Alignment is one of five key factors in the success of any learning intervention (See blog post.). The learning tool, whether that is training, coaching, internship, etc., has maximum impact when it is aligned with the business priorities of an organization. Like the archer who must have clear sight from bow to target, learners (and other stakeholders) must be clear about how the learning intervention will help them hit the goal. For example, there is alignment when content and process of a diversity workshop contributes to attracting, retaining, and promoting all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, and background (assuming that is the organization’s goal).
Alignment is not static. The UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) studies the mechanisms that affect training, learning, and development of people in organizations. They drew this conclusion about alignment:
The pursuit of alignment gives a clear direction to learning, training and development and ensures that a drift away from the strategic priorities of the organisation does not occur…Alignment is both an outcome and a process. Alignment to a specific strategic or operational objective can be seen as an ‘outcome’ – something which is time-bound and measurable. On the other hand changes and developments in organisational priorities which occur in the fast-moving competitive environment in which many organisations operate means that alignment is also an ongoing process rather than a simple ‘one-off’ outcome.
According to the CIPD, it’s not enough to be able to describe the link between learning and results, one also needs to monitor and continuously improve this alignment over time and make adjustments as business priorities change.
Alignment is not about the training, per se, it’s about what the organization as a whole needs to do to ensure that learners contribute to achieving strategic priorities. If I work for a hotel, how is what I’m learning today going to contribute to an increased occupancy rate? If I work for a bank, how is what I’m learning today going to contribute to an increase in deposits? If I work for a furniture manufacturer, how is what I’m learning today going to contribute to increased sales of office systems? When learning is aligned with strategic priorities it’s more likely that important business goals will be achieved, operational performance will improve, time and money for learning will be used efficiently, and talent will be developed over the long term.