Quality development programs are based on well-defined performance objectives. A performance objective is an action-oriented learning objective that focuses on what learners will be able to do with the learning when they are back on their jobs. One common mistake training departments make is building a program, or even an entire curriculum, that fails to link its performance objectives to the company’s objectives. This creates a situation in which the learners are developing skills, knowledge, and behaviors that don't align with areas senior management has determined are important for the future of the organization.
How can a training department build a development program that doesn’t align with organizational objectives?
While it may seem hard to believe, it’s relatively easy for misalignment to develop between an organization’s objectives and what the training department is delivering. This can happen especially if a training department gets stuck in a furious cycle of “flavor-of-the-month” training: each time a new learning solution enters the training market, the company adopts it without considering whether it aligns with the organization’s competencies, needs, culture, and budget.
In the pharmaceutical industry, "Challenger Selling" is an example of this misstep. There is nothing wrong with the Challenger approach to sales, except that it doesn’t fit the culture of every organization, nor is it designed for a market in which a sales representative calls on the same customer repeatedly. Challenger works best when applied to a one-time sale. Yet organizations signed up one after another to implement it, mostly because it was the fad and Challenger had an effective sales team (probably applying the Challenger model in a one-time sale).
Another common reason developmental programs don’t align with an organization’s objectives is that the organization and/or market have evolved, and the training department hasn't kept up. Even in the current, highly integrated healthcare market, some companies are still training their representatives to make the traditional pharma call, which assumes that the physician makes all the decisions about what is prescribed to a patient.
A third reason developmental programs can fail to align with the organization’s objectives is poor or nonexistent communication between the training department and other parts of the organization. When a training department operates in a silo and doesn’t routinely assess the needs of its learners or the company's marketing goals and operations, it can build irrelevant development programs that fail to drive results.
Creating Organizational Alignment
So the question is: How can training providers ensure that their performance objectives align with their organization’s objectives?
A training department can align with the organization by:
1. Establishing a routine performance objective review session.
Training teams often get so busy that they fail to assess whether their performance objectives are meeting the organization’s needs. One solution is to conduct an alignment session, perhaps in December before the new year starts, during which training leadership completes an in-depth assessment of the training curriculum and associated performance objectives to determine whether they align with the company’s objectives for the coming year. This session should include stakeholders from other areas and departments and, most important, senior leadership in the review process.
2. Building robust communication processes with senior management.
It’s easy to develop an isolationist or a subservient relationship with key stakeholders in the organization. A more effective approach is to establish a communication process or even embed trainers within key teams so you can hear stakeholders’ objectives and share the training department’s capabilities and resources.
3. Assessing the impact of performance objectives.
There is nothing more informative than unbiased data. If you have based your organization’s performance objectives on Bloom’s Taxonomy and carefully considered the design of your training, then you can build real ROI analysis into the training. These data can be a highly effective barometer of where to focus the learning.
4. Developing a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck, in her landmark New York Times bestselling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, says that the most successful students and people in other professions are people who have a growth mindset. This means they are open to and feel they can learn anything. Training departments need to adopt the same mindset. Trainers shouldn’t become so enamored by a piece of content that they fail to evolve the training to meet organizational needs.
Learning that doesn’t link to an organization's objectives is useless and a waste of precious resources. A good training team will constantly challenge itself to stay aligned with its company's objectives by establishing processes that work continuously to understand where the organization is going. Team members also work closely with learners to gain an understanding of what they need and assess the ROI of the training they are currently receiving. Cultivating a growth mindset within the training department will benefit the organization in many ways, but most important, it will drive results.