Article: Steps to align L&D with business outcomes

Learning & Development

Steps to align L&D with business outcomes

With businesses operating in a ROI-driven environment, L&D functions need to align with business outcomes in order to establish their value
Steps to align L&D with business outcomes

The need to be at par with the learners’ expectations and to provide tangible results is proving to be challenging


Technology itself is rapidly evolving and the L&D service provider market is accelerating towards consolidating talent management systems with the learning systems


People are integral. Skills are paramount. And irrespective of what a company is or what product it sells or services it offers, managing talent, upgrading their skills and training them is the most important thing for any organization. This makes Learning and Development at the core of any business. 

But businesses operate in a ROI driven environment. In the current economy, where resources are constrained and businesses are increasingly seeking ways to achieve differentiation, there is an increasing pressure on L&D departments as well as L&D service providers to deliver organizational transforming results, and also to demonstrate the value and impact of their efforts on the bottom-line.Organizations are today thinking out of the box and integrating the best industry practices to enhance their workforce learning and productivity. This in a way is levying more pressure on the L&D service providers to innovate their services. The need to be at par with the learners’ expectations and to provide tangible results to the organizations partnering with them is proving to be challenging.And thus, innovations in learning design and technologies are increasingly becoming important as data-driven decisions are gaining popularity.

Adapting to the modern learner

Work is evolving faster than workplace learning and becoming more complex, matrixed and synergic. Millennials today demand the integration of technology into their development plans, and as such there is an increase in programs that offer gamified and incentive-based learning programs. They are getting responsible for their own learning and thus self-directed learning has now become the new focus for many successful L&D initiatives. Also, with social networking at the peak, knowledge sharing and collaborative learning has gained an impetus and the learner looks for platforms that facilitate collaboration in their work lives. “It’s time for putting the learner at the center of the whole learning system and letting them choose, which in turn creates a feeling of empowerment and the learners not only feel engaged but are also respected for the freedom to make their own choice” says Jayaraman, CEO & Chief People Officer, Knolskape.

However, this is also coupled with the fact that “the modern learner is overwhelmed, distracted and impatient with only 1 percent of their work-week to focus on learning and development” as a report by Bersin by Deloitte states.The question that rises is that are organizations really gearing up to the challenge of making their workforce skilled at taking challenges of the future?

‘Living’ technology

Technology has enabled us to move beyond the classroom training and even the MOOCs, to learning that uses augmented reality and learning content that is device agnostic. Companies are increasingly adopting multi-channel learning systems that sync the power of various media in order to achieve optimal learning along with seeking to empower the workforce with content that is designed for the self-directed learner. This allows for rich learning experiences and also encourages social collaboration. But technology itself is rapidly evolving and the need to ‘live’ this technology in the present is essential. Not just e-learning, but using technology to integrate different systems, empowering knowledge transfer and a focus on developing mechanisms that aims the user. “This throws up many opportunities to design or include self-paced interventions, tracking systems or gamified and incentive-based learning programs” according to Pallavi Jha, Chairperson & Managing Director, Dale Carnegie Training India.

Integrating learning & talent management

Today, the L&D service provider market is actively seeking and accelerating towards consolidating talent management systems with the learning systems. According to a research done by Bersin and Associates, “Integration of learning and development with talent management provides clear business benefits and shows that further benefits can be achieved through deeper integration with other core HR processes.” This integration helps in personalizing and customizing learning content for the user and also reduces the time it takes for the learning to translate into positive business outcomes. Strategic talent management thus needs to involve investing in the human capital learning needs to increase organizational performance. And generating a unified platform of learning and talent management can be made more personalized, result-oriented and impactful.

Learning Analytics – the new link

According to a KPMG survey, seven out of ten CIOs and other top executives say data analytics is a “crucial” or “very important” business driver. According to an IDC and EMC report, the digital universe is doubling every two years, and will reach 40,000 exabytes (40 trillion gigabytes) by 2020. With so much proliferating data, it only becomes important even for the L&D to map learning data to business outcomes for driving decisions. 

However, organizations still consider learning and performance as two isolated parameters, which makes it difficult to track the impact of a learning program on performance in the sense of business output. The explosion of online platforms has created immense opportunities for the learners, and has simultaneously created data about learning processes. Using data analytics, mining and visualization to interpret such data that can be used for informing the learners and creative effective programs that directly impact the business outcomes or the bottomline becomes paramount today. 

L&D analytics enables the impact of learning programs to be significantly seen and also removes the ambiguities related to business realities and the effect of learning on the individual learner. However according to Vinay Pradhan, Country Manager, Skillsoft, India, “The aim should be to build capabilities to examine data that helps in monitoring agility and other key characteristics that drive success within the organization, identify high efficiency or over-investment which that allows decision-makers to compare performance quarter to quarter.”

Moving forward

Despite the indispensability of learning and development function, organizations still consider L&D functions as cost centers rather than strategic partners when it comes to making business decisions. At the end of the day, the need to make meaningful, targeted and result oriented L&D initatives, they need to be aligned with the business goals, build a learning ecosystem and identify and analyze the learner data.  

In this supplement, we ask L&D service providers questions as to how they are accommodating to the fluctuating organizational and workforce learning needs. 

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Topics: Learning & Development, Strategic HR

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