A Learning Journey is a strategic development approach anchored in business strategy, but with practical application
While talent scarcity is a problem, it does not just require organizations to find the right talent, it also means retaining their top talent. In a talent management strategy that is both holistic and sustainable, there is a need for investment in learning programs. In order for companies to design the right program, a Learning Journey approach enables companies to anchor their strategy to address the needs of both, the employer and the employee.
A ‘journey’ often means more than simply going from one place to another – it invokes a sense of personally significant change; that will somehow make a remarkable difference, making one better and robust than before they left. Leadership development must simulate the essence of taking a journey so that, upon return, leaders and their organizations are transformed into talented individuals, adept at their roles as leaders. And just like any other journey undertaken, a Learning Journey requires planning, discipline and execution to be successful.
What is a Learning Journey?
A Learning Journey is a strategic development approach anchored in business strategy, but with practical application. It is not an event-or-conference driven process, but takes place over time, for it incorporates various formal and informal development components into a design that optimises training investment and maximises learning to change and transform leaders. Any Leadership Journey can be customised to needs and guiding principles of the organisation’s leadership style, culture and the preferences of the intended audience of leaders.
Research reveals that only 9 percent of HR professionals rate their organization’s development program as very high when they offered open enrolment programs with a curriculum of classroom-based courses. In contrast, 91 percent rate their organization’s development program as very high when their programs utilized a journey-based approach, with continuous learning and a mix of methods. Organizations using the Learning Journey approach to develop their leaders are nearly 75 percent more confident in that level of leadership.
A well-designed Learning Journey provides the individual and the organisation with numerous benefits, some of which are:
- Clear alignment between development solutions and an organization’s business strategies
- New perspectives, insights, and a common leadership language among the cohort of leaders learning together
- Sustained learning to build a culture of continuous learning
- A thoughtful blend of formal and informal learning
How to get started
The fact that a Leadership Journey challenges an individual on different levels, by providing him or her with a journey of learning opportunities, and helps them evolve with transformational changes, makes every Leadership Journey unique. Since every Leadership Journey is one-of-a-kind, it is essential to synthesise each Leadership Journey from its core. However, a few pointers do facilitate the process of creating and designing a Leadership Journey:
- Begin with the end in mind: It becomes imperative to initiate a dialogue with senior stakeholders and management to help them contextualise the essence of the Leadership Journey and garner their buy-in support for the process. A Leadership Journey is nothing but a development investment, and this must be clearly communicated to the senior management. Discussing the key strategic priorities, cultural issues, leadership competencies, objectives and benefits of the program, expected challenges and barriers, and the support learners need to make the journey a success, at this stage will set a clear, concise and stable base for the Leadership Journey.
- Know where the gaps are: A well designed Leaning Journey starts with an accurate diagnosis to establish and then focus on the most glaring leadership skill gaps. Therefore, a needs assessment, done on a group, and/or individual based on 360-feedback helps learners know exactly where his or her gaps are.
- Extend learning beyond development events: To ensure a consistent and sustainable culture of continuous learning, which provides leaders with the support and development they need, even without them realising it, following the 70:20:10 philosophy is helpful. The concept entails the following: 70% of the earning occurs on-the-job, 20% from others, and 10% in formal learning experiences. Organisations are increasingly discovering new and creative ways to engage the learners before, during and after the formal development event, with the right focus on methodologies that include coaching mentors, projects, just-in-time learning through online portals, peer learning and networking groups, simulations, and executive speakers. Social media can be used effectively to further the 70:20:10 approach. It is this use of social media tools to enhance any Leadership or Learning Journey that is branded ‘Learning 2.0’.
- Involve the learner’s direct managers: It is indispensable to involve the senior management, along with the direct management of the learners, to successfully realise the end goals of a Leadership Journey. The most common test to gauge the level of involvement required from direct managers is to assess how many times the question “Is my boss going through this too?” is being asked around. There are several ways to ensure that the immediate managers of the learners have a buy-in. They involve by providing content overviews through formal programs and reference guides, establishing learner-manager meetings to set expectations and agree on specific ways and opportunities to apply the new skills in a project or to solve a real business issue.
- Measure impact: An End-line assessment is imperative to realise the growth that the learners have undertaken. Conducting individual or group assessments using tools like self-assessments to promote learning insight, feedback surveys around critical skills, behavioural assessments, program evaluation and measurement of impact or ROI, documented formally, will help provide objective data and information which indicates the impact of the Leadership Journey. This information can even be used to build a case for future Leadership Journeys.
- Plan for flawless execution: Several parameters like duration, timings, audience size, mode of delivery (instructor-led, virtual or web-based) etc are important to be noted and fixed long before implementing the Leadership Journey. Aligning the objectives of the Leadership Journey with that of other talent systems and processes, and establishing accountability and milestones with the team, right from design to implementation, helps in executing the vision that has been set.
Careful and mindful planning, along with an effective execution have known to converge three critical perspectives in the Learning Journey, facilitating the individual and the organisation to grow tremendously. The three perspectives are as follows: business—understanding and solving business challenges and cultural priorities; role—improving leadership in one’s area as well as the overall organization; and self—evolving one’s knowledge, experience, competencies, and beliefs.
This article is a part of the People Matters- Oracle Let's Talk Talent series. Click here to visit the Let's talk talent page to read more such articles.