Every company will always have operational challenges. They will always represent a priority because the purpose of every organization is to be profitable. However making a profit won’t always be easy. Internal or external constraints, the market or the level of resources it has at its disposal will always impact this objective. The question for people who are in support functions is how they can contribute to the profitability of the company?
So let’s see how a Learning and Development department can contribute to helping a company reach its objectives.
The vision of a good manager is a winning one if it brings growth to the business. Joel Arthur Baker said that the impact of a top manager’s vision on the business is strong if it becomes sustainable and inspires employees. And these are the two areas where the L&D department can earn its keep.
This will be possible first if all through aligning the development strategy so that it supports the necessary abilities and second of all by launching formulas or programs that sell the personal benefits to every employee and show the nuance of brand or organization affiliation.
The L&D strategy must be aligned with the company’s goals
Managers decide the objectives and how they will be realized, in cycles. Each time however they will need support – people who know how to deliver things fast and efficient and are able to act in a unitary, programmed, transparent and enthusiastic way. Well this requires investment in development.
On the other hand, the more an external supplier understands the needs, internal culture particularities, internal procedures, work habits and power plays the greater the investment will be for organizations. The same goes for the implementation period.
Plus according to McCall, Eichinger and Lombardo we know that a training is not a universal remedy, a magic bullet that opens the door to every client, the gates of every application and the minds of every participant. The value of traditional development methods is amplified by the support of specialists, the manager and colleagues expressed in various way and also requiring a lot of practice.
All these aspects represent an opportunity for Learning & Development departments. Now is the time to prove your expertise in building development programs that are bold, tailored to specific needs and contain new models.
Why bold? Any change has an effect on the business, but the change has to help the company reach an objective and in crisis situations the change, in most cases, must lead to growth.
How do I build a program that covers a need? A need (be it organizational or individual), in our case the need for growth, is the one that generated the change in business. This can be accomplished if you follow these steps:
- Putting that need into context
- Identifying the current level of competence (managers, specialists etc.)
- Isolating the differences between the current level of competence and the desired one
- Identifying those competences that can have an impact in business
- Encouraging understanding, experimentation and practicing of the new competencies
- Ensuring that people can practice these new competences
- Linking the practice of these abilities to business KPI
- Measuring the current level with the level before the implementation of the program
Where do I find new models? The obvious approach is to look on the market or at specialized books and this in turn requires a higher or lower budget. I recommend you first try to find the right solutions by yourself or with the help of your team. Approaches can vary, creative or analytical. You can find solutions through a group exercise or you can break down the competencies into 4 or 5 behaviors and then isolate your desired one. It will be easier to identify the solution for applying the new behavior and then build the entire system around it (trainings, internal procedures, monitoring systems etc.).
You should apply it depending on the management level! Competences and behaviors can be different and vary from one execution level to another. For example a Senior Manager will have to sell the new process in his department, a manager will have to understand it and plan it, a team lead will need to know how the change looks like, how it will affect his people and how to keep them on the right track. And last but not least individual employees have to know what they will have to do differently and how this change will help them.
How do you align the approaches? Any sort of approach has to treat all the various groups in a different way while at the same time addressing the same topic. On the other hand these interventions have to encourage the practice of the new skills that are required for reaching the business objectives. If the company wants to focus on developing new markets but the L&D strategy is focused on developing team work and personal branding there are going to be issues.
In part two of the article we will be discussing how sell your development program within the company.