Six principles to deliver business value with your learning programs

• 7 min read

Success looks different to everyone. To me, it looks like my learners achieving their goals and hitting their numbers. In Docebo’s recent webinar, How to enable business value with L&D, we asked “what does success look like to you?” 

Answers ranged from “delivering performance for my business” to “ROI” to “Observing a change in behavior.” 

Delivering on business value with our learning programs is the holy grail of L&D, but there’s a lot that can hold us back. For me, it’s rapid change within Docebo. We innovate quickly, which means it’s easy for me to become a change manager and miss out on strategic initiatives and their impact. Others said budget, resources, and time. 

Regardless of what is holding you back from delivering business value, there are principles that we can apply to enable our learners and our business to be more effective. 

A full recording of this webinar is available to watch now. And if you only have time for the highlights, we’ve got you covered below.

The challenges of our L&D Reality

If budget, resources, time and change all resonated with you—you are not alone. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Learning at work 2023 survey report has a few findings that stand out:

  • L&D is feeling the pressure
    Just over half (53%) of L&D professionals agree: Although resources have rebounded or increased from last year, overall workloads have increased, too. 
  • Learner time is precious…and in short supply
    The biggest barrier for L&D professionals is none other than the lack of learner time, identified by 42% of survey respondents, beating out lack of engagement 41% and limited budgets 36% as the most pressing issue. 
  • We’re only human!
    While superpowers like omniscience would be amazing, we’re not superhuman. We’re learning, too. New technologies, new best practices…it’s hard to keep up. L&D capability is also a concern for 15% of respondents. 

So the pressure is on to make sure we understand our stakeholder needs, design for impact, ensure engagement and prove that the investment is worth it. 


The allures (and pitfalls) of (new) tech

So what should an organization do to tackle these challenges? As tempting as it can be, tech alone will not save you. Recent advancements, especially in AI, certainly make it seem sensible to go all-in on technology. But watch out! My co-host, Laura Overton (Co-Founder of Learning Change Makers), put it well: “In all the studies that I have done…technology has never once correlated back to business impact. But how we use it absolutely does make a difference. [Technology] is our enabler, not our saviour.” This absolutely resonates with my own experience and research: Technology gets us so far, but we make the difference. 


Here’s what will work to drive business impact

Moving from a transactional model for L&D to driving performance and a high performing learning culture takes time. Let’s turn to the six tested-and-true principles that Laura found through her 35 years of experience as a learning analyst.

When these six principles all work together, they correlate to better business impact in L&D.

But (here’s the important part!), we must understand that these principles need to be tackled in succession. Thankfully, Laura has divided these principles into three distinct areas, each at a different stage of your learning program development cycle to help us understand how we can deliver on the promise of impactful change. The steps are deceptively simple, but when people reflect on the behaviors behind them, we find that we don’t apply them as consistently as we think. 

We’re going to go through each stage and give you a list of questions to reflect on your own practices for each principle. Many of these questions come from the Learning Performance Benchmark, which Laura helped develop.  


Getting Ready: Three principles to prepare your program

These three principles help us start our programs off on the right foot, considering what success looks like for the business and impacted learners before we start building. 

Have you ever had someone come to you and say “we need training about…”? They usually have complete conviction as they request a training program for something that should…be an email? Or a process change? This step helps us ensure we’re working on things that will actually make an impact. 

The key takeaway in this part: Take the time to get yourself ready. 

Principle 1: Align to the Business

  • “Are you able to be responsive to the changes in your business?” 
  • “Do you identify actions that employees need to take for business outcomes to be achieved?” 
  • “What does success look like to the business?” 

Principle 2: Listen to Individuals

  • “Do you understand what individuals need to do or are trying to achieve?” 
  • “Are you using data to uncover that?” 
  • “Do you understand their motivation? Their career aspirations?” 
  • “What does success look like to learners? managers? leaders? you?” 

Principle 3: Influence and be aware of the environment around you

  • “To what extent are you working with your line managers?” 
  • “Are you building relationships with your business stakeholders and learners?” 

Now, real talk. I’m the first to admit that I fall to the pressures and don’t apply these 100% of the time or as effectively as I could. That’s okay. (Not great for my ego, but okay!) Time is usually what gets me. If scaling or time are concerns for you: Start doing this with your most strategic programs first and then once you feel the benefit of changing your own process, it will get easier to incorporate these principles into more programs – as if you were building muscle memory. 


