When deciding how to spend your learning investments, consider what the CEO cares about. In broad terms, the CEO wants grow the business and make it more efficient. In very specific terms, it mean increasing revenue and reducing costs. Simple, right? The problem is, we learning and development professional are often turned off by talk of profitability, choosing to believe we have a higher purpose to improve people effectiveness. However, our only reason for improving people effectiveness is to grow the business and make it more efficient.

David Vance, in a Chief Learning Officer blog post, takes a very practical approach to the issue of prioritizing learning investments. He suggests scheduling a meeting with the CEO to find out his or her top three goals. Once you know the CEO’s top three goals, learning professional can structure offerings to help achieve those top goals and those goals only. Anything not tied directly to one of these measures should be eliminated from your to do list. Once again, simple, right?

I am sure your “to-do list” is long – too long, unimaginably long – so why not streamline it? Focus your efforts on only the key initiatives that will help the business grow or become more efficient. When and if you have budget money left over, then spend time developing other training. But until then, focus your efforts. “Great advice, but I don’t have access to the CEO,” you say. “What should I do?”

If Not the CEO, Then Who?

David Vance suggests meeting with the CEO. If you don’t have access to the CEO, read the annual report of your company and find out what the CEO is saying about the direction of the business. Talk to the head of your division/department and find out what the top three department goals are. Structure your learning initiatives to help achieve those goals and those goals only. In other words, you want to make their goals your goals.

Communicate It

Make it known to everyone who will listen that you will only implement learning initiatives that directly help the business grow or become more efficient. Then, focus on making that happen. Communicate that every chance you get. When you write your learning and development team goals, make them look like the business goals and then publish them where ever you can. For example, if the business wants to increase sales per rep, make one of your goals to increase sales per rep. If that is your goal, you will work harder to create programs that increase sales per rep. If you can achieve this goal, the business will beat down your door every time they need help growing the business.

Keep it Simple

Aligning learning goals to the business does not have to be complicated. In fact, it can be quite simple. Learn what the business cares about and then help the business achieve it. Most likely, what the business cares about is growing the business and making the organization more efficient. Here are a few key business terms with which you must be familiar.

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