7th April 2014
Learning that learning managers need to take
The Learning and development job is in a very interesting and peculiar situation. This is a role that has to keep the employees updated, with the latest technology; help employees improve their competencies including behavioral competencies so that the performance of the employees improves. So this is a role where they are managing the brains and hearts of an organization. That being the case, it is surprising that when budgets need to be cut – L&D budgets are among the first to be cut.
Many business managers believe that the L&D department has little interest in what really ails the businesses. We therefore need to find ways where the two worlds can together make our businesses more competitive. How much of our business do we (L&D folks) understand? I am sure many of us will say that they do understand the business. If an HR or L&D professional is asked to write down their company’s business priorities, a significant percentage of them would end up writing the priorities solely related to HR or L&D. We therefore need to understand that we exist to support the business. We exist to create and deliver competitive advantages for our businesses and to do that we need to understand what drives the business.
To help develop this understanding, I keep suggesting professionals (not just HR or L&D, but from every department in the company), to frequently communicate with customers. A practice of meeting with your customers, internal and external, even before we go to our seats in the office has been found to be a best practice. A company I know makes people from their support departments go and work on the shop floor once in a year (or more often, and no leave of absence is allowed on that day!). Go meet your final customers, dealers and other entities; try and make a sale. Understand why customers buy or do not buy our products. Face customer complaints; take responsibility for the mistakes our company has made in delivering a product or service to the customer. Go to the gemba and get first hand information about what drives the business and what does not.
This has multi pronged effect. This improves our understanding of the situation and strengthens our bond with the other departments. There is a more interesting and very important aspect. We are creating and enhancing intangible asset by helping our colleagues learn. Unlike tangible assets, intangible assets create value indirectly and the effect will not be seen immediately or directly. Organizing training just because your boss wants you to, or attending a training program for the sake of completing the training man day target, it is not going to add value.
Many a time, the alignment of training interventions with the overall business strategy is only partial. Better alignment will certainly add more and more value to the overall business. It sure helps in showing the connection of what we are doing with the business results. For more reasons than one..
Recently, I heard a case where L&D team took a lot of efforts to train sales team in innovative ways of selling. The Sales increased, but all the credit went to an incentive scheme that was in vogue. Now that is obviously not fair but is there anything we can do? We can use smart analytics to establish and present a connection between training efforts and business results. This is not always easy. In the case above perhaps incentives and training both may have contributed to the success, it may help to isolate the effects and examine which intervention has contributed and to what extent. Smart analytics with establishing relationship of L&D efforts to business goals, can go a long way in management buy-in and to present results. Further, connection with business results will build our confidence in our contribution to the business.
To achieve this correlation and alignment, we can use many tools like balanced scorecard, analytics and strategy maps. But there is no substitute to working directly with the customers, literally putting ourselves in their positions and getting first hand information.
Our business is looking at us to help them become more competitive, let us contribute to this cause with all our might.
Rajendra Aphale is a CAMI certified faculty associated with Middle Earth HR. Raj Aphale has over 2 decades of experience in HR, Consulting and Training. He was associated with business giants like Siemens Informations Systems Limited, Mafatlal Industries Limited, Godrej Group. He held positions of manager – corporate planning, senior manager – HR, Senior consultant. He has been involved in strategy planning and implementation with varied sizes of multinational and Indian companies.
Rajendra D Aphale +91-773 859 1521; firstname.lastname@example.org