Adding value to the business: the modern role of the learning professional


William E Hamilton@Iman Fiqrie



typical 9 point business model

Figure 1. Money Map. Image from, permission requested

All too often today, the modern learning professional’s role and responsibility is misunderstood. The way I learned it, is if there’s a miscommunication or misunderstanding—it’s the sender’s responsibility to help ensure the message was received correctly. In essence, that’s what I’d like to do here in this short micro-learning article.

The learning professional, more specifically Certified Professional in Learning Performance (CPLP), is supposed to be able to help add value to an organization by helping to ensure that people and stakeholders get what they need when they need it! Notwithstanding change management and resistance to change. Taking this understanding, the role and responsibility of the CPLP then are not limited to the functional area or specialty of just training to outside customers, the business itself is also a customer. A line from a book on strategic learning alignment (Smith 2011) suggests that if one works in a business—then you’re a business person first, and a functional specialist second! And, if your organization is only limiting your learning professional to one functional area, you’re missing out on an opportunity to add value to the business model and value chain in a big way.

With this in mind, I’d like to cover three quick topics in this short format: what is a CPLP, what’s in a business model to add value to, and the concept of organizational and strategic learning alignment.

A CPLP is certified in the knowledge and application of 10 Areas of Expertise (AOEs), while utilizing at a minimum, 6 foundational skills to help execute these AOEs. The AOEs are Performance Improvement, Instructional Design, Training Delivery, Learning Technology, Evaluating the Learning, Managing the Learning, Talent Management, Knowledge Management, Coaching, and Change Management; the foundational skills are Business Skills, Global Mindset, Industry Knowledge, Personal Skills, Interpersonal Skills and Digital Literacy. You put these together with the requirement to already have been in the learning profession at least 3 – 5 years before applying for the certification program, and the groundwork is laid for potentially adding value.

The opportunity to add value to the business lies in its business model, and to an extent the context of its environment. Seen simply and as pointed out in the book, Strategic Learning Alignment: Make Training a Powerful Business Partner (2011), by Rita Smith, think of the business as a highway with traffic flowing in and out of it, figure 1 refers. There are many activities that are standard on a highway as well as many roadblocks, opportunities, and obstacles. Specifically, a general business model consists of 9 parts: (1) customer segment, (2) customer relations, (3) channels, (4) Costs, (5) value proposition, (6) key activities, (7) key partners, (8) key resources and (9) revenue. Each area is an opportunity for the learning professional to help add value to the business model or value chain by helping to optimize, “tweak” and align it; make more money!

And lastly, where a CPLP or learning professional can also help add value is to help communicate knowledge and understanding of how organizational alignment and strategic learning alignment can help “navigate” the highway of this business model in a way that helps align the organization to its mission, vision, goals and strategic initiatives; assuming, of course, the mission and vision actually reflect the key activities for the value proposition in the first place; often times they do not. This is one reason why the CPLP requests (requires) a thorough performance needs assessment (PNA) that analyzes the business, performance and several other factors. This part is the language of the CPLP and possible cause of communication problems that naturally may occur between learning professionals and business professionals as they both speak different languages– the latter, gross margins, operating margins, turnover ratios, earning per share, return on investment, net present value, etc. And so, the Strategic Learning Alignment (SLA) Model, figure 2 refers, is supposed to be that bridge or translator that the CPLP can utilize to help speak the language of business in a way that helps add value to the organization.

Hopefully, this short article helps shed some light on the role and responsibility of the modern learning professional (CPLP) and also that we’re all business people first when it comes to the organization we work for and must, therefore, make an effort to learn the language and see how our daily actions and behaviors can help add value to the organization.

Figure 2. Strategic Learning Alignment Model. Picture from Smith (2011).

It also means that business people should not just see their employees as just ‘functional entities” and hold everyone accountable (authority), to seek (demand) and act on knowledge received to add value. Until next time, comments encouraged.



Smith, Rita Mehegan. Strategic learning alignment: make training a powerful business partner. Alexandria, VA: Amer Soc For Training, 2011. Print.

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