Is your learning and development (L&D) function tactical or strategic? In a September 2016 Chief Learning Office article, titled "The Cultural Revolution," Dan Pontefract makes a compelling case for moving the L&D function from order takers to culture leaders.
If you feel you spend too much time on the tactical, you are not alone. Dan cites a quote from Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, “The CLO and L&D function is still tactical in 75 percent of the companies I speak with…most CLOs are heads of training focused mostly on developing great training and content. There’s much more for this profession to do in the future.”
Now let’s contrast that focus with other statistics provided by the author:
- Oxford Economics research suggests 50% of employees do not believe they have the skills today they will need in three years.
- Roughly 66% indicated their companies can’t or won’t provide them the training they need to be ready for tomorrow.
- Well over three-quarters of those employed on the planet do not find meaning in their work.
- According to Gallup, 52% of employees are actually checked out at work.
So what are we to make of the tactical focus, based on these troubling statistics? There is an enormous need for new approaches to development. Learning could become an enabler that enhances engagement and provides skills and knowledge required to adapt to changing environments.
Why is this not happening? Many learning specialists are waiting for the business to request what they believe they need. HR/learning leaders are too comfortable playing on the fringes, instead of diving into the thorniest business problems. There is a lingering perception that they first have to be invited to the table in order to contribute in this way. This becomes a “Catch 22” that does not get resolved.
The more progressive and more relevant learning leaders are taking the time to: understand the environment; articulate the business challenges, and provide development solutions to address the biggest problems.
The author contends that the Chief Learning Officer should become the Chief Culture Officer and the L&D department should be renamed People and Engagement. This makes great sense if you consider it for a moment. Learning is treated as an end unto itself, and as a result it is more about the training provided than it is about the impacts. If we shift the focus to culture, it helps organizations focus on learning that is applied until it becomes habit. One definition of culture is “the way we do things around here.” Learning is most meaningful when it becomes habit. Positive growth behaviors become “the way we do things.”
This is an enormous shift for many organizations. You can start with a few simple steps:
1. Engage the CEO and executive team in informal conversations, or interviews, to get their perspectives on the growth strategy and culture/capabilities that are desired over the next three years. Make sure it is understood and articulated (played back) in a way that is actionable.
2. After synthesizing this, develop a visual that crystallizes it into a “picture” for the executive team. Get their feedback, and improve it. Then you can use it with the rest of the organization to show where the company is headed. It must be concise, visual and memorable.
3. Develop a three-year development plan that will substantially enhance the culture and capabilities. Do not focus on just training. Remember the 70/20/10 rule. Some of the most important learning will come from colleagues and experiences. Develop informal learning protocols like job shadowing and after-action-reviews.
4. Get funding support and rapidly deploy the first phase. Get ongoing feedback and improve the plan and the execution. Take an “agile” approach vs. a “waterfall” approach. Otherwise, by the time you build out the model and deploy, it will become obsolete. Start with key components and keep iterating the plan to stay abreast of external and internal changes.
5. Conduct town halls and online communications to share the strategy, development plan and how each employee fits into the picture and the plan. This will build engagement and support.
Driving culture change takes time. One class will likely not produce extreme results, but a well-planned learning strategy that takes place over time will. A strategic approach to learning should be taken in order to make long lasting changes.
Source: Chief Learning Office