How to align your learning strategy with your business objectives

Worrying statistic time - did you know that only 5% of organisations believe that their L&D strategy is very effective in helping them achieve their business goals?

When it comes to striving for business improvement, whether that means boosting profits, productivity, innovation or something else, it stands to reason that a great learning programme should be driving this progress. But with just 7.5% of businesses saying that their L&D programmes are high performing, where are so many going wrong, and how much is this hindering their ability to achieve their business goals? To find out, we’re going to take a look at some of the key points from the Learning Strategy 2018 report from Brandon Hall.

A mismatch between intentions and actions

The good news is that for the most part, organisations understand the impact of a great learning strategy on their progress towards their business goals. In fact, three out of four organisations in the report believe that aligning their learning strategy with their business goals is the top L&D priority in 2018. However, just 36% of organisations have actually aligned their learning strategies with the wider business goals. If businesses recognise the importance of aligning their L&D efforts with the overall business, what’s stopping them?

Where they're falling short

For the most part, organisations seem to be happy with their classroom training. However, e-learning and employee development paths are considered bigger challenges requiring attention, and a massive 36.5% say that allowing learners to generate and contribute their own content to the learning programme is a top priority. In fact, informal learning overall appears to perform less well than formal learning. 29.6% of organisations see giving employees a forum to discuss learning opportunities at work as a top priority, showing that - as we said recently - failing to support social learning is a major oversight.

Totara Learn: Align your learning strategy

Not providing content to support business priorities

According to the Learning Strategy 2018 report, the top three business priorities this year are enhancing the customer experience (44.6%), improving revenue (40.3%) and improving innovation capability (34.9%). However, when it comes to L&D priorities, the top three are compliance (54.5% consider this a high priority), job-specific technical skills (48.9%) and leadership development (44.5%). Here we can see that L&D’s priorities aren’t aligning with the business goals. While compliance training is understandably important, perhaps it is time for L&D teams to expand their learning strategies to encompass a wider set of priorities.

Individual vs organisationwide performance

A massive 56.7% of respondents describe improved organisational performance as business critical, whereas improved individual performance is business critical to just 33.2% of respondents. Could this mean that there is not enough focus on the individuals who, when demonstrating improved performance en masse, will ultimately contribute to the improvement of the organisation’s performance as a whole? This could suggest that a more tailored, personalised approach, where managers work more closely with employees to create individual learning plans and set goals, could be the key to closing the gap between the objectives of the L&D team and the wider organisation.

Bringing L&D and the organisation into alignment

44.1% of organisations believe that aligning the learning strategy with the overall business strategy is the number one business-critical priority over the next two years, with increasing the amount of experiential (on-the-job) training second (39.6%) and increasing the amount of informal learning third (29%). However, their preparedness to address these areas tells a different story. In all three areas, over 50% of businesses admit to being only ‘somewhat prepared’ at most for addressing these learning initiatives. In fact, for the 12 initiatives people were asked about in the survey, the highest percentage of businesses ready to take action on any of these areas was just 22.9%.

So what next?

The figures from Brandon Hall’s Learning Strategy 2018 report clearly show that while organisations know what they need to do, they’re just not ready to actually do it yet. We can see evidence of a lot of status quo training initiatives (such as compliance and leadership development), but there is a lack of the training people actually need to improve in their roles, both as individuals and as employees working towards the overarching organisational goals. But this awareness of what businesses need to do to bring L&D and the organisation into alignment is a good start - next on the agenda needs to come an ongoing discussion between L&D and the senior management team to find out how L&D can better support the business objectives through more targeted, focused learning programmes.

The full Learning Strategy 2018 report is only available to Brandon Hall members, but other reports are available for individual purchase here.