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3 Communication Tips for Driving Strategic Alignment

Wednesday, June 17, 2020
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When talent development and business goals are aligned, training and employee development programs are better positioned to provide an organization competitive advantage. However, many organizations struggle with alignment. Just 42 percent have talent development and business strategies that are aligned to a high or very high extent, according to Strategic Alignment: Orchestrating Organizational Success.

What steps can organizations take to drive better strategic alignment? A good place to start is giving talent development a voice in business decisions. Strategic Alignment found a statistically significant connection between talent development leaders or data influencing business strategy and high levels of alignment, with the connection being so strong that there was less than 1 percent of a chance it occurred as a result of chance.

To earn business influence, talent development leaders need to communicate their business’s value effectively. In Strategic Alignment three talent development leaders at highly aligned organizations shared their advice.

Communicate as a Business Function

At AECOM, an engineering firm with approximately 65,000 employees, Kimberly Currier, the senior director for talent development for Americas, emphasizes the importance of a business-minded approach to communication. In an interview for the report, she explained that there are two parts to this. “First, it’s important to demonstrate that you understand the business and what the needs and strategies are. Second, you need to show that you’re capable of rolling that information into your own strategic plan.”

Currier said that communicating in this way requires talent development leaders “to know how the business makes money and what it needs to do to achieve its financial goals.” Examples include knowing where profit and losses come from, the general nature of the business’s work, and where the organization fits within the economy.

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Put Effort Into Connecting

When she started working as director of training and development for Willmeng Construction (a construction company with more than 140 employees), Holly Bowers went to lunch with every member of the leadership team. “I continue to do that when someone new comes on or moves into a new role,” she said in an interview for the report. After that, she maintains contact, touching base “at least once every couple of months” to discuss what talent development needs to do to help the organization.

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Meet Leaders Where They Are

Like Bowers, Suzanne Fraley took special care early in her tenure as director of talent management at Plains All American Pipeline, a midstream oil and gas company with more than 1,800 employees, to ensure she could effectively communicate with other leaders in the organization. When she started at the organization, she positioned herself to tell stories that would effectively demonstrate talent development’s value by “investing time and energy to connect with people and familiarize myself with the company’s operations,” she explained in an interview for the report.

During Frawley’s first 90 days, she said that she traveled to the organization’s offices and sites in Texas’s Permian Basin, “to see how the business operated in the field and meet people.” For her, seeing colleagues “in their environment” provided a powerful chance to learn and build credibility. “It gave me an opportunity to hear what they needed it, where they needed it,” she said.

Strategic Alignment: Orchestrating Organizational Success is available at td.org/AlignmentReport.

About the Author

Alex Moore is a junior research analyst for the Association for Talent Development. Alex returned to ATD in 2019 after spending a year living and working in Chile. Prior to moving abroad, Alex was a writer/editor for ATD working on TD magazine, a research coordinator at ATD, and a customer care advocate at ATD. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 with a B.A. in English.

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