The middle stage: Respond with impact

Naturally, the next step is to respond. For many of us this is where we tend to start and we end up with a cart before the horse kind of situation, but if we’re well prepared we’ll be ready to respond in a way that is impactful because we know what success should look like.  Let’s look at the two principles that speak to our ability to build learning programs that can drive performance. 

Principle 4: Capabilities for L&D 

When it comes down to creating impact, our own skill sets play a huge role. They influence how we design, collaborate, encourage practice and reflection, repetition, application, sharing, etc. Building a powerful program is not just about creating great content, it’s about shifting behaviours through holistic design strategies. Learning is not just a single moment in time – it’s ongoing. Leveraging our own capabilities to develop the capabilities of our learners is key.  

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • “Do you incorporate new media in your learning design?” 
  • “Does your organization encourage and provide time for reflection?” 

Courtesy of Laura Overton, Learning Changemakers

Principle 5: Engage

We also need the ability to connect and engage. Not just to make sure that learners are engaging with and completing the content – but how are they using it when the training is over? 

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • “Do you include activities that help employees practice desired outcomes?” 
  • “Do you equip line managers with resources to help their teams?” 
  • “How do we use technology to support engagement?” 
  • “Are you creating opportunities to develop relationships / networks?” 


The final stage: Revisit your program

“L&D maturity is not just about understanding what’s needed and responding appropriately,” Laura said. “It’s also how we revisit our work and reflect.”

Principle 6 – Improve

Once your program is launched and running, it’s about creating an ongoing relationship with the organization to ensure business success. More importantly, it’s about doing something about it if it’s not working out as planned. 

Here are some questions to consider: 

  • “Do you use performance data to measure the impact of your learning program?” 
  • “Do you revisit your program for continuing relevance with business stakeholders?” 
  • “Do you leverage data analytics to improve the services that you deliver?” 


How these principles work in action

So, with all these principles in place, what should success look like? Laura did a lot of the heavy lifting in this webinar, but I had the pleasure of sharing a program that we built here at Docebo as an example. Last year, we scoped and launched a career transition program, targeted at business development representatives (BDRs) interested in becoming a part of our Account Executive Team.

Using (mostly by accident) the six principles, here’s how we built a successful career transition program: 

Get ready: 

  1. Aligned with the needs of business stakeholders in terms of whether or not this program could help them solve their problems. In this case, we could help BDR managers have better career development conversations and create a talent pipeline for sales leaders. 
  2. Listened to the learners and identified their and goals for their careers. 
  3. Influenced through relationships we build with stakeholders and learners. 
  4. Identified success metrics for everyone involved: BDRs, BDR Managers, AE Leaders. (Getting hired, reducing attrition, strong performance upon hire) 


  1. Built a program designed to enhance BDR capabilities in their current & future role that integrated theory, practice, sharing, application and repetition. The program included self-service materials, live sessions with experts and leaders. 
  2. Engaged with mentors and AE leaders to create a network for learners to lean into later. 


  1. Knowing what success looked like from our preparation stage, we had things to measure! Some of the success metrics took months to generate any data, but ultimately BDRs who were hired as AEs performed 217% better than external hires on a faster timeline. 
  2. We also ensured that the program remains impactful by establishing a steering committee that can revisit it at certain points – this helps create buy-in and ensure Docebo is committing to continuous improvement of this program!

By the end of the experience, my team built a clear path forward for our BDRs, while simplifying the hiring process and creating a robust talent pipeline.

Shifting to becoming a high performing learning team sometimes means that we have to let go. A professor once said to me that sometimes improving means “mourning good ideas.” Things we’ve done up to this point have worked reasonably well and yet most learning professionals I talk to tell me that they don’t know if they’re delivering on business value. So, rather than focusing on doing more and more – embracing these principles to focus on doing the most important programs well is key to enabling business value. 


One final tip

Want an easy way to remember the three stages? Just remember the three R’s: get Ready, Respond, and Revisit!


Get the full picture

Want to dive deeper into the principles and how they can be used to manage change and build better business impact? Get more insights by watching the full recording of this 45-minute webinar, How to enable business value with L&D.