Is Your Learning Center a Rainmaker or a Money Pit?

Glasses and a cup of coffee resting next to a newspaper on a white table

Have you been struggling to think of ways to communicate the value of your corporate learning program to senior management? “Transforming Learning into a Strategic Business Enabler”, a webinar hosted recently by HCM Advisory group, is full of advice on how to do just that.

The discussion was about how learning centers can better align themselves with their companies to “achieve learning that lasts and reach new levels of performance.” They presented the results of a survey they’d conducted of over 600 learning executives. It was an enlightening State of the Industry report, full of useful ideas for learning centers across a wide range of industries. Their whitepaper is available to download, but I’ve compiled a two-part review of the webinar.

Strategic Business Enablers: the What and the Why

The HCM Advisory Group has identified the three main ways companies tend to view their learning department’s role in their business: as a Strategic Enabler, a Costly Contributor, or a Cost Center. Costly Contributors and Cost Centers are defined in terms of how much money they cost, but Strategic Enablers are viewed in terms of how much value they add. As a department, you want to make sure that the learning center is known for its positive impact on the business. Getting C-suite leaders to buy in to your mission is crucial to playing a role in the strategic vision of the company.

Advocating for Long-Term Strategy in an Immediate Gratification World

The trouble with getting that buy-in is that organizations generally do not respond well to the prospect of deferred gratification. Senior management can be reluctant to invest in learning if there’s no clear payoff.

This wariness towards company-wide learning programs can be reflected in many ways: allocation of funds, cooperation from mid-level management, even the department’s reporting structure. (According the HCM’s research, the program’s perceived value correlates to whether learning executives report to the CEO or the Chief Human Resources Officer. Guess which one a Strategic Enabler is more likely to report to?)

Your CEO has a vision for where the company needs to go. As learning executives, you should be a part of developing the strategic roadmap that will take the business there. If you’re not proactively involved in the process, you’ll be boxed into a reactive role and left to get by on scraps of the company’s resources, like funds or employees’ time.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The report on current conditions faced by learning centers paints a somewhat daunting picture of the challenges facing the industry. Luckily, HCM also offered tons of actionable ideas meant to help your department align with business strategy and demonstrate value, eventually evolving into a Strategic Enabler instead of languishing in the Cost Center zone. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this review!


(Image source: trophygeek's Flickr)