Business-L&D alignment an essential in 2017

by L&D10 Jan 2017
Learning and development leader, Marina Theodotou, told Chief Learning Officer that as the new year begins, organisations and individuals tend to think about New Year’s resolutions and usually pick challenging goals to tackle.

Theodotou said that one of the most difficult challenges facing CLOs is aligning learning and development with the organisation’s business goals.

“It boils down to providing the right learning programs for talent across the organisation to empower them to deliver value on the business goals they are charged with and will be evaluated on,” she said.

Organisations that are serious about their data analytics are digging deeper and smarter into their data and continuously seeking improvements to move the dial. As part of my doctoral studies, I am working with the Defence Acquisition University (DAU), which during the past decade has made significant strides in learning evaluation.

“DAU is the corporate university of the US Department of Defence and serves the defence industry. DAUs mission is ‘to provide a global learning environment to develop qualified acquisition, requirements and contingency professionals who deliver and sustain effective and affordable warfighting capabilities’.”

Theodotou pointed out that the number of learners DAU serves is staggering.

For example, in 2015 alone, DAU graduated 173,773 professionals, delivering more than 7 million hours of learning and 310 online learning modules with 700,000 completions.

“Building alignment at DAU was not easy. It took leadership, commitment, a lot of hard work, a lot of learning and benchmarking, and time,” she explained.

“In their book, “Leading a Learning Revolution,” current and past DAU learning leaders Frank J. Anderson and Christopher R. Hardy discuss how they focused on alignment and built it block by block starting in the early 2000s.”

Today, DAU uses the Kirkpatrick Model to evaluate learning, and deploys Metrics that Matter — CEB surveys immediately following a course to evaluate the first two levels of Kirkpatrick’s model — Level 1: Reaction and Level 2: Learning, which it defines as consumptive metrics.

After 60 days, DAU sends out another survey to check in with learners and their supervisors to evaluate learning pertaining to Level 3: Application, and Level 4: Business Impact of the Kirkpatrick Model.

“DAU also applies text mining on more than 50,000 surveys to identify patterns in learners’ responses as they relate to specific courses,” Theodotou said.

She said that based on these results, DAU maps the root causes of low-performing courses and focuses on addressing and resolving them to improve the learner experience.

“This approach drives learning content improvement and strengthens alignment of learning content with the Department of Defence’s strategic goals,” she said.

“As a result of these practices, DAU is recognized as a best-in-class organisation for learning alignment.”

The organisation has has won more than 29 awards, including the Best Overall Corporate University in the World by the Global Council of Corporate Universities; Corporate University of the Year for North America by CUBIC; and Elearning Top 100 in the Best in Government category.

DAU’s focus on aligning learning with strategy was not to increase profits, as most other learning organisations do, but to ensure the safety of the nation.

When Theodotou asked Hardy – DAU’s director of strategic planning and analytics – how their decision to refocus on their mission drove L&D alignment he said:

“In this business, we cannot afford to be second place. As our workforce is successful, so are the men and women of our Armed Forces. Their success in training and on the job ultimately translates to the safety of our nation and the achievement of our national interests.”

As you begin 2017, you may ask your team to refocus on your organisational mission by answering this question: How will the learning and development programs you offer make a difference in your organisation’s goals?