For corporate learning to be an integral part of a company’s strategic path forward, it should not exist as a collection of training events or activities strung together by time and place, an ongoing reaction to just-in-time requests from key stakeholders in the business, or a catalogue of courses or topical menu of programs. Rather, all initiatives in a corporation’s arsenal of offerings should be mapped against a framework that organizes and categorizes them in such a way that the ultimate purpose –– supporting strategy development and execution –– is optimally fulfilled. A useful framework for corporate learning is based on the three foundational pillars: Thought Leadership and Insights, Development Programs and Advisory Services. Each pillar contains a collection of components that should, in aggregate, comprise the total portfolio of a company’s learning initiatives.
Thought Leadership and Insights
This category is quickly becoming the most critical component in the learning agenda of global companies seeking to provide employees with new knowledge. It includes new information, resources and tools –– gleaned from research, best practices or personal experiences –– across topic areas.
- Convenings. One way companies can introduce general insights to staff is through functional convenings. Gatherings of groups of people are an ideal way to introduce almost any topic area and take learning to scale very quickly. Conferences, summits, forums, roundtables and interview panels are methods that companies can use to expose participants to management and operations topics.
- Content Development. Content is king and should anchor the office of the CLO. Indices and benchmarks are tools that can be used to organize useful data for learning. A powerful method to deliver applied content is benchmarking, or the process of aspiring to a standard of excellence in any given field. Comparing similar processes provides the basis for thinking about strategies for improvement in the parent organization.
- Sourcing. Distributing thought leadership content through live, in-person conferences and forums has high design value and can often scale to fairly large audiences. However, for maximum scalability and accessibility, an asynchronous distribution approach is even better. “Learning portals” are specialized company intranets that can house content and offerings for the whole learning function and are appropriate for showcasing thought leadership and insights content.
Professionals are most familiar with learning initiatives in this category, as they are most clearly aligned with traditional corporate training. It is important to remember, however, that a smorgasbord of basic, stand-alone training offerings is not an effective structure to accomplish CILS. What is needed are organized designs for targeted populations based on a foundational learning framework.
- Cohort. Every company develops a unique network of distinct employee communities inside its general organizational structure. Each of these cohorts has their own set of shared concerns, expectations and goals. Since the shared values of these groups can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of any company, development programs designed to address these values serve to strengthen performance.
- High Potential. In every organization, there are groups of rising stars who are destined to become the next-level leaders in the company. For these individuals, customized development is needed to prepare them for increased responsibility, particularly because most have exceeded expectations as individual contributors.
- Targeted. As new business needs and strategic priorities arise, specific development programs are needed to address them. After a merger or acquisition, for example, distinctly different cultures need to align and start working together with common policies. Cultural integration training that addresses practices such as communication styles and processes, procedural norms and strategy cascading can subvert many alignment-related issues.
Advisory services, the third pillar of the framework criteria for successful CILS Advisory work, is typically done one-on-one or in small groups and invokes more of a consultative methodology versus teaching approach. This important component of the framework is particularly useful for gathering data, customizing individual design plans and setting up ongoing implementation as learners face new challenges and situations that require support.
- Assessment. In order to determine what skills a particular individual or team needs, a range of diagnostics are necessary. Learning managers work closely with their partners in Human Resources to implement assessment programs to address any gaps and find solutions. Assessment tactics are also necessary for career development and succession planning. Staff development advisory services is an effective method of retaining the best and brightest performers in the company.
- Mentoring. Mentoring is another significant tool of advisory services that is supported in organizations large and small to develop and retain staff. It is an effective use of internal personnel resources with little or no dedicated cost to the company. Peer mentoring is an effective component in the success of the development of new employees as well