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Filling the Value Gap: 3 Steps to Strengthen Your Relationship With the C-Suite

Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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Talent development has become more important than ever. Business leaders need to know that their workforce has the skills to carry out the company’s strategy in the face of rapid change, and employees want development that will help them grow in their careers. L&D should be basking in the spotlight as the key lever that leaders can pull to achieve mission-critical goals.

Yet, it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.

Research has shown that while business leaders overwhelmingly recognize that there is value in employee development, most aren’t confident that L&D is delivering what they need. They don’t see enough evidence that the value they need is being created.

This value gap puts L&D at risk to be marginalized—to the detriment of the department, the company, and employees.

The three primary reasons for the value gap are lack of alignment with the business strategy, lack of credible data to understand L&D’s performance, and lack of effective communication about L&D’s contributions. These factors are closely related and require a combination of tools, processes, governance, and expertise to address.

Start With Alignment

Without clear alignment to the business strategy, L&D finds itself reactively serving business demands as they arise. Over time, the learning catalog fills up with a multitude of programs that continue to be maintained well beyond their initial usefulness because there isn’t a process to evaluate if or when to stop offering them. This leads to reliance on the status quo, which focuses on defending the existing L&D budget instead of actively building the budget based on the most pressing business priorities and the estimated effect of talent development on them.

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Great learning organizations are clear about the value they can (and cannot) provide and establish a common language to communicate with the business, from strategic planning to the questions asked during the training intake process. The course catalog is continually curated with the performance and contribution of courses evaluated and prioritized. The greater the alignment, the more respect and influence the learning organization will have. The article “Communicate L&D’s Value So the C-Suite Listens” introduces the Portfolio Evaluation Model, an approach to alignment that’s been adopted by more than 70 learning organizations.

Stay on Track With Data

The use of credible data to manage performance beyond selected programs is foundational to gaining the confidence and trust of business stakeholders. This is where measurement and evaluation come into play. Without an effective analytics strategy that’s aligned to the business strategy and includes consistent, clear measures, there is no objective insight into what’s working, what’s not, and how to improve.

Scalable processes are needed to measure, monitor, and manage the curriculum at scale. So are sound governance, technology tools, and consistent processes. SmartSheets from Explorance are valid and reliable tools that demonstrate the connection between training and performance. The whitepaper The Predictive Learning Impact Model 2.0 explains how SmartSheets shows value.

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Leverage automation to deliver insights to the right stakeholders’ hands quickly so that they can identify opportunities for continuous improvement. For tips on creating a reporting plan, read the TD magazine article “Stick to It.”

Close the Loop

Effective communication in the business world is rooted in data but analytics isn’t enough. The data must be presented in the language of the business. Most organizations lack a practical and consistent language to discuss L&D’s value beyond the individual program or initiative level. Without this, business leaders are left guessing about whether their investments in talent development are paying off.

Effective communication closes the loop on expectations documented during the strategic planning process, reinforcing alignment. Proactively share data in a business-focused way to build credibility that talent development initiatives are worthwhile and aligned to strategy. Do this and L&D’s status as a value creator will rise.

Conclusion

To show its worth, L&D must close the gap between what the business expects and what L&D delivers. Measurement is essential. Insights gathered from data are the only way to demonstrate impact and communicate value. Align measurement to the business needs, gather the data, and communicate the results. Those three steps will show that L&D is fulfilling its promise to help achieve business goals.

About the Author

Cristina Hall has worked in the L&D measurement space for nearly 15 years, helping numerous companies implement scalable, sustainable learning measurement practices with Metrics That Matter. She currently leads strategy for Explorance. Her experience has afforded her the opportunity to see how a multitude of learning organizations across a wide variety of industries approach their talent development operations and define and measure their success. She has contributed to TD Magazine and Training Industry Magazine, and is a repeat presenter at ATD International Conference & EXPO. Cristina is passionate about helping L&D organizations shift their focus toward proactive value generation through clear alignment with business priorities and clear, consistent measures that are familiar to business leaders. She holds an MBA from Lindenwood University and previously spent time in corporate finance and business operations in Fortune 100 companies.

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