JoinDrPamLast month I spoke at the CLO Exchange, held on Coronado Island off of San Diego in southern California. A beautiful venue for a thought-provoking gathering of Chief Learning Officers and other learning professionals from around the country.

One of my messages was the importance of expanding beyond our functional expertise as learning professionals, to integrate best practices from other disciplines. Every function or discipline approaches problem solving through a particular lens, and often the solution can be found by simply switching lenses.

The case study I shared was about integrating marketing principles as learning professionals. I find that many learning and development practitioners struggle with how to get buy-in or support from the business leaders with whom they work for the portfolio of learning and development programs and services they offer. What is the ROI? How can we measure the outcomes? In a resource constrained world, both financial and human, business leaders are appropriately challenging their learning organizations as to the value of a leadership development workshop, or the rotational program for high performing talent. The natural tendency is to respond by defending the proposed workshop, to justify the cost of the rotational program, and to attempt to quantify the value of work that is inherently qualitative and difficult to measure. As an aside, I advocate for measuring business outcomes not the learning program, and linking the business outcomes back to the learning. But this is a topic for another blog posting…

Rather than falling into a trap of defending and justifying each workshop and program, what can we learn by looking through the lens of the marketing professional. Marketing teaches us the power of a brand. A strong brand equals a strong reputation. If you can build and a sustain a strong brand, the challenge of defending and justifying each individual program is lessened. When you lay out the value proposition through the branding process, and develop a strong reputation for delivering value, you may not have to quantify the value of every step that you take.

Don’t, however, think that a brand is just a cute logo and a catchy tagline. The brand also includes the quality of the work that you produce. Properly packaged under a brand with a strong value proposition, the impact of good quality work can be magnified.

So my argument is that those of us delivering services to the business from enabling functions like HR, where Organization Development and learning professionals like me often sit in the marketing. Another presenter at the CLO Exchange advocated for the need for marketing professionals to learn from technology experts. So by the transitive properly, I guess that means HR also need to integrate the power of technology. Again, a topic for another blog posting…

What problem can you solve by simply switching lenses?