Enhancing learning, development for business survival

Oni---CopyBesides finding the right talent and keeping same in an organisation, a common headache among Human Resource (HR) practitioners is getting adequate training for staffers.

Where the organisation is doing well like a prospering economy, Learning and Development (L&D) proposals are least of a suspect in the budget. But where survival is already a struggle and training easily thrown overboard to cut cost in an organisation, a HR will need more than persuasion to get workers trained.

Specifically, an HR manager – that is saddled with the onerous task of assembling the right workforce in a workplace – is duty bound to be strategic in selecting training programmes to help the organisation stay ahead of the pack.

To do this, experts argue, practitioners must ensure a paradigm shift from those days where training was a mere routine exercise and escape route for executives take a rest, to today’s pressing need for purposeful, strategic learning and development as critical enablers and tool for business survival in a fast-changing world.

Speaking at the 2015 edition of the Learning Leaders’ Forum of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM) in Lagos, Human Resource Executive, MTN Nigeria, Amina Oyagbola, noted that today’s business environment is faced with “radical changes” and there is no longer single competitive strategy that works.

“What we used yesterday is no longer relevant today,” Oyagbola said, “because we now live in a disruptive world.”

Working in the telecom sector that is by nature disrupting, “there are things that we too are learning, struggling with everyday, because there are so many unknown factors.”

“So, a single strategy will not get you very far, rather, a multiplicity of strategies to survive and thrive. Therefore, organisations need to learn, innovate, change and adapt to the changing environment.”

Oyagbola, who spoke on the theme: “Promoting learning and development as a strategic enabler and tool for business survival”, added that the implication is the need to keep pace with the changing world through learning.

Addressing a gathering of HR practitioners, she stressed that it is the job of the HR to enable his or her organisation achieve its objectives through people, by attracting, developing and retaining the right top talents to deliver the strategic objectives.

Continuing, she said: “It is our duty to drive down the importance of training and development. You really need to sweat your people-asset, lead them well and ensure that they have the requisite ability and skill to deliver the objectives because the targets don’t come by themselves.”

For HR practitioner to create value and deliver in today’s rapidly changing world, Oyagbola stressed, learning and development function is “the most crucial function” in an organisation that wants to sustain its competitiveness and profitability.

A learning and development strategy aims to meet employee learning and development needs, ensure optimal human capital development, and build the business management and leadership skills for a strong executive team into the future. When it is well-aligned with overall business objectives, a clear and well-defined learning and development strategy provides the blueprint to develop a talent pipeline that can deliver organisational goals.

“But for it to be seen as crucial for survival, it must be properly integrated into every HR process to drive productive and performance. And it our duty, as HR practitioners, to be able to showcase the importance of learning and development.”

As a practitioner in the know, she said further that it was no longer enough to come up with a schedule of routine training plan, rather, make visible the value of learning and development to an organisation. Because learning and development are no longer a luxury most organisations can afford, she advised that they must henceforth be tailored to competence building for the right-to-win in the marketplace.

She observed that such dimension in Learning and Development is still a challenge globally. According to CEB, less than a third of managers view learning and development as essential to boosting employee performance. Where they are prioritised, more than half of all learning and development programmes suffer from lack of relevance in day-to-day work, with minimal emphasis on applications during solution design; low level of learners’ motivation and managers’ ability to apply what is learnt; non-aligned to business needs and does not necessarily build organisational capability to win the marketplace. The best L&D programmes achieve application levels and improve employee performance up to 50 per cent more and drive business results without similar increases in investment.

“We, therefore, need to make a fundamental shift from where we are currently to a situation of today and the future where learning and development function is seen as a strategic and central function as part of the business planning process of the organisation, as part of the leadership management process, part of the career management process, part of the strategic workforce planning process and leadership profile of that organisation to drive performance. Such that we even workout in advance the returns of that investment,” Oyagbola said.

Besides prioritizing L&D, HR Director, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc, Tominiyi Oni, added that HR practitioners should also ensure that their learning and development strategy align with an overall business strategy, “because your organisation’s learning and development needs are unique.”

Oni said this was the reason an organisation must have a philosophy, to which every other thing must align. Failure to define such properly accounts for investments in training that turned out to be a waste.

It is also up to the HR to be innovative and aware of the Baby-boomer generation that often doesn’t want to learn sitting in a classroom.

Assistant Director, Learning and Development, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Larry Abasiakan, said further that the world is growing smaller and competitive by the day, but ideas are game-changers and have to be learnt.

As learning leaders, Abasiakan said, “we must be able to recognize talents and prepare for the development vis-a-vis organisational demands.”

He observed that the challenges for HRs and the future of learning would include the new generations and their handling for tomorrow; the global talent challenge and technological innovations.

Chairman, L&D Committee of the CIPM, Bode Shogo, earlier said that the topic could not have come at a better time, particularly where Learning and Development, which is the forte of the HR, is already the weeping boy of organisations.

To develop an effective corporate training package, experts further advised practitioners to include resource use considerations in their learning and development strategy. Consider whether you will have better gains from in-house training management courses and workshops or if you can make better strategic use of resources by accessing business classes at top business schools. The former may offer advantages such as team unity and speed of programme delivery; the latter enables you to tap into leading-edge business expertise. A mix of both may prove to be the winning L&D strategy.

Consider the best corporate learning tools and technique within your learning and development strategy. Some of today’s best tools for integrative corporate learning include leadership exercises, leadership coaching, guided case study analysis, flexibly balanced distance and campus learning, and real-world learning in global business hot-spots.

Don’t forget that employee recruitment and retention are interconnected and that learning and development programmes should contribute to these as part of your value proposition to employees. Ensure that expected impact on recruitment and retention is set out in your learning and development strategy.

Consider the future of your learning and development strategy. As learning and development needs and management training tools and resources evolve, so should your L&D strategy. Build your management development objectives and enhancement goals into your learning and development strategy.

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