Meaningful & Measurable: Why Tie Learning Ops to Business Outcomes

Richard Posluszny ·

Mar 24, 2021

This likely isn’t the first time you’ve considered why it’s important to align your company’s learning program with business outcomes. After all, it’s a hot topic that has been covered extensively. 

Here’s the thing: While most Learning & Development (L&D) leaders know they should do this, the reality is there’s a struggle getting there. Perhaps there’s a cultural roadblock. Maybe it’s their first strategic project being led. Or, they’re stuck in their comfort zone, where they’re not held accountable for driving business results.  

So, why must L&D tie its initiatives to goals?

Just because leadership hasn’t pointed out that an initiative is unsuccessful doesn’t mean it’s working or that its value is recognized. Unless you’ve taken proactive steps to gain management’s visibility and communicate positive outcomes, you run the risk of your program being relegated to a Tier-2 initiative. Even worse, a “nice to have” project.  

Rather than that though, let me get you dialed in and offer some guidance on how to get your learning-powered initiatives the love they deserve. 

First, an Introduction to Learning Ops

After working closely with the fastest-growing companies in the world to implement cutting-edge learning programs, the Northpass team thought it was time to synthesize all of our findings and make it, essentially, open source.

The outcome? Learning Ops: A new framework that facilitates the organizational shift necessary to align learning programs with measurable business goals

The reason? It’s become evident that leadership teams do not typically understand the value of learning programs and, in addition, there’s been a constant stream of disappointing statistics related to corporate learning initiatives. 

After experiencing success with many customers, we knew we had to set the record straight.

Related Reading: Beyond L&D: Why is Learning Moving to the Front Lines of Business

All Successful Learning Operations Start With Strategic Alignment

We’ve observed strategic alignment to be a leading indicator of whether a learning program will succeed. That’s why the first step of our framework involves ensuring that an organization’s culture is ready to get in order and there’s buy-in across management. 

In a recent post, I explain the importance of this. Without initial executive buy-in and a clear understanding how learning can impact your business goals, your program is not set up for success. 

Today’s businesses spend upwards of $100 billion annually to train their workforces, though most are unable to prove their programs are making an impact. Why? This is because they never invested in alignment at the outset.

Seeking another perspective? Glad you asked!

In Chief Learning Officer, Bonnie Beresford shows a straightforward measurement map process

Beresford writes, “Stakeholders need to be sold on the value of the process, as they may traditionally come to L&D simply requesting new training programs. The intent of the measurement-mapping session is to align all parties around the business problem to be solved, determine what success would look like and explain how a learning intervention can support that.” 

If you do not have this critical foundation, learning-powered initiatives will always rest on a rocky footing.

A Focused Learning Solution Requires Focused Business Outcomes

Without clearly defined and measurable outcomes, there’s a minimal chance of designing a focused learning solution that truly benefits your business. 

Business outcomes describe the desired impact learning programs will make towards a company’s performance goals. They’re measurable and business unit (BU) leaders set these metrics. 

Take, for example, a field operations manager at a delivery and logistics company. It’s common that professionals in this role are seeking to: Reduce the number of customer complaints about damaged packages by ___%. 

As previously noted, it’s essential that you interact with departmental BU leaders to truly understand their challenges and what key performance indicators (KPIs) are important to their areas. By doing so, you will quickly understand how learning can help improve upon these metrics. Having established rapport with your colleagues and across the organization, this buy-in will enable you to get the support and resources necessary to implement a solution in a way that makes measuring its effectiveness possible. 

Prove the Value of Learning Programs to the Business

NOTE: You won’t be able to prove the return on investment (ROI) of your learning-powered initiatives until they're tied to business goals. Once learning is aligned with BUs’ primary KPIs, however, proving the value of your programs will get a healthy dose of transparency. 

It is often at the highest levels of the org chart that things go wrong for learning. Learning Ops beckons a cultural shift, where BU leaders and learning teams collaboratively solve to improve upon business outcomes. 

If you’d like to take a deeper dive into our 3-step framework, download our eBook                  “How Do You Actually Do Learning Ops?”


Download the eBook

About the Author

Richard Posluszny

Richard Posluszny oversees Northpass' marketing efforts. When Richard isn't spreading Northpass' gospel, he can be found driving something sporty, at an art gallery or learning more about American history.

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