The Kirkpatricks recently addressed this question — Should you isolate the impact of training? — in their weekly newsletter and advised against it. While I agree with Jim and Wendy on many things, in this case I must disagree. They argue that it is important to align your learning to organizations goals so that your business partners will have a vested interest in the training. And, because you are well aligned to their goals and “working as a team toward the same desired outcomes, adopting a silo mentality and attempting to isolate any one function’s contribution becomes counterproductive.”
I wholeheartedly support their emphasis on aligning training to company goals and developing a strong partnership with business leaders, especially the owners of the goals which will be supported by the training. And I agree that it must be a team effort to deliver true impact. After all, you can develop incredible training, but if it is not applied, it will have no effect and only the goal owners (such as the senior vice president of sales) can ensure that their employees apply the training. So, strong sponsorship and reinforcement by owners are critical. Further, if I had to choose between strong partnership with goal owners and isolating the impact of training, if I could do only one or the other, I would choose strong partnership.
But why do we have to choose between the two? Why can’t we do both? I believe an upfront discussion with the goal owner on the planned isolated impact of learning will lead to an even stronger partnership and better plans for reinforcement.
Imagine a discussion with the SVP of sales where you agree upfront that it would be reasonable from a planning perspective for training, by itself, to contribute 3 percent higher sales. Then you discuss what it will take from both of you, working in partnership, to deliver that 3 percent increase. What will you have to do and what will the SVP of sales have to do (like ensure the appropriate employees take the training and then apply the appropriate reinforcement to ensure they actually apply it)? Agreeing on isolated planned impact upfront sharpens the focus of the discussion and provides a SMART goal for both of you. I would contend that this is entirely consistent with the Kirkpatrick approach to start with the end in mind, where the end is the planned impact of training on the goal.
In conclusion, I reject the notion that an upfront discussion (or an after-the-fact review) of training’s isolated impact is inconsistent with building a strong partnership with senior leaders. I actually believe it can bring additional clarity and focus to the discussion and the relationship. I do, however, strongly agree with the Kirkpatricks that you should avoid a “silo” mentality where you plan and execute the training without establishing a partnership with the business. I also agree that the training function alone can seldom deliver impact. It must be done in partnership, and then both can take credit for mutually delivering the planned (isolated) impact of training.