As strategic business partners, we should ensure that our learning and development (L&D) strategy is aligned with the mission of the businesses we support. Training and performance solutions should enable organizational goals, rather than detract from them by wasting time while not adding value.
Here are few guidelines you can use to define your L&D strategy—and align it with your business.
Understand the Business
When I first joined the H.J. Heinz Company, I took a tour of our innovation and quality center to learn how our research and development team innovated new food products. Shortly after, I visited our largest ketchup factory in Fremont, Ohio, to gain a better understanding of our manufacturing process. To get a holistic view and broader understanding of the operations function, I met with key business leaders and participated in cross-functional job rotations.
The easiest way to gain the respect of the teams you support is to take the time to understand the business and the work these teams perform. This also will help you better communicate and emphasize the value that L&D brings to the organization.
Define Priorities and Develop the Plan
Once you have an understanding of the business, schedule some time with your functional leaders and have them walk you through their business strategies. The steps you took to understand the business will put you in a better position to have meaningful conversations with them.
I find it best to come prepared with a set of questions. Here are a few recommendations, but you can expand and modify these as needed:
- What are the main priorities for your function this year?
- What are some of the biggest challenges your team faces?
- How does your team acquire new knowledge, skills, and experiences?
Now it’s time to develop your L&D strategy. Use your new knowledge of the business and the feedback you received from your functional leaders as the foundation of your strategy. the following framework can help:
- L&D Vision: Define a vision for the L&D function and how it will support the business.
- Business Goals: Outline and describe the key goals and priorities of the business.
- L&D Road Map: Create an L&D road map of recommended training programs that will support the business in achieving its goals and priorities.
- Resources Required: If you need subject matter experts, ask. Provide a brief outline of their roles and responsibilities.
- Project Timeline: Develop a timeline for each of the training projects proposed.
You understand the business. You have connected with key stakeholders and incorporated their feedback into your strategy. Now it’s time to align leadership with your plan.
Send a meeting invitation to your leadership team, including your CEO, if possible. Review your robust strategy with the team. Be open to candid feedback, and be prepared to defend your business case. If needed, propose a pilot program with a small group and let the team know you would like to evaluate and review the results with them to determine the way forward for future programs.
You should feel extremely confident that your proposed L&D plan will bridge the gap between the business’s strategy and performance. Indeed, the L&D function should be seen as strategic learning and performance advisors to the business. And if you don't have a seat at the table, be prepared to receive an invitation shortly!