This has been a transitional year for corporate learning organizations. We have seen reductions in discretionary spending and budgets, recentralization of training and tighter integration with talent management initiatives.
Next year will bring even greater change. Here is our list of resolutions for senior-level executives wishing to maximize the impact of their learning programs:
1. Further integrate learning with talent management. The current economy and demographic shifts make this the biggest priority for 2009. Make sure your learning programs are aligned with business goals and challenges and are tightly integrated with employee development and career planning. Today’s biggest talent challenge is gaps in the leadership pipeline. Therefore, take a focused look at your management and leadership development programs.
2. Bring centralization back to corporate training where appropriate. Because of today’s emphasis on integrated, corporate-wide talent strategies, the learning function must be more coordinated and often more centralized. The role of the CLO also is changing. In fact, some companies have done away with the role, putting in its place someone responsible for integrated talent strategies. As a learning leader, you can aspire to this role if you broaden your perspective to include development planning, performance management and succession management.
3. Bring learning on-demand into your organization. Learning on-demand is the “always on” world of content, people, communities and support expected by young employees, as well as many Web-savvy older workers. Your learning teams must make content sharing, content standards and information architecture a top priority for 2009. In fact, content sharing and standards development is one of the top 20 high-impact learning processes identified by our research. Most organizations now have plenty of content; the challenge is making it easy to find, relevant and up-to-date.
4. Embrace new rich-media tools and approaches. Today it is almost trivially easy to develop podcasts, rapid e-learning (PowerPoint with audio, published to the Web), mobile content (published automatically onto high-resolution mobile devices such as iPhone) and video. Most cell phones can capture video, so the challenge of developing instructional video has dropped by orders of magnitude in the past few years. Simulations and gaming can be done for a fraction of what they used to cost. New tools open up new methods of delivery and add interest and appeal to information, especially for younger workers.
5. Maximize your LMS by integrating it into a complete employee or customer portal. Most LMS offerings don’t have strong portal front ends, easy-to-use and collaboration features, integrated social networking or on-demand search and publishing. In 2009, many buyers will separate products for social networking, rather than using their LMSs. To drive maximum value, the LMS must become a “service” within your broader employee, talent or customer portal.
6. Take a leadership role on the implementation of corporate social networking. Corporate learning must take a leading role in the development and implementation of social networking strategies. Learning professionals must embrace this form of internal communication and harness its power for learning. Today, fewer than 5 percent of companies surveyed reported including social networking in their learning and talent strategies. Sales, engineering and customer service have been among the early adopters.
7. Think, act and organize for global learning solutions. In recent research, 66 percent of respondents told us that globalization is an important priority in their strategies. Organizations of all sizes now have global customers, partners and employees. How can learning programs be similarly globalized? A start is to begin moving some content development and delivery into the hands of local learning leaders, who can supervise translation and localization with geographic-specific examples and styles, and determine the best delivery method for audiences. Especially important are global learning initiatives for leadership and career development.
8. Build a learning culture. The best learning programs and solutions will have impact only when corporate leaders and managers commit the time, energy and resources required for continuous corporate learning. To build a strong learning culture, you must engage top leaders in learning, rotate line-of-business leaders in and out of learning-related roles, make sure managers and employees participate in learning programs and invest in learning through good times and bad.