Alignment requires consistency

08 May
May 8, 2014

In the third of my series of posts focusing on what makes an aligned L&D function, I’ll be looking at the second of the three key components – consistency.

Consistency

According to Dictionary.com one definition of consistency is: “Steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.: There is consistency in his pattern of behaviour.

For the purposes of alignment, there are two key factors that make up consistency, which are:

  1. If you’ve said something is important – clarity – then do you keep reiterating this in a continual and consistent manner or do you ‘change your tune’ every once in a while?
  2. If something is important, and you’ve reiterated this on a consistent basis, are your actions also consistent with what’s important, or do you happily say one thing and do another?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been in organisations where someone tells us how important customers are to our success.  There may be a real focus on customer care programmes and other ‘customer initiatives’ but then perhaps after a few weeks the tune changes to one where ‘cost saving is king’ or ‘sales is the future of our success’.  This is where there’s no consistency of message.  One client I worked for set out some clear focus areas back in 2006.  It’s now 2014 and those focus areas are still being used today – this demonstrates real consistency of message.

Keeping the message going is one thing but consistency is also about ensuring that all planned activities and interventions that will be delivered via the L&D function are consistent with what’s important for the business.  Let’s look at this in a little more detail.

Let’s suppose that the strategy process has identified that a business needs to do three key things:

  1. drive sales for all consumer products,
  2. reduce operating costs for contact centres,
  3. recruit one hundred high-calibre engineering graduates.

The business would naturally expect the L&D function to be involved in responding to the above in an appropriate manner.  Some of the planned interventions may include:

  • additional sales training for all staff working with consumer products,
  • analysis of contact centres to identify opportunities for rationalisation, which may include changes to processes or increased training for staff, and
  • partnering with appropriate universities to secure early identification of suitable graduates.

There would be many more interventions you could develop to address the issues above, but I’m sure you get the picture.  As long as your proposed interventions are seen to be consistent with the needs of the business, then all’s well.

However, the L&D function may have decided to develop interventions such as:

  • outward bound courses,
  • drumming workshops,
  • team building workshops for contact centre staff,
  • social media recruitment for arts and humanities graduates.

If the above interventions are implemented then the business will rightly think that the L&D function does not fully understand the key issues and is proposing to deliver interventions that are inconsistent with its focus and direction.  Remember, if a business sees its L&D function operating in a manner that is inconsistent with the overall goals of the business, it will think they are misaligned.  It’s therefore critical that all activities, interventions and efforts are consistent with the needs of the business.  Anything else is a failure.

Conclusion

Although the first step to achieve alignment is all about gaining clarity and an understanding of what’s important to the business, if L&D don’t supply appropriate learning solutions then there is no consistency, and without consistency there is just a good message and no clear follow through – which means no alignment.

Call to action

In my first post on alignment I asked you to take some time to review your organisation’s strategy – hopefully you’ve done that.  Now assess your current L&D activities and check if they are consistent with the needs of the business. Are they aligned and do they help deliver the strategy – and if not, why not?

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