The ‘traditional’ Learning and Development (L&D) function needs a fundamental re-think. Traditionally, being a subset of Human Resources; LnD was required to identify, prescribe and implement courses for employees.
Can this sustain? Unfortunately, not.
The narrative around learning needs changing continuously is dominant and impacts charting of organizational L&D direction. Skills lists, competency frameworks, industry transformation maps are one of the many resources created with a view to influence employee learning programs. L&D managers may refer to such resources strategically, adapting them to the organization’s learning needs. Learning programs should be informed by business needs taking job redesign, new ways of working and employee interests into account. LnD holds the role of enabling organizations to adjust to different futures. This can only happen when certain constants are acknowledged and acted upon.
One such constant, is that for any business and/or individual to survive and thrive in a world faced with massive change, ‘Learning’ must accelerate and become second nature. This implies that learning delivers business value, and is a key driver of performance. While traditional L&D holds value, it is important to set the direction of learning with regard to, “ensuring learning is embedded in one’s routines and workflows rather than ‘requiring people to be part of episodic outside of workflow learning, will be valuable” (Andrew Dyer, Managing Partner, BCG, Australia) Source: HBR, Mar-2019 Chief learning Officers Forum article, pg 52-55).
How might an LnD as accelerator look like?
- Setting key strategic learning objectives for the organization and explicitly tying them with performance indicators. This entails getting leaders to be thinking from a Learning Officers’ perspective, for it is the development of the employees, their ways of working which contribute to a growing and competitive organization. LnD’s role, beyond setting learning objectives, will also entail the explicit communication of these objectives, and directions down through till the last employee. Such that employees understand the overall bigger picture and can act accordingly. Further quality assurance on a continual basis is needed and here employee performance & future role analytics might be useful. While analytics may reveal the generic and technical skills & competencies, it is here where the personalized learning goals for respective employees, the teams’ as well as organizations’ goal commences.
- How might these strategic learning objectives be created? For buy in, as well as value- added activity, it is important learning delivers business value and prepares employees for future tasks. In this regard, L&D should work with the respective departments and teams to not just convey the strategic objectives but ‘co-create’ learning objectives unique to the teams’ requirements. For L&D to carry through and sustain, it is important that the respective team manager be empowered and tasked to take on the role of a learning coach/learning manager. A manager’s input at key junctures, will help ensure that learning objectives and outcomes are aligned with the respective teams’ strengths, weaknesses and challenges, thereby placing the manager to curate and steer team learning with LnD, source: Gartner Future of work: How HR can reimagine work to drive performance 2019 conference.
- Manager as a Node for driving Learning: With technology able to automate routine work, a large chunk (69%) of a manager’s routine work is predicted to be automated, source Gartner: Future of HR report (2019). As such, could we get managers to do more complex careers and strategic guidance for their teams’? It is foreseeable that a manager would move away from being a task manager to that of a learning coach and a facilitator of learning, empowering team members to understand the benefits of continuously learning and performing. A learning manager would not just be abreast of the advancements in the team’s field, but will also be able to discern how to work on its team member’s strengths and weaknesses for the collective goal of learning, growth and team performance. Getting senior leaders to coach and guide; managers, will also ensure the manager is in line with the company’s overall needs. LnD will enlist and empower managers across the organization to perform as a Learning Manager, not just as a trainer but as a propagator of learning culture to their respective teams.
- To help managers implement learning: Learning Contracts (LC) can be useful aids. Research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) provides a blueprint for LCs. A LC instills clarity into the company's goals, empowering individual employees to take ownership and be accountable for one’s learning and growth. This new form of social contract on both sides (company as well as employee) includes continuous commitment, ability and the opportunity to learn. While the company and the LnD team can design the LC, successful learning can only happen if employees take charge of their individual development. As a supplement to organizational LnD programs, the LC can help bring ownership of learning to an employee, recognizing learning as part of employee appraisal and help make learning a deliberate self-executing exercise, vertically and horizontally.
- Finally, the LnD team will be the anchor for holistic development by stitching together learning interventions into learning journeys. Rather than relying on one strategy or way of learning, LnD will empower managers to be the learning coaches and people developers; as well as increase inter-team learning towards team & organizational learning and performance. Quality assurance, and linking learning with performance will assist in closing the feedback loop and building competencies holistically.