Aligning Learning with Organizational Results: By Aligning Their Learning Initiatives with Organizational Strategies, Librarians and Information Professionals Can Better Communicate Their Value to Senior Leaders

Article excerpt

We are on the cusp of one of the most exciting transformations in business history. Organizations in the 21st century are facing unprecedented global challenges, and the speed, agility and creativity with which they address these challenges are of the utmost importance in an economy being influenced by enormous generational shifts in intellectual capital as well as vast demographic shifts that are changing social landscapes and economies worldwide.

Over the next 20 years, almost everything companies do will change to accommodate shifts that transcend geography, politics, language, and time. One constant will be the need to teach workers, leaders and innovators how to adapt to their changing world and perform at their very best. This is the time of lifelong learning, and it's critically important to the workplace.

Working effectively in this new environment means embracing a model for aligning and integrating learning with the values, strategies, goals, and metrics of the organization in much more intentional ways. In the coming years, learning professionals--those who work in the learning and development field as well as those (such as information professionals) who facilitate the learning of others through different methods--are going to be charged with transforming their companies and clients into sophisticated, agile, responsive, learning-centered organizations that deliver meaningful results.

Learning professionals are responsible for making sure that people in an organization are properly skilled and that the enterprise is operating with the best-equipped staff. Ensuring that workers have the knowledge and skills to support the organization's goals as effectively and efficiently as possible is a key responsibility. Because corporate decision makers are focused primarily on growth and understand that well-prepared people are their primary advantage, many are eager to see what learning professionals can do for them. It's a huge responsibility, and learning professionals must deliver. They can best do so by aligning learning with organizational goals.

In a November 2008 issue of Training + Development (T+D) magazine, Rita Smith, vice president of enterprise learning at Ingersoll Rand University, wrote, "There is no magic involved in creating alignment, but I believe there is a formula for successfully aligning learning organizations with business strategy. The formula is: leadership engagement + business rigor = alignment."

The challenge for learning professionals is to deliver meaningful, compelling results translated into metrics that senior management understands and cares about--metrics that prove that learning initiatives are aligned with organizational results and strategies. In addition, they must be able to continually communicate the value of those results to the enterprise and learn how to build on their successes. This means developing a new set of skills honed specifically for the task of speaking persuasively and presenting the case for learning in ways that decision makers find compelling enough to support the learning function regardless of the economic climate.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Connecting the Dots, Communicating Value

A pervasive challenge faced by learning professionals--one that can cause a host of communication problems--is connecting the dots between (1) an organization's stated strategies and objectives, (2) learning programs that support those objectives, and (3) tangible results that demonstrate the effectiveness of a given learning program or solution.

Many learning professionals expend extraordinary amounts of energy gathering various statistics and evaluation materials but drop the ball when it comes to strategically using that information to demonstrate learning's impact. The truth is that communicating one's value in meaningful ways is imperative for survival. Those who can't explain how or why they are valuable, in terms that the questioner can understand and embrace, risk being eliminated. …