Partnerships and the organization

This is the third part of my response. See Part 1: Corporate Learning’s Focus & Part 2: Integrating learning into the business.

Inspired by Jay Cross, Amanda Fenton asks how her Corporate Learning department could better meet the needs of employees. I think these are excellent questions and the answers form the basis of addressing how to integrate work and learning in the enterprise.

Q7) How can we help support learning environments (resources and tools, relationships and networks, training and education, supervisor and company support) in a way that is highly efficient and scalable across the country? What are the programs and services that are supported centrally and what do we support through consulting? Through self-serve resources? What capacity needs to be developed in the organization to support all these areas? How can we better advocate the use of social software to enable high performance?

Jane Hart, in the state of learning in the workplace, sums up a more efficient & scalable approach; do-it yourself (DIY):

With the easy availability of tools, people are now “doing their own thing”. This is not just the case for those who are designing and/or delivering training or education for formal learners, but also by many to address their own learning and performance needs. There is a huge amount of evidence that shows that individuals (and teams) are using these tools for their own personal, informal learning. Instead of going to the LMS to find answers to their questions or solve problems, they are using tools like Google, Wikipedia or YouTube, or simply posting questions to their networks on Twitter or Facebook in order to get immediate, up-to-date and relevant answers. It is interesting to note that the success of their “learning” is measured in how well it helps them to address the learning or performance issue in hand, not in course completion data in the LMS. In very many cases, individuals are therefore now directing and managing their own learning primarily though the use of these new tools.

All these factors are influencing the look of learning in the workplace …

As Charles Jennings shows in this very articulate presentation, 8 reasons to focus on informal & social learning, learning happens as a process, not a series of events. Studies have shown that up to 90% of workplace learning happens outside of formal learning. This is what needs to be supported, but not controlled, by the organization. Informal learning is generally more effective, less expensive and better received than formal training. Informal is more more scalable than formal. Central control is only necessary for about 10% of workplace learning and this is the portion of resources that should be allocated to it. The graphic below (slide 32) clearly shows how ineffective typical formal training can be:

The data and research are available. Advocating for a better balance of learning options inside the enterprise depends on how well the training department understands its own organization.

Q8) What would an integrated OD, HR, IT, KM, Marketing/Communications and L&D partnership look like? How would our roles, responsibilities and structure change? Who does the manager or employee call when they run into a performance problem? What big organizational beliefs do we need to let go of to support these changes?

Euan Semple has called for combining HR, Communications and IT. Euan says that:

  • HR are “maintainers of order, rather than enablers of staff”;
  • Communications manages rather than enables communication;
  • IT controls risk instead of enabling the business.

These are generalizations, but expose the weaknesses of our current management systems.

The same workplace issues are being faced by HR, IT, OD, KM, Marketing/Communications and T&D departments. Similar complaints and parallel strategies are being developed in isolation in each of these areas. We really need to get away from our self-imposed tribes and adopt network thinking and practices. All levels of complexity exist in our world but more of our work (especially knowledge-intensive work) deals with complex problems, whether they be social, environmental or technological. Complex environments and problems are best addressed when we organize as networks; our work evolves around developing emergent practices; and we collaborate to achieve our goals.

With hyper-linked information and access to expertise, not only are all internal support departments of less value, they can actually subvert the organization’s future by not responding quickly and appropriately. We need to look to business models on the fringes that foster a sense of community and focus on agility and autonomy. No single, sure-fire, cookie-cutter approach can be implemented in a top-down or consultant-driven manner to create a networked workplace performance model that works. There are no best practices, only next practices.

We can start by recombining organizational DNA, breaking down silos and inverting the organizational pyramid.

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