Learning Objectives Shouldn't Be About Learning

Explaining Why Learning Objectives Should Be Business-Oriented

Why do some learning experts enjoy overcomplicating things? Some recent misleading tweets got me thinking about the reasons why so many learning practitioners fail to connect to business results. How can they ensure accountability for their efforts?

Guess what! It doesn't have to be complicated to get your business leaders on your side. Rather than go into convoluted financial and business concepts, the simplest way to gain accountability is to develop operationally aligned learning objectives. Now, I'm not going to preach about what a learning objective is. That's something you already know well. In over 25 years of experience, however, I've only seen a handful of objectives addressing what they're meant to actually address and deliver business results... and not surprisingly, some of them are from the courses we develop.

Then, why are so many practitioners and Instructional Designers missing opportunities to use learning objectives to achieve business accountability? One unfortunate reason is that Instructional Designers aren't exposed to business issues. This is troubling and irresponsible. When people ask, "who in learning should learn about the business?", my answer is everyone; from the Instructional Designer to the CLO. But I digress.

Believe it or not, business leaders are desperate for what you offer. They know they need it. But like anything else, they expect value for what they are paying for. Now, you don't need to be a 'business expert' but you do need to prove you're adding value. Begin by conducting a needs/skills assessment to identify precise learning requirements leading to specific learning objectives.

Rest assured, and follow these 3 points which will help you to develop business-focused learning objectives in order to deliver performance results:

1. Know What's Important In Business

Learning practitioners are responsible to ensure that others learn, even if they often fail to practice what they preach. While many practitioners seek out developing their Learning and Development skills, it's human nature to avoid any unfamiliar topics. But your responsibility, as a learning practitioner in an organization, is to develop your business literacy.

Business literacy is simply about familiarizing yourself with relevant topics, especially those that are relevant to your leaders and the organization’s operational performance. Doing so helps you to align learning objectives to relevant business concerns.

Get familiar with financial and operational terminology and concepts reading my article What Business Leaders Expect Learning Practitioners To Know on eLearning Industry.

2. Know Your Organization's Business

Some will challenge this point, however, should learning practitioners expect accountability, then start by finding out what your organization is about and how it actually operates. Don't know where to start? Well, start by getting to know your organization's mission.

The mission and vision statements provide great insight into critical areas of focus requiring support from workplace learning. Any effort which is not in the line-of-sight of the mission doesn't add any value and is a waste of resources.

To overcome this troubling aspect, many learning practitioners have identified those business areas where learning will have an impact and they have later crafted learning objectives with this focus in mind.

Read the articles "The Business Leader's Bottom Line: Aligning Learning to Organizational Needs" [1] and "Building Strategic Learning Linkages: Mapping and Measuring Your Learning Strategy" [2] to learn how to align your organization's strategy.

3. Know Your Client's Operations

The strategy is the 'big picture' of what an organization wants to achieve. Having this in mind, you should become operational. Be proactive. Stop sitting in your office waiting for your internal clients to come to you; get up; get out, and get to know your clients' operations and performance expectations.

Review the organizational and departmental performance framework since it outlines value-added activities, relationships among the primary perspectives, and most importantly, Key Performance Objectives (KPIs).

Collaborate with the operational leader and discover the performance metrics you can improve. This allows you to create more targeted learning objectives and design a course to precisely address those specific learning needs.

Read the articles Stop Taking Orders; Start Being An Operational Partner! and "9 Ways to Get Business Leaders to Buy-in to Your Learning Efforts" [3] about being performance-ready.

Learning objectives should never be about what a person learns; it should be about what the person will be able to do in the future. The operative word is 'objective'. If you want to impress your business leaders and prove their confidence is well placed, then develop learning objectives with a business and performance focus. Follow these 3 points, and your leaders and employees will look forward to your efforts.

If what I've said intrigues you, please, contact me. I'd enjoy hearing about your efforts and who knows? It may be the topic of my next eLearning Industry article. And please check out my LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility. Remember, #alwaysbelearning!


[1] The Business Leader's Bottom Line: Aligning Learning to Organizational Needs (http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/trainingindustry/tiq_2014winter/index.php?startid=35#/34)

[2] Building Strategic Learning Linkages: Mapping and Measuring Your Learning Strategy (http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/trainingindustry/tiq_2013winter/index.php#/34)

[3] 9 Ways to Get Business Leaders to Buy-in to Your Learning Efforts (https://trainingindustry.com/magazine/issue/9-ways-to-get-business-leaders-to-buy-in-to-your-learning-efforts/)