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Guarantee Strategic Alignment: View from the CLO

Whether your company refers to employee development as a corporate university, learning, or training team, it is imperative that services strategically align to short- and long-term organization goals and objectives.

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But how do you align learning with corporate goals? Just follow the proceeding 13 steps, it's sure to guarantee strategic alignment of learning services:

  1. Make sure everyone knows that development means more than training. Training will accomplish no more than 20 percent of necessary learning. The remainder requires work experiences with feedback and coaching, supportive colleagues, documented success factors and derailers, and alternative learning services such as coaching, learning circles, and action learning.
  2. Use a formal process to link learning. Anchor all development activities to core values and best-practice performance standards.
  3. Conduct organization development and specific interventions. This builds strategic relationships across the enterprise while expanding credibility and providing an excellent source for information gathering.
  4. Define roles for senior leaders. Every opportunity taken to interact with senior leaders enhances access to information and resources. Roles for leaders include program sponsors, ambassadors, advisors, presenters, and coaches.
  5. Obtain resonance from advisory teams. Many organizations have an advisory team exclusive to the corporate university. While this is excellent, it is a narrow approach to the business. Instead, make use of existing advisory teams, including leadership teams, task teams, and corporate governance teams.
  6. Help individuals successfully transition to your culture. Every organization has its own distinct culture and language. When individuals join your organization, surround them with a tailored infrastructure, an immersion process, mentors, and learning opportunities to expedite awareness and comfort.
  7. Meet the needs of culturally and geographically disbursed employees. Have your learning professionals travel to the other locations or offer courses online. Putting learning professionals on the road helps them learn about the unique needs of staff located outside the central facility.
  8. Build critical skills. Long-term and short-term business goals may have organizations entering a new or changing market. Others may face new compliance requirements or a need to increase specific skills. The corporate university can provide value by assessing the gap, prioritizing needs (with assistance from advisory teams), and developing services for the most critical and visible areas.
  9. Forecast needs and identify gaps. The delta between assessed and desired performance allows unique access to important information. Learning professionals have the ability to close gaps while influencing workforce planning.
  10. Respond to trends. Is your organization experiencing an aging population or trends in specific demographic areas? These are perfect opportunities to align and demonstrate value. To do this, map the trend, analyze it, assess gaps, prioritize, and build learning interventions.
  11. Participate in emerging market strategies. Collaborate with the business to assist in rapid learning and deployment of new products and services. Learning professionals facilitate the process by working with subject matter experts to glean and interpret information into manageable learning solutions. Training those same experts in presentation and adult learning methods rapidly spreads learning across the organization.
  12. Quantify impact. If you measure and reward the right behavior, you get the right behavior. The same is true when it comes to quantifying impact. Rather than measuring how many people attended, how many courses are offered, and how many hours of training are delivered, measure the impact as defined by your organization's leaders. You might need to calculate and assign monetary values to measures. This ensures your leaders understand, and take seriously, the measured results.
  13. Help build the business. Building a world-class corporate university can help the brand of your organization. Sharing best practices, hosting visits, extending services to customers, and earning outside recognition helps your organization's brand and enhances the value of the learning function.

That's the baker's dozen list that will guarantee strategic alignment. If you can check off that your learning group is actively engaging each of the 13 items, you will ensure greater success for the corporate university and greater contributions to your organizations.
Ed Cohen is the senior vice president for Satyam Computer Services' School of Leadership in Hyderabad, India. Prior to Satyam, Cohen was the senior leader and founder of Booz Allen Hamilton's corporate university, the Center for Performance. You can reach him via email at ed_cohen@satyam.com.

About the Author
Ed Cohen is a talent executive who has conducted business in more than 40 countries with organizations including Booz Allen Hamilton, Mahindra Satyam, Seer Technologies, National Australia Bank, Larsen & Toubro, Farmers Insurance Group, Banco Banesto, and the World Economic Forum. He has been a featured speaker around the world—from Beijing to Chicago, from Sydney to Amsterdam. He is the only chief learning officer to have led two companies to the number one ranking in the ASTD BEST Awards—Booz Allen Hamilton and Satyam Computer Services. He is the author of Leadership Without Borders (John Wiley & Sons, 2007), which received multiple international accolades, and he was a contributor to ­ The Next Generation of Corporate Universities (Pfeier, 2007). Read more about his work at his website.
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