Rethinking the role of the learning function

The alignment of job design with performance management and talent management in relation to corporate strategy for success creates the right conditions for the full capacity and evolutionary potential of every employee to be fully available to any organisation to which the employees belongs.

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Can the learning team’s role be truly repositioned as learning not training? What does that even really mean?

Learning at the most fundamental level is behaviour. Actions people choose to take in response to their experiences as a way to achieve an outcome, conscious or not. When learning is viewed this way, then the role of the learning team is really about enabling this behaviour in organisation. Learning and development in a nutshell summarise how human beings are able to evolve, survive and accomplish the seemingly impossible. This idea of limitless potential within each person seems to be unleashed partly through this ability to learn and develop.

Experiencing learning operate within human resources has given me the opportunity to observe and realise certain powerful practices that if aligned, will provide the enabling environment for learning behaviour to occur more naturally within an organisational context. Some of these practices are – design of jobs, performance management practices, talent management practices and a talent-centric approach to business strategy.

The alignment of job design with performance management and talent management in relation to corporate strategy for success creates the right conditions for the full capacity and evolutionary potential of every employee to be fully available to any organisation to which the employees belongs.

The challenge I see at the moment is that these have to be aligned intentionally requiring  an integrated view of all these practices however organisation in general and HR teams in particular struggle to achieve this.

This got me thinking about who would be best placed to have some sort of impact on this without necessarily having to create a dedicated job tasked to do this?

If we are able to shift the primary results and value pursued by the learning team from the development and delivery of training or educational programs and curriculums to enabling the conditions that will allow the organization to fully benefit from the value of staff training and education, then the activities that evolve from this new mandate will likely call for a more holistic view of the organisation especially the practices above but from a capability building perspective.

The implication here is that the Learning team now has the following responsibilities

1. Identifying the “cultural” levers to pull to achieve the alignment – how clear and align-able are the current state of corporate strategy. Job design and workforce planning, talent management, performance management and the available formally developed training products (internal and external)

2. Identify the key people involved in developing these building blocks and those responsible for implementing or executing them and assess the level of capabilty in relation to integration of thinking and acting

3. Use every training and educational experience to target the capability level of these key players while simultaneously sending the message of the value and power of alignment

4. Use every program development effort to challenge and push these enablers to provide “subject matter expert” input in a way that requires alignment with all the other building blocks. (Pushing this raises awareness of the need for alignment and the level of capability to do what it takes to develop or execute it, simultaneously providing training and development ensures ready access to related support once realization of capabilty gap is achieved which should then lead to a higher likelihood of alignment.

So how does this alignment happen?

Strategy defines what success means and includes an assessment of conditions and context within which that success must be delivered and selection or prioritisation of  actions or principles of action-selection to achieve desired success in line with the value the organisation wants to deliver to it’s client, shareholders, society at large, etc.

Performance management then dynamically identifies and motivates both the collective as well as individuals within the collective to pursue the Organization’s performance goals guided by the strategic choice of actions or principles of action-selection.

The ability to identify where and how the goals and related activities break down across teams and individuals into parts that combine to make a whole versus where the goals and activities are left intact and the teams work out dynamically how to collectively and dynamically allocate responsibilities on an ongoing basis to ensure the goals are achieved is key to success. An over emphasis on results without clarity on value risks missing the opportunity to emotionally engage employees beyond their specific scope or perspective. Results that over emphasize the activity definition risks disabling the dynamism that is needed to respond to the changes that will invariably occur across the period of execution requiring adjustment of activity but without losing site of the results and value. etc.

Talent identification aligns by ensuring the performance expectations including the principles of action required to achieve them are used to evaluate individual who are showing a) real ability to deliver in the role, b) a strong sense of belief and value in the work of the organization and c) the potential to continue to deliver in roles requiring higher levels of decision, skills and wisdom in leading the business and the people of this organization.

Job design aligns by ensuring jobs are defined based on the results they need to contribute, the context within which those results have to be contributed (the strategic actions and/or principle of action-selection for example) and what level of knowledge skills and wisdom they need to be able to make that contribution and not so much about what they have to do as this is going to always be a choice the individual makes. By focusing on how they contribute to the goals, the job design effort draws on the strategy, performance expectations and uses that to inform the talent requirements,  identification and eventual selection be it external or internal.

This thought is still evolving… will continue to build on as insights from experiences emerge.

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