By Elisabeth Goodman, 7th June 2017
Continuous learning opportunities not only at the individual but also at the organisational level are key factors for success
This is one of the conclusions from a recent CIPD report authored by Jane Daly and Laura Overton. Ways cited in which an organisation can benefit include increased growth, profitability, transformation and productivity.
This is one of several references that I have come across in recent weeks exploring the value that organisations can gain from investing in learning.
Not surprisingly, as a provider of training courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, it’s a topic close to our heart!
The report makes several references to Senge, who was an early advocate of the learning organisation. The first edition of his book, “The Fifth Discipline” came out in 1990.
His tenets have been adopted by Knowledge Management practitioners who advocate a range of approaches for connecting employees so that they can share knowledge between them. These include for example:
- Creating Communities of Interest or Practice to share expertise within and between organisations, irrespective of any hierarchical structure.
- Ensuring that people share knowledge with peers before, during and after completing any significant piece of work, including projects.
- Capturing knowledge from experts in a particular field to ensure that it is not lost when they leave an organisation.
These are approaches that we teach in our Knowledge Management and Project Management courses.
We also promote continuous learning and improvement in our Lean and Six Sigma courses, something that the CIPD report advocates as part of creating a “thriving ecosystem”.
Learning and development initiatives must be supported at an organisational level
The CIPD report emphasises that learning and development cannot occur in a vacuum, but instead must be set within the context of the organisation’s purpose. As the authors say: employees are asking for clarity of purpose (the ‘why’) and top organisations are those that are sharing this – it’s the ‘golden thread’ for unlocking potential.
Delegates on our management courses and new leadership course tell us repeatedly that they struggle to set effective objectives for their direct reports when they don’t know what the organisation’s strategic objectives are. Learning and development related objectives rely on that clarity of purpose.
Michael Beer, in the October 2016 Harvard Business Review (HBR) article “Why leadership training fails” also tells us that clarity of direction is one of the six basic steps for ensuring an effective outcome from investment in training.
Investment in training must itself demonstrate value
Training is an overhead, and opinion is divided as to whether or not to invest in it when times are lean.
So it is important to have some measures of the impact of training, as advocated in Kirkpatrick’s four levels i.e. it’s not enough to have a ‘happy sheet’ at the end of a training course (level 1). Instead, we should measure the level of learning gained (level 2), how it has been applied (level 3) and what impact it has had (level 4).
We have been getting some excellent feedback from a current in-house management and leadership development programme that speaks to levels 1, 2 and intentions for level 3:
“Another great training day. Having clear labels for appraising / coaching has been extremely beneficial and I am looking forward to implementing what I have learned”
We occasionally get an opportunity to carry out follow-up surveys to get a proper assessment of levels 3 and 4, as with one in-house client last year for whom we delivered courses in management skills, project management, communication and influencing skills, and time and meeting management:
There are many routes available for learning and development
The CIPD report mentions the value of coaching for all levels of an organisation. Coaching is something that we embed in our management courses, offer as a stand-alone, and we have just launched a new Coaching Skills for Managers course.
We also advocate the importance of a range of on-the-job learning approaches that organisations can implement for themselves, such as shadowing, buddying, cross-training, mentoring, and sharing insights gained from external courses through internal seminars.
What we are more skeptical about is the degree of emphasis that the CIPD report puts on online learning as a major platform for learning. Yes it is convenient and widely accessible, but, as the report says, people struggle to find the right information online, and to make the time to use it (“35% of employees say that uninspiring content is a barrier to learning online”).
Our experience is that face-to-face events still seem to suit a lot of people better in terms of their learning style, tailored content, and helping them to make the time. The ability to interact and explore their challenges with and learn from colleagues is an aspect that they continuously rate highly.
Do get in touch if you would like to access some of our portfolio for learning and development
Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about RiverRhee Consulting, our range of off-site and in-house workshops and one-to-one coaching, and how we can help you to create exceptional managers and teams.