Strategy, Alignment, and Training (Part 1 of 2)

January 7, 2010

It’s no surprise to trainers that aligning strategic plans with training plans makes sense; the real news is that the London-based Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) released nearly two years ago remains as fresh today as when it was written. It includes a detailed factsheet which, through a series of links imbedded in the text, serves as an easy-to-read primer useful to trainers, learners, and anyone else interested in effectively linking strategic planning with training.

Among the key elements in “Aligning learning to the needs of the organization,” written by Valerie Anderson (Principal Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Portsmouth Business School) and released in January 2008, is the reminder that “(l)earning, training and development professionals…need to work in partnership with senior managers, line managers and learners” to provide learning opportunities which are aligned with business needs as well as with individual learners’ career development needs. It’s a simple concept with little room for argument—so simple, in fact, that it often is forgotten as we all concentrate on resolving the short-term crisis du jour. Long-range planning, unfortunately, remains a sporadic-at-best process for many and results in strategic plans which sit, unused, on shelves or intranet sites—until they are retrieved as templates for the next strategic plan.

There’s a roadmap here. Anderson, in a section entitled “Implication for learning and development professionals,” offers a list of skills needed by training and learning professionals interested in long-term impacts: “developing a strategic understanding of the organization”; “clarifying the operational priorities that are important to line mangers in different parts of the organization”; “working effectively as part of a management team”; and “assessing the extent to which ‘year-on-year’ learning and training processes maintain a close fit with organizational strategic priorities”—items usually left to managers, supervisors, and other administrators rather than to the trainer-learners who implement staff training programs.

The beauty of Anderson’s CIPD report is that it offers ammunition for trainers and administrators supportive of all-inclusive, consistent, long-term training programs to meet their organization’s interrelated business and staff career-development needs. The essential corollary is that training is planned and implemented at all levels within an organization, not just by training directors or a small group of administrators—a tall order for contemporary libraries and nonprofits, where it is all too common for everyone to have multiple responsibilities and too little time to do more than respond to each in all but the most cursory way.

“Alignment,” Anderson concludes, “is a process rather than a singular outcome,” and the training which leads to alignment has to come from line managers as well as from those with overall responsibility for managing staff training.

N.B.: An earlier version of this article was originally posted on Infoblog.

Next: Preparing Line Managers to be Effective Trainers

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