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Cathy Hoy


CEO and Co-founder

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Mastering business alignment: A strategic guide for today’s chief learning officers

Cathy Hoy provides a detailed business alignment guide for Chief Learning Officers.
yellow and purple flower field

As the role of chief learning officers (CLOs) continues to evolve, mastering business alignment has become a crucial aspect of their strategic playbook. By ensuring that learning and development initiatives align with overall business goals, CLOs can create a synergy that drives both individual and organisational growth. 

The importance of business alignment

The importance of business alignment cannot be overstated. By aligning L&D initiatives with business objectives, organisations can ensure that their training programs are directly contributing to their strategic goals.  The alignment justifies the investment in training and helps organisations identify the specific skills and knowledge their employees need to drive business success. Today more than ever, organisations need to be agile and responsive to change. This requires a strategic alignment between all areas of the business, including its learning and development initiatives. 
What CLO doesn’t want that?
Aligning L&D initiatives with business objectives ensures that training programmes are not just an isolated activity (or a ‘nice to have’), but a strategic driver of organisational success.  When training is directly linked to business goals, it become a powerful tool for achieving those objectives. This alignment transforms L&D from a cost centre into a strategic asset that contributes to the bottom line. What CLO doesn’t want that? 

Align for investment in  training

Business alignment also helps justify the investment in training. In times of budget cuts and financial scrutiny, being able to demonstrate the direct impact of L&D on business outcomes can secure essential funding for training initiatives.  With clear alignment, CLOs can effectively communicate the return on investment of their initiatives to stakeholders, securing their support and commitment. Additionally, business alignment can help organisations identify the specific skills and knowledge their employees need to drive business success.  By aligning training with strategy, CLOs can ensure that their teams are equipped with the right competencies to navigate the challenges of the business landscape. This alignment enables organisations to proactively address skills gaps, improve performance, and stay competitive in their industry.
regular conversation isn’t happening like it did a few years ago

Understanding the business strategy

To successfully align L&D with the business strategy, L&D leaders must first have a deep understanding of the organisation's strategic goals. This involves regular communication with other senior leaders to gain insights into the direction of the business and the challenges it faces. It also requires a keen understanding of the industry landscape and the macro-economic factors that can influence business performance.


L&D leaders need to engage in regular conversations with other senior leaders in the organisation. This allows them to gain insights into the direction of the business, its strategic priorities, and the challenges it faces.  Regular discussions with leaders from different functions can provide a holistic view of the organisation's strategy and how it is expected to evolve over time. This sounds obvious but these days with so much remote working, regular conversation isn’t happening like it did a few years ago, we need to make a conscious effort to keep conversations going.  I’ve recently read a great book by Sara Hope, ‘Conversational Wisdom’, which I’d highly recommend. 


Understanding the business strategy involves keeping abreast of the broader industry landscape.  CLOs should stay informed about industry trends, competitor activities, and macro-economic factors that can influence business performance. This can help them anticipate changes in the business environment and adjust their L&D strategy accordingly.


Learning Leaders need to comprehend the organisation's business model and value proposition. Knowing how the organisation creates, delivers, and captures value can highlight the critical capabilities required for business success. This knowledge can guide the development of training programs that enhance these capabilities. Understanding the business strategy is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. It demands continuous learning, active engagement with other leaders, and a keen sense of curiosity about the business environment.  With a deep understanding of the business strategy, CLOs can ensure that their L&D initiatives support the organisation's strategic objectives and drive competitive advantage.

Translating strategy into action

Once the business strategy is understood, the next step is to translate it into actionable learning objectives. This involves identifying the skills and knowledge gaps that exist within the organisation and designing training initiatives that address these gaps. For example, if a company's strategy is to expand into new markets, the CLO might identify a need for training in cultural competence and language skills. Similarly, if a company is planning to adopt new technology, the CLO might recognise a need for training in specific technical skills.
The emergence of AI has amplified the urgency
We’re currently seeing a significant number of L&D leaders focusing in on skills gap analysis, developing skills matrices, and trying to project future skills requirements within their organisations.  The emergence of AI has amplified the urgency of these tasks. Learning leaders need to start this process with their organisations sooner rather than later to ensure their organisations are not left behind. 

Measuring success

Evaluating the effectiveness of L&D initiatives is a crucial component of business alignment. Without precise metrics, it becomes challenging to ascertain whether the training programmes are making a meaningful contribution towards achieving business objectives.  Hence, it's the role of the CLOs to define clear, quantifiable metrics that can measure the impact of these initiatives.
the role of the CLO is more strategic than ever
To begin with, CLOs should align the measures of success for L&D initiatives with the key performance indicators (KPIs) of the business. This might include metrics related to productivity, sales, customer satisfaction, or any other aspect pertinent to the organisation's strategic goals. By doing so, we can demonstrate how L&D initiatives contribute directly to business performance. CLOs should also consider using learning-specific metrics such as knowledge retention rates, skill acquisition rates, and application of learned skills on the job. These metrics can provide rich insights into the effectiveness of the training programs themselves and help identify areas for improvement. Today, the role of the CLO is more strategic than ever. By mastering business alignment, CLOs can ensure that their L&D initiatives are driving business success and creating a culture of continuous learning and development…and more importantly ‘performance’!

Interested in this topic? Read Five ways to get strategic as a new chief learning officer

Author Profile Picture
Cathy Hoy

CEO and Co-founder

Read more from Cathy Hoy

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