Keeping Your Learning Model Relevant by Jo Coulson

As L&D professionals, we must be able to adjust our models to reflect what is happening in our respective industries. This is especially true for L&D leaders challenged with responding to today’s rapidly changing workplace, and strategizing how they build and lead their team of learning professionals.

So in this spirit, I’d like to continue our discussion on corporate training learning models.

Focus: Where do you put your energy and resources?

To answer this question, you need to understand what drives your company/industry both in the short-term and long-term. Are there sweeping changes on the horizon, or do you anticipate status quo? How will this impact employees? Is it short-lived or long-term? Here are a few examples:

Mergers and acquisitions have a sweeping employee impact, but are short-lived. The impact is intense and condensed. Too often internal staff is so tied up with the merger they have little time to prepare the organization for the future. Suddenly the merger activity is over, and your business leaders are looking to you for new programs aligned to their new business model. By partnering with outside resources, your internal staff can focus on what the learning needs are of the future organization post-merger.

A different example is an expansion of industry regulations. This may require an intense focus in the short-term, but the learning needs often wane as the new regulations become ingrained in the culture. Contractors, vendor partners, etc. may help with the initial push; however, L&D may also need to add a level of permanent staff to maintain vigilance and continued support to ensure long-term integration.

Even with rapid change, every industry has a core learning need based on the product or service provided. Do you need programs that are consistent and stable? Great if you do, but do you also focus on continuous improvement of your core business? If so, the L&D leader will need a staff that can consult and be a pro-active business partner. These needs are generally best served by internal staff who can recognize if and when to bring in consultants and contractors for support.

So how do you determine L&D’s focus? The short answer is: Ask. The long answer is this: Don’t ask your clients what their learning needs are — ask what their business needs are. Ask them what they see in the future — in the industry, in the company (and in some cases, the world). Ask them about their strategic direction and focus. Ask them about their greatest challenges and opportunities.

Once you have this information, it will become much clearer what your learning focus needs to be and once you have that clarity, it will be much easier for you to determine the right mix of permanent staff, consultants, contractors, and vendor partners.

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