Aligning learning to business needs

In his presentation to the eLearning Network event New models for learning management on September 25, John Belton of e2train showed the results of a survey carried out in June of this year amongst members of the Learning & Skills Group. When asked ‘What is the greatest single learning challenge facing your organisation at present,’ the highest number (28%) cited ‘linking learning more closely to business needs.’ When asked what the greatest single learning challenge was facing members personally, the highest number (27%) again selected ‘aligning learning to organisational objectives.’ When asked the more direct question ‘Do you think there needs to be a stronger link between learning and development and core business processes and strategy,’ a resounding 87% said yes. I think we get the message.

We need to align learning to business needs. Fair enough, so what’s stopping us?

All that’s required to achieve this goal is to (1) be aware of what the business needs are, and then (2) make sure that any learning interventions that you carry out are aligned to these. Let’s examine why this may not be happening. If we are not aware of what the business needs are, then there a few possible causes:

  1. The business itself doesn’t know (possible, but unlikely).
  2. We ask but they don’t tell us (just possible, but very unlikely).
  3. We don’t ask (more than likely).

The solution? Be assertive and ask.

If we are fortunate enough to know what the business needs are but we are going ahead anyway and carrying out interventions which are not aligned to these, then again there a several possible reasons:

  1. We don’t really want to align our interventions to business objectives (possible, but that’s not what the survey is telling us).
  2. We are being asked by our sponsors in the business to carry out non-aligned interventions and we’re not objecting (highly likely).

The solution? Be assertive and say no.

The ability to be assertive is an essential quality for a professional. Remember, it’s not enough to call yourself a professional, you also have to act like one.

Perhaps assertiveness courses are not such a bad idea after all, whether or not they’re aligned to business needs.

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