Sunday, July 19, 2009

Training and Development - Preserve the Learned!

Learning professionals live on the edge, while their business strategist colleagues stay safely guarded...
Key learnings:
  1. Dual domain speciality is important for achieving corporate learning objectives
  2. Learning leaders have to partner, outsource and learn continuously to establish a desirable business-learning equation

Despite the growing interest and concern over an organisation’ s learning apparatus, recession seems to have sounded the alarm bells for learning professionals. Most organisations have been indifferent towards learning efforts, and as a result, learning theorists, strategists and instruction designers live under constant threat. It is indeed disconcerting to see how organisations let their learning muscle slacken, despite the definite strength it gives to their business prospects.

Experts believe that an effective learning framework is pivotal to business success. Hence, letting it pass under the axe in a bid to control costs can only be self-destructive. This, however, does not suggest that learning should be spared from cost analysis; it must be treated as an indispensable part of business, which gives much more than what it takes. Organisations that truncate their learning initiatives in a cost-cutting exercise only betray their shallow approach to learning. It is critical that organisations find the right balance between learning and doing business. Earlier, when organisations advocated the need for learning without analysing the business case, learning initiatives continued to mushroom without logic. And today, caught in the economic downturn, the learning function finds itself being axed, again without logic. Finding the right balance, where learning needs of business complement its growth needs, is important for success.

Business of learning

Most leaders acknowledge the need for striking the right balance between learning and business, but fail to achieve it. Also, every organisation takes a different approach to finding the desired balance, and hence, understanding the basic framework on which the approach should be based for best results is important.

According to Roberto Euguino, the chief learning and organisation development officer at Alloys Inc, the Sweden-based information protection and storage company, corporate success comes from a well-orchestrated act of pulling all critical business levers. Identifying these levers and aligning them is important for driving better corporate performance.

Euguino lists four levers that he believes are critical for organisational good performance. They are:

  1. The right set of people
  2. Effective training and development framework
  3. Ensuring good performance through effective compensation systems
  4. Performance optimisation through effective performance management systems

Each of these levers is important for consistent organisational success. Leaders who fail to leverage even one of these can sabotage their learning and HR efforts. Efficient learning officers work their way through these levers and make sure that their learning efforts are well aligned with the overall corporate objectives.

It is, however, difficult to ascertain that all the four levers work in tandem if the reigns are with one leader. Experts, therefore, suggest learning leaders to be more inclusive and bring in various perspectives to design their learning frameworks. Learning cannot translate into tangible benefits unless there is a partnership between business strategists and learning theorists. Each has to understand the perspective of the other to arrive at a holistic learning solution. There are also other ways of accomplishing a better learning experience. These include:

Partnering with external consultants

Learning leaders can partner with external consultants to leverage their enterprise learning experience and skills. The advantages of bringing in an external voice are many. For instance, external consultants always approach learning with an innovative bent of mind and treat it as a challenge. Therefore, the probability of a transformative learning experience increases. External consultants also keep the pace high and provide solutions at a faster rate. Their expertise also lends learning managers a sound base to build their future organisational development capabilities.

Continuing education

Learning leaders should ensure that their learning team is on a knowledge-enrichment drive constantly. To do so, organisations should offer continuing education programmes targeted at executives on the learning team. Consistent training and learning would help learning designers and theorists get an insight into the changing needs of business, and therefore, frame a programme that is effective and relevant. In addition, theoretical reinforcement of concepts will help executives from the business side to get a better hold of the learning concept.

The future looks bright for learning professionals who understand that business–learning dual domain speciality is the best way forward. For executives to grow in a manner that is more holistic and effective, it is important that learning experts make the right investments to ensure both learning goals and the organisation’ s larger business goals are met without compromising on either.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

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