Saturday, September 03, 2011

Aligning Learning with Corporate Strategy

Business has experienced an evolution from the agricultural age to the Industrial Revolution to the information age. Now, the talent age has arrived. Companies realize that in a world where every other aspect of doing business has been commoditized, talent is the only real competitive advantage they have. Currently, the competitive battlefront is for the best people, the true creators of value

Some of the key challenges which if addressed by organizations will enable to align training program to corporate strategy. Best vehicle for sustainable organization development is to engage training participants in real work with live strategic issues. Today’s corporate training organizations must be highly aligned with their business’ immediate and urgent corporate priorities, while also building long term capabilities for the future.

By incorporating the “3way”hit formula will be like
1. Increase the participants understanding and commitment to corporate strategy
2. Help them produce innovative ideas and solutions and create a strategies to meet business needs
3. Help in development and achievement of goals

Adelsberg and Trolley in their book “Running Training like Business” talk about the following as challenges that needs to be changed in order to evolve ‘’training’’ as HR function
• Training has remained Tactical
• “Drivers’’ to the strategic goals are obvious but the challenge is how to move them
• Typically Organizations have Ad hoc or disjointed Training Functions
• Investment in Trainings needs better management
• The change towards making training business function is taking place, the rate at which it is happening may not be as per requirements

The key questions to be asked by L&D Professionals in order to get Training aligned to Corporate Strategy are
• Garnering Support and Sponsorship for Learning Solutions
• Training Delivery Check
• Innovative Training Solutions in L&D for Strategy Alignment
• Involvement of Line Managers in Training Development and Deployment
These don’t come as surprise to many of the L&D professionals who have been, since 2008 are driving trainings as mostly customized/canned programs; which has lead many a companies take the most beaten path of genuine and menu-driven trainings in nature.
Many industry leaders I have spoken to are of the opinion that this is a short sighted and knee jerk reaction.
The more “Central Built” model of leaders’ development and talent programs (like Global Model with local way with functional managers) are immediate and urgent need.

I am penning down some thoughts about how one can answer these questions with my experience
• Garnering Support
- While the most sought after position or respect L&D person seeks is a place on the Board, but what one don’t realize yet is- it is always the role of influencer than decision maker
- Instead of seeking executive sponsorship, strive towards ownership. Meaning make the Sr.Mgt team go thru the actual program in capsules, so that it gets their ownership and then take with rest of the participants
 In one of my previous assignments, by doing this we could penetrate the difficult closely held functional group of leaders and managers who were averse to the idea of trainings in first place (the country, the culture and the organizational dynamics were the greatest myth we did break thru this approach)
- Engaging the “Participating Leaders” in a dialogue with Sr. Mgt Team as part of the program progress
- Make Program Content directing into strategy alignment by asking CEO to select the most appropriate strategic value ideas into implementation.
 We did this in our Future Leaders’ Program at an organization, which not only ensured the program success but also created a new business avenue which has become a revenue stream in less than 20 months time.
• Check on L&D delivery is alignment with Business Strategy
- Use of Steering Groups for the learning delivery
 By creating group of line managers as a training facilitators, this can be achieved for better success as well as more business strategy relevant
- With the moving business targets, the L&D programs needs to be designed “Just in time” learning solutions
- Business Partnering like HR Business Partners in one such way
- Letting internal L&D professionals do bit of business consulting in order to let them gain perspective
 One of the India’s largest software exporters used this model to good effect where I was working. The L&D professionals were asked to do business consulting internally as well as externally. This again opened a revenue stream for the organization

• Methodologies of L&D
- To maximize 3 way approach of “action learning”, “interactive games”, “face to face trainings” is a way forward.
- Moving away from classical model of case studies/ simulations/ theories and arcane models, it should be towards current and actual business strategy for better “skills building”, “Knowledge Inputs” and “Personal Development”.
 In our Leadership Development Program for Mid Level Managers at a major distributors of automobiles, we used the technique of “Fly on the wall”” to create Case studies, examples which ensured when the trainers used them in the session, the content was more relevant and had a future strategy alignment to it
- Custom designed line leadership challenge to Sr. Leadership Team about the next few days will be one of the good idea
 As shared earlier, this method was used as one of the means for programs during a Leadership Program which helped in solving a problem which existed for some years in the organization.
- A new or emerging market case scenario can be discussed in such leadership programs or live business challenges to be discussed to ensure the strategy is linked to trainings
- Peer Coaching
• Involving line managers in Pre/Post L&D Delivery, the key success factor is L&D programs are the involvement of line managers
- Making senior leaders performance criteria as support to L&D Initiatives
 As a L&D Professional, I have been insisting on this in all my assignments at organizations to ensure success.
- Making participants to identify development goals with line managers and coaches and derive strategy based learning
- Making participants “debrief” to their managers and teams as a mandatory part of the program learning

Leveraging the business strategy as the framework for people development – in terms of program objectives, solution design and content – organizations will deliver powerful and practical development of their leaders and key talent that is directly aligned with key business goals and imperatives. A strategy-based program design delivered via engaging experiential learning methodologies, such as live, interactive leadership simulations and action learning business projects involving real business issues, enables participants to readily connect the dots between ‘training’ and their real lives at work.