This is the second installment in our series on improving your training “batting average.” We’ll look at how to connect business results and learning objectives.
Learning Objectives Are Necessary, But Not Sufficient
You need a good set of learning objectives to design effective training. Unfortunately, a program can achieve all its learning objectives and still “strike out” as far as business results are concerned. How is that possible?
In the first edition of our book, The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning, we told a story that resonated with Kevin Wilde, the chief learning officer for General Mills. He wrote in the introduction: “The example was about a new management development program. A talented and hard-working training team designed an air-tight course: activities planned to the minute, world-class external faculty and cutting-edge simulations . . . all grounded in specific learning objectives. But the team fell short by failing to first clearly identify how the company would benefit from having leaders attend the program. I’ve been there—so caught up in crafting the excellence of the learning event that we failed to ground everything in the real business case. When that happens, the results leave you heartbroken, far short of the learning breakthrough you intended.”
What’s the solution?
Enter the Outcomes Planning Wheel
Always start with the “end in mind.” That is, begin by gaining a much deeper understanding of what the business expects to happen as a result of the training. You may need to help business leaders move from focusing on a solution (“training”) to the performance gap or opportunity they are hoping to address. In the ATD Learning Transfer Certificate Program, we teach participants to use the Outcomes Planning Wheel to structure a discussion with managers that elucidates their issues and expectations. The wheel includes four questions:
- What business needs will be met?
- What will participants do differently and better?
- What or who could confirm these changes?
- What are all the specific criteria for success?
While these are seemingly simple queries, used artfully, they lead to a rich exploration of the issues. Most importantly, they position learning and development professionals as true business partners, rather than just order takers.
The Outcomes Planning Wheel: Four Key Questions to Ask Business Leaders. Copyright 2014, The 6Ds Company. Used with permission.
You’ll need to follow up with a more detailed needs analysis to identify the specific skills and knowledge gaps, but starting with the business needs ensures that the learning objectives have a clear connection to business realities and priorities.
The power of this approach was illustrated in a case study we included in The Field Guide to the 6Ds. Sujaya Bannerjee and her colleagues at Essar, one of the largest and most respected companies in India, had received a request for communications training. When they applied the Outcomes Planning Wheel questions and the concepts taught in the Learning Transfer Certificate Program, however, they discovered that the business need was much more far-reaching. As a result, they were able to transform a “feel-good” training program into a successful business outcome—so much so that their contribution was acknowledged by the CEO.
Training is an investment an organization makes to help it achieve its objectives. The better we understand the business objectives, the better solutions we can provide, the higher our batting average, and the greater our value. Of course, training alone is not sufficient to drive business results. We need to consider what else needs to be in place—a topic we will cover in a future article in this series.
To learn more, join us for an upcoming Learning Transfer Certificate Program.