How to Design Alignment in Corporate Learning

If your corporate learning lacks engagement – or strategic focus – it might be due to problems in alignment. Aligning corporate learning with various stakeholder goals is incredibly important. By aligning with employees, you build engagement and relevance, whereas focusing on the business can build strategic value. However, it’s not always easy connecting these two. Therefore, we’ll take a look at how you could design alignment in workplace learning.

Aligning learning with business goals

First, let’s start with the business goals, as they arguably tend to most often come first. Whether that’s the best way, we’ll let you decide! There’s a lot of talk about aligning learning with business goals, and that seems to be a priority for many L&D professionals. In most cases, the L&D tends to try act as an executor of some bigger vision from the organisation’s senior leadership (e.g. we want to become an innovative organisation). While certainly strategic, you’ll want to pay attention to the problem space in particular in these kind of cases, i.e. is learning even the right tool to solve this kind of strategic issues? In some cases, it might not be, and hence producing learning or training programs to try to address the problem is not gonna yield very much results.

However, aligning corporate learning with business goals can also happen on a more granular level. Everything doesn’t have to be big and strategic. Ultimately, the goal of L&D is to help people perform better at their jobs. Therefore, putting yourself out there, and asking exactly that can be a powerful tool. By focusing on real issues faced by real employees, you provide tangible value. The learning component represents much less of formal learning than it used to, but it’s not a bad thing! Also, as you’re working on practical business problems, you also have tangible metrics to measure your learning success against.

Aligning corporate learning with individual goals

While the alignment with business goals is important, it’s not everything you should do. Many organisations face challenges due to engagement in training programs, and the lack of it. The lack of engagement, on the other hand, might be result of low to no alignment.

First of all, getting people to learn is already a challenge on its own. In reality, people don’t really respond to e.g. strategic objectives as a way of justifying why they should go through training. To nourish engagement in learning programs, you need to convince people that it benefits them, not just the company. Secondly, the benefits themselves might come in various forms, and it’s necessary to communicate them in order to facilitate change. Perhaps the training unlocks career opportunities or prepares people for specific tasks. It might also be just a new way of doing the existing work that is easier, more convenient or less cumbersome. Or finally, the benefit might even be personal (e.g. a lot of soft skills training might carry benefits beyond the immediate scope of work).

Once you identify those individual value points, delivering meaningful and engaging learning becomes much easier. Then it’s just a matter of communicating the benefits! That’s where L&D can borrow a few tricks from marketing, or where storytelling might become a good tool to use. Also, thinking of learning from an individual or employee perspective provides a good opportunity to critically review some of the activities an organisation might be doing. If there’s no individual value-add to be found, it’s likely that the “bigger” business value is not out there either.

Final words

Overall, the best corporate learning programs manage to combine these two. They might start out with an individual value proposition (i.e. what does an employee get out of it personally) but tie that in to the bigger business goals and ways of achieving them. As the learners see immediate value to their own selves and jobs, they are much more likely to implement the learning in practice, and by doing so, make progress towards the business goals. Furthermore, starting to think about the employees first is a good stepping stone into a more learner-centric culture. If you’re facing challenges in learning engagement, and think you could use some help, don’t hesitate to drop us a note. We’d be happy to discover problems together.