Be Known as a Business Partner, Not a Business Cost
As a learning professional, you understand that training is the important work of cultivating a business’ most valuable resources—its people. You know learning is much more than a business expense. But once you step outside training and ask colleagues where learning fits into the company value chain, many will make it sound more like a commodity than a strategic asset cheap jumpers for sale.
While the image of training as “a cost of doing business” is nothing new, it is also a misperception that you can change. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that business leaders treated IT as a commodity. Now businesses depend on the innovative minds across their technology teams to create competitive advantage and find better ways to engage customers, sell, compete and operate throughout the supply chain.
Learning leaders too can earn a strategic role in their organizations and become trusted advisors in business planning and decision making. The very way in which you approach your work and interact with business teams has a powerful influence on how training is seen by the business. Are you approaching training assignments as a one-off need or are you working from a corporate learning plan that fuels business strategy and contributes to business objectives? Are you working to anticipate the learning needs of business groups based on their growth plans and objectives, or do you operate in reaction mode – planning training when a need arises? Do you have a strong understanding of the company’s five-year and 10-year plans?
Strategic contributions and leadership start with knowledge, which is where training leaders need to begin as they work to elevate the role and image of the training organization. Below are several engagement best practices learning leaders can embrace as they partner with peers from across their organization.
Know Your Client – Gain extensive insight into the operations and strategy of the business unit you are supporting. By knowing the business group – their mission, their challenges, their team, their operations—you can truly become a partner in performance improvement. This effort will not only win you the trust of business unit managers, but also give you the understanding needed to help them identify skill and knowledge needs within their organization.
Knowing that you can’t become an expert in every process and operational detail, focus on answering the following questions:
- What specific challenges is the business unit facing?
- What measurements and metrics does the unit use to analyze performance?
- How are initiatives of the business unit tied to the company’s greater business strategy?
Learn to Speak Their Language – Every industry, every business and every business group seems to develop its own language. Take time to also learn the lingo and acronyms of the business groups you are helping. This small effort demonstrates your commitment to learning their work and challenges.
Share Training’s Value – Be sure and treat your business peers as partners as well by explaining how training can help them better meet their business objectives and enhance team performance. Give them insight into your training strategy and how a deliberate learning approach will enhance their operations today and ensure they are developing the resources they need tomorrow.
Link to Unit Objectives & Business Strategy – Just as the business unit has had to link its work and objectives to the overall business strategy, training can map its solutions in the same way. Will the training services you deliver support the business unit’s objectives and align with the company strategy? If not, it’s time to go back and work with the unit manager. You may have found a case when a training need is not supporting business objectives and needs to be modified to increase its ability to impact business results.
Measure & Report – One of the best ways to convince your business colleagues and executive leaders of training’s value is to give them the evidence. Be sure you define metrics that can clearly measure the impact training has on business performance and measure and report them regularly. Reports come in several forms—from progress and performance status to manager surveys.
Provide Anecdotes – It’s also a good idea to provide anecdotal evidence, such as stories of new wins or milestones achieved. These stories bring reports to life and show the benefits of training in action sumo suits for sale.
The hard work of learning your clients’ business—their needs, processes, challenges and objectives—is the kind of work that can elevate the reputation of training. As you increase your business knowledge, you increase your ability to give strategic, thoughtful input to company managers and leaders. Rather than coming to you with specific training requests, business managers will invite you to “take a seat at the table” to discuss business strategy. They will look to training not just for a service but for thoughtful insight and smart learning tactics that support overall business goals and objectives.
How strategic is your learning organization today? Is your team treated like a consultative partner or a service provider? I look forward to hearing how you are increasing your “strategic” reputation.