The importance of aligning learning with a business’ broader goals
- 5 Min Read
Many organisations look at L&D in isolation and not as a part of their business strategy. To truly benefit from their investment in L&D, they need to align learning programmes with the business’ wider objectives
Traditionally, many companies have viewed learning and development (L&D) as a must-have. They knew that offering employees access to training or education is important for their career, compliance reasons and improving the business. The problem is they did not know how to use L&D properly.
However, the pandemic has focused the minds of many companies who have seen employees change jobs in unprecedented numbers as part of the ‘Great Resignation’, accelerating a shift in L&D thinking. L&D is now perceived by businesses as something that gives their employees the opportunity to grow and upskill, and in turn, enables business growth.
But to do this successfully, companies must align L&D with broader business goals, according to Steven Angelo-Eadie, head of learning services, at global digital business services firm Emergn.
“You have to connect learning to a purpose,” he says. “What is the driver for your business over the next quarter or the next year? Where are you focusing? What is on the horizon? You should be helping your employees gain skills that are going to lead your business in a better direction.”
To ensure learning needs are aligned with the businesses’ goals Angelo-Eadie says L&D advisors should be involved in conversations about the company’s strategic direction from the outset.
“You would not dream about setting a business strategy without involving finance or the CEO, but I guarantee most companies have not involved their L&D head,” he says.
Instead, Angelo-Eadie notes many overlook the internal alignment of the mission, despite L&D professionals being equipped with how to best scale a need or develop a workforce solution to support solving a business challenge.
Beyond helping determine the business’ broader strategy, L&D leaders can ensure their continued involvement in these high-level conversations by showing how L&D is driving growth and performance, in addition to delivering a return on investment. They can do this by linking specific training to something that positively impacts the company or its people.
“You cannot just use an old set of metrics such as ‘x number of people attended the training course’, and the training course fell within budget,” Angelo-Eadie explains. “You must look at whether the training led to a change in behaviour, or a change in working. Are we now doing things faster or better?”
Angelo-Eadie says one of the key benefits of aligning L&D with the business’ broader goals is that the business gets what it needs from a capability standpoint.
L&D also helps to motivate staff because it enables them to grow their own skills and capabilities. However, getting buy-in from employees to attend training is not always a straightforward process.
Some employees may be reluctant to undertake training that has been chosen for them by the company, instead preferring to choose their own development courses. It is vitally important that employees are aligned with an organisation’s broader mission and understand why specific training is of benefit to both them and the wider business.
“If staff are not aligned with that mission, then there’s a higher chance they’ll react poorly to whatever training you put in front of them,” says Angelo-Eadie. “It’s a human thing: ‘I don’t want to do that because it’s not interesting to me’.”
He adds that when businesses invest in their people and connect the dots between their personal and professional development, evidence suggests this breeds loyalty. And given the state of the current global job market, this has never been more important.
Research shared by Emergn shows 70% of employees would leave their current company for one that invests in employee development and learning. As a result, companies should view L&D as vital to staff retention, as well as growth.
This is where the Emergn Academy comes in. It is a work-based learning product designed to build and scale product management, agile and leadership skills tailored to meet an organisation’s specific needs.
Angelo-Eadie notes that with a lot of learning platforms, employees are provided with new skill sets, but they are not able to pass on the skill to teammates and are not able to see how their growing skill set fits within the broader business.
“What Academy does is try to democratise learning, by providing people all of the things that are required to form a high-performing team,” explains Angelo-Eadie.
“Our Academy puts all of the learning in one place, so that a team can look at the world through a fresh set of lenses, grow the skills they need to survive and thrive, while not interrupting the current flow of work.”
By upskilling employees, and aligning learning programmes with a business’ broader goals, leaders will be one step closer to closing their skills gap, reducing recruitment costs, promoting growth, and helping make their businesses as future-proof as possible.
“We have to always remind people that the future is not written yet, so basically, we are always in discovery mode,” says Angelo-Eadie.
“You have to focus on delivering value to your customers and you have to make sure your staff are content and happy working on the things they are working on, so if you invest in your people and invest in L&D you’re investing in your organisation’s future.”
To learn more about this topic, join HRD Connect and Emergn’s upcoming webinar panel – “The Evolving Role of CLO” – on Tuesday, 13 September at 4pm BST to discuss how L&D leaders are tackling challenges including aligning learning strategies to goals, tracking success, and coping with the current speed of change.