The move to centralize global learning programs can generate a number of tangible benefits. When centralized under a single global umbrella, learning can be standardized and made repeatable, ensuring integrity of the content and design wherever it’s delivered.
Centralization also allows companies to capture best practices locally and leverage them worldwide. GE has found significant benefits with presentation skills training, a component of one of the company’s early leader programs.
“We have 80 people in this class,” said Jayne Johnson, director of leadership education at GE. “We get eight faculty [members] to come in, split our teams into eight teams of 10 people each, and each of the faculty take 10 people and teach them presentation skills for half a day.”
Due to the high cost of faculty in Asia, the local learning team there took a different approach.
“They make the design into half-day modules, only hire four [faculty] [and] break their class of 80 into two,” she said. “Half the class goes into presentation skills in the morning while the other half goes in the afternoon — so they save cost that way.”
This budget-conscious design yielded similar outcomes in the North American model and has since been adopted in the United States.
In addition to leveraging best practices, the global design team ensures an integrated approach to the different levels of leadership courses at GE: early leader, new manager, advanced manager and executive manager.
“We’re able to integrate the design of all of those courses so that they build up from one to the other,” Johnson said. “Also, from a maintenance standpoint, we can review the content on an annual basis and make appropriate updates as needed.”
While centralization allows GE to maintain consistency and integrity, the global design team often faces challenges when trying to make activities that are relevant to the local context.
“We try to create exercises that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of a particular country,” Johnson said. “For example, we have one activity that teaches business acumen, where participants manage a business, [and] rather than having them all run the same type of business, in the United States they run a hotdog stand, in India it’s a kebab food stand and in Germany it’s a brezel [pretzel] business.”
An additional challenge with globalized learning is that the levels of expertise in terms of instructional design and development vary around the world. This means some local learning units may possess stronger skill sets than others, Johnson said.
One of the biggest challenges learning professionals must come to terms with is the cost associated with standardized, global programs. A handful of lower-level early-leader training courses at GE require the material to be translated, which can prove fairly costly.
“If you’re designing a program with certain fixed costs, you’re expecting to be able to meet a certain threshold to be able to pay for the design and development of what you’re doing,” Johnson said.Filed under: Learning Delivery