End of year begins a heavy planning period for many of our clients – quarterly planning, annual planning, strategic 3-5 year planning, and sometimes beyond. Leaders and teams will sometimes be so focused on building the great plans and execution steps for operational success that they miss a key component of alignment. As we dive headlong into planning, and soon executing, a new year, there are plenty of unknowns related to the business and economic climates.
Don’t forget to plan for the ongoing training and development of your people.
Whether an entrepreneur, business owner, or business leader, you already have an investment in the training and development of staff – and therefore, a business obligation to discover ways to be more effective, successful and, of course, cost-conscious in training and developing your team.
While developing your long range plans, ask yourself, “What can I focus on this year to accomplish the company goals and also to ensure that team members are developed well enough to be ready for the business situations that will follow?” Answering this question will further ensure alignment when you reach your future destination. Leaders who fail to take into account new skills and development needed to handle the business plan they developed will ultimately have to invest “catch up” time and money in replacing or retraining team members to be productive. To avoid this, consider team member roles and responsibilities that will be needed for your dream to be realized, weighed carefully against the current skills of your team members.
My consistent experience is that training programs were often seen as an optional component to the human resources budget and were usually the first to be cut when finances got tight or the economy appeared rocky. You might agree that training and development initiatives are vital to your team. You might create the budget for accomplishment. I would add that it will rarely be money well spent unless the programs are focused on results with their objectives clearly mapped to organizational priorities, strategy, or BHAG. This alignment is the only way to justify the investment.
To see a better ROI in 2014 for your training efforts – and more alignment of skills and direction – take the advice of Stephen Covey, leadership guru: "It is always vital to connect training programs and leadership development to the company's initiatives and strategies. And the struggle you face is making that connection clear and explicit."
Execute in 2014 with an eye toward implementing useful training and development programs AND giving careful consideration to the most appropriate programs tied to core business strategy. Answer these four questions as part of your Thinking Rhythm in the Think-Plan-Do process:
1) Do you have core purpose and values that team members can recite?
Be honest with yourself, and if you have any doubt, ask participants at your next meeting to write it down. Once written, compile the answers and clarify any misunderstandings. This is critical to complete alignment.
2) Display your strategy and plans for 2014.
If using Rhythm, work from the strategy section, if not, use a big screen, projector, whiteboard, or chart. Discuss with your team whether they align with your 3-5 year Plan, BHAG, Brand Promise, and Winning Moves. Correct any misalignment.
3) List all the training you invested in last year.
If possible, list them along with any post-training outcomes. Include "free" training from your vendors and partners (if it doesn't pass step 4, it's not really free).
4) Compare your strategy to these training investments.
Do they match up? Are the training efforts directly backing up your strategy? If not, adjust for better alignment in 2014.
Have Your Leadership Team Align Training to Company Strategy
Course mapping is a simple yet useful tool for determining whether your company’s training and development programs are addressing your strategies. In essence, a course map consists of a table with two axis, one pertaining to tangible strategies or plans and the other to training/development programs. See the graphic.
Have your department leaders work through a course map to stimulate discussion. You could further drive this in your company by asking participants to create their own course map before your meeting, and then work through it as a group. The individual course maps could be compiled to create a macro-scale view of how the current training and development is aligned with your strategy and direction … from the view of those you wish to align.
Go Start the Conversation
To begin, start the conversation of learning outcomes with a review of your BHAG, 3-5 Year Key Thrusts, and your Winning Moves. This process should help generate a comprehensive list of ideas and suggestions for learning outcomes that can then be refined and narrowed while ultimately aligning growth and development with strategy. Review and revise the list of learning outcomes as needs arise or business strategy changes. Following these steps ensures that you aren’t missing a key component of business alignment, and will create (or sustain) momentum towards strategy. I invite your comments and success stories below.