Staying current in fast-changing markets
by Josh Bersin
September 27, 2009
Today’s corporate learning organizations are facing a barrage of challenges from every direction. On the one hand, the current business climate is forcing budget reductions, organizational consolidations and shifting program priorities. On the other, social and informal learning technologies are causing us to rethink investments and program deliveries.
If 2009 has a silver lining, it is that training executives in companies of all shapes and sizes are being forced to re-examine priorities, reduce waste and inefficiencies, capitalize on cost-efficient learning approaches and reorganize for greater business alignment.
In recent research around modern corporate learning, we found distinct commonalities among training organizations that achieve significant business impact. These characteristics are compiled into the short list below, called the Modern Enterprise Learning Index. Use this informal checklist to determine if your training organization is still operating in the past — or if it is ready to meet modern challenges and requirements:
• Business and needs analysis.
• Content development efficiency.
• Scalable capacity.
• Adaptability to multiple audiences.
• Versatility with tools and technologies.
• Business alignment and measurement.
• Integration with talent management.
• Timeliness and speed.
• Focus on specific performance targets.
• Globalization and localization.
• Knowledge sharing.
• Fostering of a learning culture.
Periodically benchmark your organization with others in your industry segment, as well as with organizations at large. Only with such comparisons can you determine how your organization really stacks up.
Our research found that companies with rapidly changing products and services are more “modernized,” likely because they have had experience in building adaptable training programs over many years. The most successful training organizations operate as if their businesses are changing all the time, even if they are not. These organizations constantly re-evaluate and recalibrate their practices and programs.
Build learning environments, not learning programs. High-performing training organizations create end-to-end learning environments, not just training programs. For example, consider IT solution provider CA’s sales leadership program. The initiative includes managerial coaching, a sales and product training portal and a series of formal training programs. The results have been stellar: The company increased sales productivity by more than 100 percent and reduced turnover by a significant margin.
“Formalize” informal learning. Three types of informal learning are now being adopted: social learning, which refers to all collaborative experiences including social networking, communities of practice and blogs; on-demand learning, which consists of learner-led activities such as e-learning and self-study using books, reference materials, videos and podcasts; and embedded learning, which refers to the use of content and systems such as job aids, which help employees solve problems and learn on the job. Organizations told us they were struggling with the idea of building informal strategies into program design, but we now know it’s critical for success.
Rethink instructional design processes. While the concepts and principles of instructional design remain the same, the skills need to be put to new uses — such as the building of information architectures, audience analysis, social learning and on-demand learning. Most designers are eager to take advantage of the new world of learning. You can leverage these skills at little to no additional cost.
Adopt new, cost-efficient technologies. With the proliferation of new tools for online collaboration — including messaging, mobile phones, Web portals and Twitter — it is easier than ever for employees to engage with each other. We found organizations such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the U.S. Army, British Telecom, Symantec, Qualcomm, Sun Microsystems and many others are opening up their training content in a knowledge-sharing format. We call this “we-learning” — enabling employees to publish what they know and understand for the benefit of peers and co-workers. This kind of learning can be extremely effective and capitalizes on the knowledge assets you already have. Furthermore, information can be disseminated rapidly, far faster than developing traditional designed courses.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity offered by the current financial situation. By modernizing your organization, you can increase the power and the impact of learning within your company.