Aligning the L&D Strategy With Business Goals

It’s no secret that creating alignment between learning and the business strategy has traditionally been difficult for most organizations. While 87% of companies in Brandon Hall Group’s 2020 Learning Strategy Study said this alignment was either important or critical to achieving business goals, only 13% said they were ready to take action on creating it. Without this alignment, companies are flying blind when it comes to learning; creating programs in response to training requests with no idea if they are designed to accomplish the right things.

Of course, it helps if organizations have a learning strategy in the first place. One in five companies has no learning strategy at all. Additionally, fewer than 40% of existing learning strategies are even well-defined.

To What Degree Do Each of the Following Apply to Your Organization’s Current Learning Strategy?

Alignment is challenging because Learning and Development teams typically do not have the kind of strategic relationships with the other parts of the business that help shape the strategy. There are no mechanisms in place to gather the input of key stakeholders or the learners themselves. Learning as a function becomes isolated and only sees learning through the lens of its own efficiency — learning for learning’s sake.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is that very few learning strategies include a framework to measure success. This means that not only is there no alignment at the front end, but most organizations also cannot see how out-of-alignment their efforts are, simply because they are not measuring against it.

To What Degree Do Each of the Following Apply to Your Organization’s Current Learning Strategy?

Without clear alignment between the learning strategy and business outcomes, companies struggle to create and deploy learning programs that meet employees’ performance needs. This then makes it difficult to impact business goals, rendering the learning strategy ineffective and ultimately unimportant. Organizations should tackle this problem from both ends: develop learning strategies that align with the business and create learning experiences that impact performance.

How Effective Is Your Learning & Development Strategy in Helping your Organization Achieve its Business Goals?

Have we clearly defined our learning strategy?

  • Does the strategy align with business objectives?
  • Does it include input from key stakeholders and learners?
  • Do we have a framework to measure success?


Without involvement from key stakeholders, the learning strategy has little hope of aligning with the business. It is these business leaders that know what they need from the workforce to meet their goals. By working together, the learning function can develop goals that match the business goals and lay out for the business how learning will help them. Among organizations that say their learning strategy is effective at helping achieve business goals, 87% say the strategy absolutely includes input from various business stakeholders. For those whose strategy is not so effective, that number is 38%.

INCLUDE A FRAMEWORK TO MEASURE SUCCESS. Companies have traditionally struggled with meaningful learning measurement. To fine-tune the strategy and unleash its potential, organizations must be able to measure and analyze learning’s impact on real outcomes. Completions and smile sheets are not enough. This requires a strong measurement framework with defined, measurable metrics built into the strategy. Key business stakeholders can help determine these metrics from the view of the business and learning leaders can tie them to learning outcomes. Proper measurement can demonstrate learning’s real value, identify successful (or not) programs and give learning a solid foundation upon which to build. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of companies that have such a framework say their learning strategy is either effective or highly effective in helping achieve business goals. Only 16% of companies without a measurement framework say the same thing.

FOCUS ON THE LEARNER EXPERIENCE AS THE EXPRESSION OF THE LEARNING STRATEGY. Companies with successful learning strategies place the learner at the center. Eighty-seven percent of these companies say their strategy aligns with learner objectives and 80% say the strategy includes feedback from learners. Companies with less effective strategies are more likely to omit this kind of attention to the learner. Fewer than one-third align the strategy with learner objectives or include their input.

Additionally, the learner experience itself is lacking for companies with low-performing strategies. Effective learning strategies create experiences where learners are aware of the link between learning and their objectives. They are also much more likely to provide a contextual, personalized learning experience where learners can explore and discover learning opportunities that are relevant to them.

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