Congratulations! You’ve convinced senior leadership to sign off on a central learning strategy. Now, how will you make sure the strategy is aligned with local business needs? You may be a company with three locations within 100 miles of headquarters or a company with dozens of business units in multiple countries. How can you make it all come together?
You are not alone in this challenge. Learning governance is a practice many organizations are grappling with and need advice on. Typically, this work involves realigning the use of technology, diagnostics and learning expertise so that training becomes widely available but also localized, role-relevant and embedded to ensure organizational impact.
First, your central learning team needs to be curious about the business – not just curious about the business of learning but curious about the business itself. What makes the business tick, what are the challenges it is currently facing, how is the local economy faring and how do these elements impact the business?
The learning team should reflect on the differences between various parts of the business. For example, different units may have different client profiles, and the tenure and experience of the individuals working in each unit will vary. Understanding these differences will help you identify if there are any pockets of good practice that you can use to set a benchmark for other business units. For example, if the average sale per person in the sales team of office A is far greater than the average sale of a salesperson in office B, find out how sales team A’s manager supports the salespeople, what the office culture is like, what the sales manager looks for in new hires, etc. Of course, local socioeconomic conditions may be a factor, so consider them, too.
Although it is useful to identify these pockets of good practice, you should not assume that you can apply these practices to other business units without giving thought to whether their rollout is feasible and desirable. The learning team needs to be skilled in asking the right questions when engaging with leaders in each of the business units, instead of merely assuming that headline key performance indicators will tell you all you need to know.
However, in order to do so, the business should think about developing the consulting skills of the learning team so you can positively influence leaders and managers to engage in learning and development. Developing consulting skills will help improve your credibility and help you gain senior-level advocacy for your recommended training and development solutions.
Another consideration to think about is how effective local managers are at supporting the embedding of learning. The learning team should engage with local business units to establish the support you need. There’s no point in having a central learning strategy if local units fail to embed learning effectively. Trying to establish a learning culture throughout the business is essential to the success of the plan, not only in ROI terms. Many learning leaders set aside extra investment to help develop line managers’ coaching skills alongside the main training program.
Any central learning strategy should include specific programs to address specific needs in a particular location. A one-size-fits-all approach will not gain engagement, and new learning will fail to be embedded. There are many diagnostic and assessment tools in the marketplace that can support a better approach, but “just enough of what is needed and delivered just in time” is a good mantra to adopt.