Happy New Year to all readers! I hope you have found past blogs helpful and will continue to read and share your thoughts and experiences.

This is a good time for a little reflection about the state of the industry. Most of us, I think, would agree that the industry is not where it should be in terms of running learning (or HR more broadly) like a business. By this I mean aligning learning initiatives to key business goals, setting specific measurable goals for learning programs and executing these programs with discipline to ensure the planned impact is achieved.

There are many reasons for falling short, but I think one that we must confront is the role of learning leaders themselves. Here I am talking about the CLO or vice president of training. Often these leaders do not have any experience running a business and they have not been taught how to do it. Moreover, their leaders (SVP of HR, CFO, CEO) often have such low expectations for learning that they do not demand
more of the CLO or the training function. Consequently, learning is often not seen as a valued, strategic business partner.

To correct this, many learning leaders need to go out of their way to learn about running learning like a business. There are books (see below) and workshops, and in many cases, a senior leader in their organization might be willing to help them if they just asked. They also need to take ownership of alignment, goal setting, attribution of expected and actual impact of learning on business goals, and the monthly reporting required to run learning like a business.

This is critical work that cannot be delegated to direct reports and the measurement group. The CLO must be intimately involved and work hand-in-hand with his or her direct reports as well as the measurement group. It is not enough that someone generates numbers each month. The CLO must personally lead the process of alignment, goal setting and disciplined execution. (In my consulting, the primary reason for failed initiatives to run learning more like a business, including measurement and evaluation initiatives, is lack of personal, sustained engagement by the CLO.)

For more, see the books below and check out Talent Development Reporting Principles (TDRp), an initiative I am involved with to develop principles, standards and guidance for the internal reporting of HR initiatives, especially learning. TDRp facilitates all the critical elements of running learning like a
business, including recommended report formats. See CenterforTalentReporting.org, which is the home of TDRp.

Recommended books on running learning like a business:
Running Training Like a Business by David van Adelsberg and Edward Trolley (The first
book I read when I became CLO).
The Business of Learning: How to Manage Corporate Training to Improve Your Bottom Line by David Vance (My book, what can I say).
The Chief Learning Officer by Tamar Elkeles and Jack Phillips (Same general message but different perspective. Tamar is CLO at Qualcomm).
Strategic Learning Alignment by Rita Smith (Focus on alignment. Rita is CLO at Ingersoll
Rand).

David Vance

David Vance

David Vance is the former president of Caterpillar University, which he founded in 2001. Until his retirement in January 2007, he was responsible for ensuring that the right education, training and leadership were provided to achieve corporate goals and efficiently meet the learning needs of Caterpillar and dealer employees. Before this position, Vance was chief economist and manager of the business intelligence group at Caterpillar Inc., with responsibility for economic outlooks, sales forecasts, market research, competitive analysis and business information systems. He now consults with organizations on learning and performance issues, with a focus on launching corporate universities and designing effective strategies for managing the learning function, including alignment, governance and measurement. His firm is Manage Learning LLC. Vance was named 2006 CLO of the Year by Chief Learning Officer magazine. He also was named 2004 Corporate University Leader of the Year by the International Quality and Productivity Council in its annual Corporate University Best In Class Awards. In October 2010, Vance published The Business of Learning: How to Manage Corporate Training to Improve Your Bottom Line. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
David Vance

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