‘The only thing that gives an organization a competitive edge . . . is what it knows, how it uses what it knows, and how fast it can know something new.” – Laurence Prusak
A century ago, when the industrial revolution was at its zenith, most companies invested in fixed assets – from manufacturing units, corporate offices and equipment. Fast-forward to today, and the focus has shifted from fixed assets to human capital.
Learning as a tool for competitive advantage:
However, while employees have benefited from this shift in terms of better working spaces, access to healthcare and other perks, one of the most important areas of focus for the HR remains investing in training and development. By continuously upgrading their employee’s knowledge, skills, and performance, companies are aiming for greater productivity of their human capital to get a competitive advantage.
From nurturing talent across the ranks, from the frontline employee to the CEO, to developing key skills such as leadership, dealing with change and innovation marketing, among others, organizations are investing in training and development. They are investing in the future of their workforce and the organization through powerful learning opportunities.
But training alone rarely improves performance. Learning does. Learning has become ubiquitous and has permeated the very fabric of an organization’s existence. It is no longer a question of IF, but HOW, WHEN and WHERE to implement continuous learning programs. Unfortunately, learning, in many organizations, is still looked as an afterthought. Of course, there are a quite a few organizations that may even have comprehensive training programs, but the question is whether they go beyond mere training to instill learning in the fabric of the organization
Creating a learning environment:
One needs to ask the right questions such as:
What is the role of learning in the organization?
How to build the right culture to enable learning?
How do I justify learning and derive business benefit?
How scalable is the learning program?
To meet this need for continuous learning, every training program must ensure that they are using the right content and information, creating an open culture and using an effective delivery mechanism.
The Right Content and Information:
This is the most critical aspect of any learning program. The right information needs to be delivered to the right audience, at the right time and in the right manner. Since content is constantly changing, it becomes extremely important to select the right content and organize it in a manner that is easily accessible and shareable. No two departments are the same, and customizing the content is also crucial. However, every department may have certain similar requirements, which can be addressed by an overarching learning program. In the era of specialization, it is important to go with the sniper approach, rather than the spray and pray method, which will make the program more effective. This will help in addressing the precise learning needs of the individual, business unit and the organization.
Creating an Open Environment:
Another important aspect is to enable a culture of learning and sharing. Open access to information and peer-to-peer knowledge transformation not only helps in creating a learning organization, but also brings about a transparency and trust that have multifold effect on the value system of the organization. When learning is hoarded, and people are fearful that someone else can improve using the learning that is being shared, an organization cannot grow. Hence it is important for organizations to incentivize and encourage the culture of learning and sharing.
Effective Delivery Mechanism:
The value of great learning content and an amazing learning culture can be realized only when there are effective delivery mechanisms in place. If this information is not delivered to the right audience in a timely manner, then the effort in creating the content is lost. Care should be taken that normal work activities are not disrupted, is easy to access and of value to the end user.
In this era of globalization and a workforce across multiple geographies and time zones, a delivery mechanism which can enable anytime anywhere learning, motivate the users to not only complete the training program but also enjoy the process, is an extremely important requirement.
Making Learning Stick:
The ultimate measure of a learning program is when employees are able to take it to their work and succeed in real life situations. This is where new age training methodologies driven by technology play a role. Using gamification and simulation can help employees take the learning beyond the classroom and benefit from the program. This is also crucial for the organization to justify its’ investment and gain business benefit.