Three out of four CEOs don’t think they have the talent to effectively execute their strategies
Talent is at the centrestage today and the challenges facing companies with regards to talent are at a massive level as people lack the right skill sets. Companies are struggling when it comes to equipping their workforce with the right learning. In an interview to People Matters, Chip Cleary talks about the changing eco-system of learning, how to maximize learning and the maturity that a CLO needs.
Q.Can you give us an overview of the learning space? How has that evolved?
A. The importance of talent continues to rise year over year. At a time when financial flows cut across countries, it is quicker to copy technology than ever before. For a long time, CEOs have liked to talk about learning and talent, but now the importance of learning and talent to be able to execute their strategies is increasingly becoming critical. Currently, three out of four CEOs don’t think they have the talent to effectively execute their strategies. So, this is the right time to be a part of the talent and development space because it’s very critical to business. For business leaders, it has been a long-standing frustration about how well can learning meet their needs. CLOs should make the best; they need to align learning with business. On these lines, I do think we are beginning to see some progress now.
Q. How has the ecosystem of products and services evolved in parallel to the needs of the business?
A. The ecosystem is phenomenally complex and it is not evolving quickly. If you look at the learning space, there are thousands of training providers and in some cases rightfully so because you will need specialists for vital niche content. We live in an age of technology explosion where many start-ups thrive because of technology. So it’s a very confusing ecosystem. What has emerged from that are three levels of players: The spot providers, the mid-ranged content development and learning technology players many of whom are part of the integrated talent management, and lastly there’s a small set of recount six leading the learning team. So the ecosystem has evolved to include different levels of providers and one of the things learning service providers are asked to give is to help their client organizations manage the very confusing ecosystem. Particularly in Europe, there has been a burst of interest in the area of training services that manage strategic services.
Q. Where do you think does India stand in terms of readiness of this industry?
A. In India, talent is now at the centre-stage and talent challenges are at a mass level because there is a lack of the right skill sets. Companies are really struggling with this and they’re not thinking that there are other ways to do it. This industry is fragmented in India; no player is large enough to give confidence to big corporations. No big company outsources the whole function, but the risk assessment for even chunks of it is too high. However, the kind of market India is, it is important to understand that this is a place where outsourcing can really work.
Q. What are the ways to maximize the impact of learning?
A. There are various fundamentals of learning that we don’t do nearly as much as we could. Firstly, you need to choose your target correctly and set specific business compelling targets. Secondly, companies do not check on whether they have got the results they had asked for, so there are a lot of open-ended feedbacks. Thirdly, there’s a need to set up people behaviour change. For this, you can talk to your best performers and transfer that to other performers. Learning is, therefore, another way to improve quality and the way to target learning is to look at areas where errors occur. For this, we have created a Critical Mistake Analysis in which we look at the mistakes that occur in the field, their causes and what out of those can be dealt with learning solutions. This allows us to create smaller learning solutions that focus on real issues. We try to be very nice to those who undertake the learning solutions by creating a smooth, comfortable and clear learning journey.
Q. Can you give us an example of this?
A. A few years ago, we created a training program for a department store on how to behave as a jewellery counter associate. The request was framed to us as “Please teach them how to follow the sales process and how to handle objections”. So we conducted a Critical Mistake Assessment and found out that the most common mistake they were making was judging people by their appearance. Secondly, they were sharing their personal opinion about the jewellery. Soon, we were able to identify a long list of mistakes that were commonly made, following which there was a prioritization process and then we designed a learning solution around the critical mistakes. Through an hour-long self e-learning process, they were able to reduce 40 per cent of the mistakes. Learning became simpler when we were able to identify critical mistakes.
Q. Can you talk a little about efficiency by emanating wasted training time?
A. We were asked by a bank to help them reduce training time; they felt that their curriculum was too fat. They wanted to improve the quality of their training and also reduce the duration of the training. Through the Critical Mistake Analysis, we identified the problems that people faced and reorganized the curriculum according to the training department’s convenience. The Analysis also helped to narrow down what kind of training mattered the most. We organized the training around a series of typical interactions, starting with simpler enquiries that people generally have. As a result of this exercise, we have reduced the training time by 25 per cent and errors by 40 per cent. Getting the target right is the most important factor; identifying the business problem and focusing on practice and feedback are other elements of the Critical Mistake Analysis.
Q. People usually come with a cause or a consequence, but not really a business problem. What kind of maturity is required for business leaders and CLOs to identify business problems?
A. When I hear about the nature of cases abroad, the maturity among CLOs is probably higher there than in India. They get much more requests for training transformation, which we don’t get in India. Further, in the US and Europe, there is often a formalized structure for learning where there is a CLO or a Head of Learning, while in India, there are usually decentralized roles. So there is no one person with a voice of authority in the organization who can represent how learning helps make wise investments. In India, the training and development is mostly focused only on the leadership roles.
Chip Cleary was formerly Vice President, Advisory Services at NIIT. Currently, he is Vice President, Solutions & Consulting, Kineo