Jim Kirkpatrick, Wendy Kirkpatrick, Don Kirkpatrick, Kirkpatrick Partners

August 6, 2014

Learning and performance professionals must catch the ear of business stakeholders in order to establish and build partnerships that will allow them to create collaborative plans to maximize business impact.

If you have been proactive and fortunate enough to secure a meeting with your stakeholders, what did you talk to them about, and in whose language? What was the outcome?

Do you need to learn how to speak with the business in a way that will have them opening their calendars to schedule the next appointment instead of shaking their heads as they dismiss you from the room?

As in most other fields, the field of training and development has its unique jargon and language. Training professionals discuss ideas such as skills gaps and competencies and find excitement in comparing pre-test and post-test scores to look for differences. But does this mean anything to a department manager or a CEO? Probably not.

Imagine struggling for months to secure a meeting with key business stakeholders, only to have them become confused, aggravated, and generally dissatisfied when you start talking about competency management, consumptive metrics, and the like.

The first step in establishing credibility with business partners is to refrain from doing much speaking at all. Instead, ask a few key questions that will encourage business stakeholders to discuss their ultimate goals and what they consider to be most important. Then sit back and hear what they have to say, listening for the true needs behind their requests and complaints.

Once they have given you this valuable information and it is your turn to chime in, use common words they will understand. Your role is to support them in reaching their highest level goals, even if this is accomplished using a solution that is not training related; do not make it your job to teach them training jargon or the theories behind learning and development. Speak in their terms. How is their team performing? Are there any problems? What traits does the ideal employee for this position possess?

Speaking the language of the business can require practice and is only one step in the process of becoming a true strategic business partner. For more guidance, consider taking the Kirkpatrick® Strategic Evaluation Planning Certification Programour next program is live-online October 13, 2021.

Don’t have time to take a class right now? Check out our book Bringing Business Partnership to Life.

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