In recent years, a growing number of organizations are rethinking their approach to learning and development (L&D). Historically, L&D has often been viewed as a cost center or siloed as a nice-to-have employee benefit, rather than a strategic driver of business results. This is largely due to the fact that many L&D programs are not aligned to organizational strategies and ultimately, fail to deliver on critical workforce outcomes.
Without a clear strategic plan for how L&D contributes to greater business goals, programs can easily become disorganized and unproductive. Implementing a learning governance model can help to support a strategic and consistent approach to L&D. Let’s discuss the benefits of learning governance and share how you can apply this concept to your L&D strategy to deliver more impactful learning experiences.
What is learning governance?
Learning governance encompasses policies, processes and structures that oversee and guide learning activities to ensure their effectiveness, alignment with organizational goals and compliance with regulations.
A learning governance policy enables your company to build a guiding framework that simplifies L&D decision-making. The exact elements included as part of this are organization-specific, so what yours looks like will depend largely on the unique needs of your business and workforce. Here are some examples to consider:
- Employee eligibility requirements for learning benefits
- Learning options and how often they’re revisited and evaluated
- If and when various tools should be cut, modified or introduced
- Success metrics for employee learning and development
Learning governance policies should extend to all aspects of L&D, including onboarding, high-potential employee programs, mentorship opportunities and other talent development initiatives.
The benefits of learning governance
Although the intended benefits of L&D are typically well understood, many people professionals still struggle to get buy-in for their programs from executive leadership. Learning can be viewed merely as an employee benefit that checks a box, rather than a strategic driver of business outcomes. This occurs for various reasons such as a lack of understanding of what successful learning should entail, learning taking place in silos or simply because it’s too difficult to measure learning progress or ROI.
The objective of learning governance is to combat these scenarios. Effective learning governance practices promote alignment between key organizational stakeholders and ensure that all learning initiatives directly tie back to business goals. The “guardrails” you establish as part of this exercise exist to promote clarity and consistency across all your L&D efforts so that no programs exist in a silo. Consequently, this puts you in a strong position to construct a persuasive case for L&D and obtain the necessary backing from essential stakeholders to secure buy-in.
An additional function of a learning governance framework is to provide you with guidance during times of change, allowing for smooth, well-grounded transitions. At the same time, it should also be designed to be flexible enough that it can evolve with your business.
What does learning governance look like in practice?
Understanding business priorities from a multi-departmental perspective is fundamental for an effective learning governance framework. In practice, this might mean forming a dedicated committee with key cross-functional stakeholders that are responsible for managing the learning governance and making strategic decisions based on it. They would be in charge of creating documentation, overseeing the budget, monitoring performance, as well as fielding new requests for changes to the L&D strategy.
Another core responsibility of your learning governance committee is understanding the different learning priorities for different business areas, and how learning is happening across the organization. The goal is to break down learning silos, while still ensuring the delivery of consistent company-wide learning experiences that make an impact. Remember that while company-wide standardization is the foundation, your framework should still allow for flexibility to meet the needs of each team and individual role.
For example, a lack of standardization across the company can lead to inconsistencies with different teams creating their own training strategies. In this scenario, effective learning governance would provide a set of guidelines that are to be followed across the entire organization. Then, equip individual teams with specific job-training resources.
How to use learning governance to up-level L&D
The process of developing a learning governance framework can also help you audit your existing L&D efforts to pinpoint what’s working and what might need to be revisited. Here’s how:
Take inventory of your existing learning tools and programs
Understanding the effectiveness of your current L&D strategy will give you a baseline to start from and allow you to develop your governance policy to support the components that are already working. At the same time, you can review what tools or programs are underperforming and determine how to integrate those findings into your governance framework.
Define learning governance objectives
What is the current state of your L&D strategy and where would you like it to be? What business objectives are being fulfilled and which areas are still lacking?
These are important questions you should ask as you develop objectives for your learning governance practices. Also keep in mind that on an individual level, every L&D program has its own goals.
What changes need to be made to your L&D strategy to support the above objectives? And how can you strategize them for maximum efficiency and efficacy?
Your learning governance framework will provide the most impact at this point as you work to cut or add solutions from and to your L&D toolkit, prioritize policy changes and set timelines. Following implementation, the framework can also serve as a guideline for steps to take if there are pain points revealed along the way.
Learning governance is not meant to be static
Your learning governance strategy is by no means static, although a well-constructed one can be a stabilizing force when your organization is undergoing necessary or inevitable updates.
Your organizational goals will change over time as some objectives are met or business priorities change. It’s necessary to update your learning objectives and strategies as targets shift. Without a learning governance structure in place, you run the risk of needing to completely dismantle the L&D programs you have in place to rebuild one better aligned with emergent goals. However, supported by a solid learning governance model, you can quickly and easily implement changes to support new business priorities.
Activating the power of learning governance
L&D programs possess significant strategic value for almost every company, but many may not be realizing their full potential. A learning governance framework provides the vital structure to effectively and efficiently organize, understand and address how to maximize your L&D.
To have the greatest impact, it’s essential to align L&D with organizational objectives and assess your learning governance model on an ongoing basis to ensure the best performance and productivity across each area of your organization.