How can learning and development professionals prepare for times of turbulence — such as leadership turnover or broad economic instability — during periods of relative calm in their organizations?
I’m not sure where you work, but in my nearly 20 years working in a corporate environment, I have never experienced “relative calm.” It seems there is continuous change in organizations that we must constantly adapt to in order to survive. The best way for learning and development professionals to deal with organizational and market changes is to scenario plan and forecast for variability. Markets are unpredictable, people are unpredictable, and organizations are unpredictable. I use contingency planning and scenario planning to minimize the impact of change on my learning organization. For example, at Qualcomm, we create division learning plans for each division based on extensive needs assessment. Those plans are aligned with business plans and are frequently adapted based on business changes. To prepare for uncertainties, we create possible business scenarios, such as leadership changes, product changes or technology elimination, and re-create those learning plans to simulate what would happen if those changes occurred. That process enables us to anticipate and have a plan ready based on various possibilities. While those scenarios don’t always occur, the preparation and thinking about how our learning plans would be altered as a result of a business change is a valuable process and assists us in determining alternate strategies for increasing organizational and individual performance. While we will never fully be prepared for all the changes that occur in organizations, planning for them as much as possible is the best we can do.
I was laid off last year as a training director for a Fortune 500 company. I have been looking for a new job for the past six months and have not yet found the right opportunity. What advice do you have for me or others who are in a similar situation? Should I start a consulting business? What should I be doing during my job search that will enhance my marketability?
– Barbara A.
My first piece of advice is to be patient. Over the past several months I’ve noticed that external hiring is increasing and there are less resource constraints within organizations. More companies are looking for ways to organize for future success, and businesses are emerging very different than they were last year. Based on significant business and organizational changes, businesses need people with skills in organization assessment, organization development and organization design. Companies are focusing on assessing their talent, managing their talent and developing their talent for increased organizational performance. The increased business focus on talent provides lots of opportunities for people in the learning profession to add value to organizations. Keep a broad focus, not just on training or programs, so your job options will be greater.
I also suggest that you keep working in the learning field — either volunteer to assist in your local learning-related association (ASTD, ISPI, HRPS, etc.) or find project work in a company. Many learning professionals in transition begin consulting work in organizations. Consulting can be a great entrance into companies without them having to commit to hiring you full time. You can prove your skills and get exposure to the learning team through your consulting assignment. The caution with consulting is there are so many learning consultants in the field that it can be hard to differentiate yourself. To keep current, I suggest attending learning conferences, local networking groups and professional development programs to stay updated on learning trends, practices and technologies. The learning industry is continuing to evolve, so staying up to date on new developments is essential. The job market is getting better, and with persistence, you will soon be back in a learning leader role. Good luck.
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