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Management Paper Aligning L D With Business

It could also be the worst of times for Human Resources and L&D professionals where learning fails to effectively address competency gaps and by extension, business needs. Today’s business climate makes demands on even the toughest Organizations to continuously modify the ways they create value and carry out their business. Organizations face a wide range of challenges as they strive to find growth and stay competitive… These Include: While organizations readily admit to the need for a competent and highly motivated workforce to drive the achievement of the business strategy, stark business realities moieties take away from this focus.

For most organizations therefore, the general mindset is that “Training is a good thing and as such should be supported, as long as it doesn’t cost too much or divert focus from the immediate business imperatives and strategic priorities hand”. With yet unrelenting pressure on training budgets, the Learning and Development function Is constantly challenged to demonstrate the value, Return on Investment (ROI) and business Impact of training Annihilates. L professionals therefore have the tough job of: understanding the yet emerging and changing needs of the business.

Becoming competent and confident to speak in business terms with line executives Having the ability to

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design “Just-in-time” learning solutions that address current Issues STRATEGIC. What then does it mean for Learning & Development to be strategic to a business? It means; 1 . Offering training that not only develops employees’ skills, but contributes – visibly and substantially – to the fulfillment of business strategy. 2. Operating a Learning & Development function that enables the business create sustainable competitive advantage and execute its strategy 3.

Running a Learning & Development function hat is “outcome-focused” as against “activity-focused”. 4. Being seen as a valuable partner and trusted advisor to the business. This paper seeks to discuss answer the following questions in relation to aligning Learning & Development to business needs: How do we create learning functions that visibly and substantially contribute to the fulfillment of business strategy? How can our Learning & Development functions become “outcome-focused” as against “activity-focused? How can L&D become a strategic partner to the business?

What new capabilities will Learning & Development professionals need in order to effectively align with, and address business needs and challenges? How do we identify the real business needs as learning professionals? 2. 0 CREATING THE ALIGNMENT WITH BUSINESS NEEDS In discussing the alignment of Learning and Development with Business Needs, two (2) forms of alignment will be considered; 1. Vertical Alignment: This means aligning learning and development interventions and practices with the strategic objectives, priorities, targets and aspirations of the organization.

It is typically achieved through 4 simple steps; Step # 1 : Carefully examining the strategic objectives and priorities, as well as the hurt and long-term business goals and aspirations Step # 2: Identifying and articulating the competency imperatives of the organizational strategy and business objectives Step # 3: Defining the organization’s core competencies (develop a Competency Framework) Step # 4: Building learning interventions that effectively address these competencies.

A quick example is shown below: approach of defining a competency framework (say in line with a 5-year strategic plan) and then designing appropriate learning interventions, is becoming less and less practical. In reality therefore, the learning and development can be better aligned with the business strategy by examining interventions and initiatives through the following lens: l. Are we able to articulate how our various learning solutions and interventions link to the organization’s strategic priorities?

II. Have we fully involved key business stakeholders in the design process? Ill. Have we really understood the business, leadership & team challenges and how our learning solutions must align with culture, values and needs? ‘V. Do our solutions/offerings develop the core skills, behaviors and mindsets required by the organization? V. Are learning outcomes and success criteria clearly defined, understood and measurable and are these aligned to strategic imperatives? VI.

Have we agreed how and where behavior change & business impact will be seen and tracked? VI’. Do we have a shared understanding and have we agreed with the business what a ‘move the needle’ return on investment will look like? A mimes” response to the questions above combined with the 4-step vertical alignment process would go a long way to confirm the desired alignment of learning and development to the strategic objectives, priorities, targets and aspirations of the organization. . Horizontal Alignment: Horizontal alignment is the degree to which learning and development policies, processes/procedures and practices align with standards for best-practice learning, development and performance improvement. It is achieved by following steps: Step #1 : Identifying and defining Business Outcomes Corporate-sponsored learning represents an investment made by organizations to enhance the quality of their human capital and so “insure their future”.

Investments are expected to yield returns, in this case – improved employee performance & productivity, enhanced customer satisfaction, higher retention, etc. The extent to which organizations are willing to invest in learning will depend on the extent to which learning initiatives deliver on management’s expectations for improved performance. Learning and development is therefore NOT in the business of providing learning….. We are in the business of facilitating and improving business results!

The first and perhaps the most critical step is to clearly define the BUSINESS OUTCOMES expected from learning initiatives. Business Outcomes, are NOT Learning outcomes or Learning objectives. Whereas learning objectives explain what participants will know or be able to do at the end of the program, Business Outcomes pacify what participants will do on the Job and the benefits to the business. Business? How can we tell? Defining Business Outcomes is a prerequisite for effectively calculating the returns on learning investments and demonstrating business results.

The table below shows examples of Business Outcomes, compared with traditional Learning Objectives: Learning Objectives Business Outcome Be able to describe the leadership styles and development stages of the situational leadership model and match the appropriate style to a developmental stage Increase the productivity of your team and your managerial effectiveness by correctly utilizing he situational leadership model Be able to apply the Six Sigma ADMIT model to a business process Reduce the number of errors in the order entry process by applying Six Sigma tools and processes Be able to explain each of the 6 steps of ROI of L and give an example of their application in corporate learning Reduce the amount of learning that goes unused by applying the 6 steps to learning program design and execution Demonstrate how to give effective feedback to a direct report Increase employee commitment by giving more frequent and more effective feedback Show how to use reframing to overcome customers’ objections

Increase sales by discovering and addressing customers’ objections Step #2: Designing the Complete Learning Experience Maximizing the output of learning and development requires managing learning as a process rather than as an event. That means designing the complete learning experience, and not Just the instruction. This involves actively planning and influencing what happens before as well as after the traditional boundaries of corporate education and the benefits that accrue by doing so. Indeed, the most challenging aspect of converting training into results is getting the learning out of the instructional setting and onto the Job, I. . “The real work actually begins when the course ends. ” This phase must therefore be included as part of the learning process.

Step #3: Competent Delivery of Learning, with Focus on Application While it is agreed that the value gleaned from learning and development interventions is proportional to the amount of new knowledge and skills applied directly on the Job, a key influencer of the application of the knowledge/skills is the manner of instruction – the Pedagogy. Best practices in Programmer Delivery (with focus on application) prescribed the following steps: I. Narrow the ‘learning-doing gap’ it. Motivate learners ii. Make relevance clear ‘v. Provide know-how v. Make learning memorable vile. Communicate what happened Step #4: Initiate, Plan and Drive Learning Transfer Learning Transfer is believed to be about the most crucial aspect of the entire learning process.

Organizations where learning and development addresses business needs achieve these results by implementing systems and processes to compel learning transfer and application. Time and effort must be invested by the Learning and Development Function (working hand-in-glove with the Line Manager and Trainee) to actively move the learning transfer process forward and monitor regress, rather than passively leaving it to chance or individual initiative. The responsibility for Learning Transfer must be a shared between the Line Managers and the Learning & Development function – the success or failure of learning is the joint responsibility of the Line Manager and the Learning function.

Best-practices to assure learning transfer indicate six (6) important elements: 1) A schedule of events for the post-course period 2) Reminders 3) Accountability 4) Feedback and coaching 5) Performance support 6) A Finish-line Step #5: Deploy Performance Support Tools For learning to align with business needs and drive results, necessary resources must be made available to “support” participants in their bid to put new knowledge and skills to work. Performance support is especially useful when attempting to master a new skill as it significantly reduces cognitive load – allowing novices to concentrate short-term memory on performing the task, rather than trying to simultaneously remember it.

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