I’ve considered myself fortunate to work with learners and learning organizations across the world as they develop their learning infrastructures. Although there are regional considerations, the world is becoming an increasingly connected place, and establishing essential best practices is critical to success when building a global learning organization. Here are six such practices.
1. Working in a Regulated and Compliant World
As the world has become more connected, regulation has risen, and the need to mitigate risk to companies and customers has placed a greater focus on compliance in the learning field.
One outcome of this evolution is a drive for consistent, evidence-based learning for employees. This shift has led many organizations to centralize the learning function and put global learning operations in place. Developing global solutions requires global support, and a thoughtful approach to global learning operations can bring the additional benefits of cost savings and operational efficiencies. However, they are not the only values a strong global learning structure may create.
2. Thinking About Structure
One of the big wins of an efficient structure is the ability to create an opportunity budget. This budget is composed of savings realized, which are better invested in learning solutions. Money that the organization once spent on six (or 60) versions of the same program in five regions may now be leveraged to develop better programs; to invest in technology; and, in consultation with stakeholders, to better align learning with business needs. If an organization uses a global model with the mindset of maximizing the value of learning budgets, it is also likely to improve business outcomes.
3. Defining Global Governance
At the onset of creating a global structure, it’s important to consider governance, which sets the framework for operations and relationships. A key recommendation is creating a terms of reference document, which outlines how the organization engages and works across regions. The terms of reference set the foundation for operational structure and build stakeholder support for global learning solutions. While developing this resource, take into account how the learning organization will engage across regions, who will manage it and how it will function.
4. Examining Global Governance Regional Deployment Factors
Organizations can prevent centralized groupthink by using caution when establishing their governance model. Often, when a learning team is organized to operate centrally, team members believe that they are the experts when it comes to delivering learning. While the corporate team may have the greatest experience in developing learning solutions, however, it may have little experience in deploying the solution regionally; may not understand the complexity of resourcing in a region; or may not have the contracting skills to navigate purchasing at the regional or, especially, the country level.
Putting the right people on the governance team means engaging stakeholders when forming the team. The process of negotiating the structure and terms of global governance builds stakeholder trust and engagement. It also helps to increase savings through a better understanding of tax treaties and purchasing challenges.
5. Building a Strong Team
An effective global learning team values the differences each member brings to the organization. Embracing differences and learning from each other is paramount to success. While it is not always practical (from a budget perspective), it’s a good idea to assign expats from central operations to a certain region or have regional employees join the central team.
While people are now more easily connected through technology, there is no better way to understand different parts of the world than living and working in them. I believe that my time in Asia and the United Kingdom have helped me appreciate the challenges facing our global teams every day.
6. Establishing Global and Regional Partnerships
A strong, connected learning team helps the organization find and source the right partners around the globe. As regions evolve, the strength of regional and local resources grows as well. It is critical to select partners carefully; choose organizations that complement or augment the areas where you do not have deep resources or experience. Look for partners that match your organizational values and have the desire, experience and capabilities to partner and grow capabilities that match your needs. Look for partners that are able to work with and across learning providers with your best interests in mind.
These six points are just a few to consider when building global learning organizations. The reality is that modern learning approaches add multiple layers of challenges. The governance and relationships you form now will set the stage for dealing successfully with the changes ahead.