips, Ph.D.
Connecting learning and development to the business is a must these days. Research shows that executives rank business impact as their number one measure of success for learning and development. Achieving business impact requires you to align programs with the business. This is not an unfair request. You would feel the same way if you funded a host of programs – regardless of the type of organization in which you work. Business measures exist in for-profit, nonprofit, government, and nongovernmental organizations. Sadly, many learning and development professionals admit that they don’t connect programs and improvement in business measures. Why? They don’t exactly know how to do this, for the most part.
The bad news is that failing to align programs with the business leaves executives guessing – often not in your favor. The good news is that aligning to the business is not that complicated. It involves three specific actions.
>> Learn more at the webinar: Achieving Business Alignment with Talent Development Programs
First, align your program to the business in the beginning—before you launch the program.
Start with the end in mind, with the end being a business measure. Sometimes the measure is evident; other times, it may take a little work. In a few situations, you may need to conduct an analysis. But this is achievable, particularly for the major programs.
Second, set a precise impact objective.
When you know the measure of interest, set a precise impact objective, such as:
- reduce compliance discrepancies by 10 percent in six months or
- reduce turnover of critical talent from 25 percent to 15 percent in six months.
Specificity provides a necessary focus for the program throughout its implementation.
Third, validate the alignment through evaluation.
Validate alignment by isolating the effects of your program from other influences. This step acknowledges the contribution of the other factors, plus gives you a credible basis for the claim that your program delivered business impact. It essentially advances your evaluation process from one that merely offers evidence of success to one that provides proof your program influenced the business.