In the last few years the corporate learning industry has become overly focused on terms such as informal learning, social learning and mobile learning as the next big things. Each of these topics means a lot as companies shift their investments away from formal education toward more collaborative solutions.
But in the last year we have seen the problem is not only rethinking how we develop and consume learning content, but rethinking how a company works as a set of business communities and designing learning and development solutions that fit each community’s need. Let me explain with a few examples.
Lufthansa has been rolling out its Coaching Ourselves program for nearly two years. This program, which focuses on giving high-potential leaders a set of high-value coaching skills and formal leadership development, is designed not only to train people who go through it, but to change the organization itself.
Lufthansa understands that among its 100,000-plus employees there are many internal communities already in place — service agents, finance, IT and country operations teams — and these teams already have strong internal leaders and experts. The corporate HR department could not possibly change or train these people, but it wanted to empower these communities to improve leadership, internal coaching, knowledge sharing and development.
Lufthansa’s learning team realized it had three goals: teaching managers and leaders how to coach and lead; giving them action plans and programs to learn on the job; and giving each participant an opportunity for reflection, so he or she could internalize what had been learned and bring it forward to his or her team. Lufthansa developed a highly blended program that teaches high potentials how to coach themselves — with the goal of working on projects that are very specific to their own communities using the skills they learned through the program.
One team decided to embark on the problem: “If only Lufthansa knew what Lufthansa knew” — a problem we all face in our own organizations. This group created an active social network that put in place a formal program for sharing best-practices, and the program was replicated across different countries using country-specific approaches and tools.
The finding here is not that leadership development and coaching itself are innovative, but that the process of developing people to support their own communities and giving them the freedom and action plans to implement solutions within their community can be. After nearly two years in operation, this program is credited with driving a significant improvement in operational execution, individual engagement and individual career growth throughout this sprawling organization.
A second example of a community-based learning approach is Intel’s focus on developing female engineers. The role of women in the workforce has dramatically changed in the last 10 years. Today more than 58 percent of all college graduates are women, and nearly 75 percent of women in the U.S. work. HP, IBM and PepsiCo are now run by female executives, and there are more to come. Without a program to attract, develop and support women in their professional or managerial careers, companies will find themselves losing the war for talent.
Intel understands there is still a subtle bias against women in technical roles in many parts of the world. But rather than simply train managers on the role of women and how to counter gender bias, Intel has set up 32 community chapters called the Women at Intel network, empowering women to work together as a local community and learn from each other. Corporate HR and learning and development teams have helped to build and support these communities with infrastructure, communications and training, but ultimately it is the communities themselves which surface cultural, training or leadership issues that must be addressed.
One of the biggest challenges companies face in any top-down training is the need to “glocalize” the program around the world. But until and unless the skills and knowledge you impart are embraced and used within your organization’s local learning community, they are unlikely to have major impact.
Josh Bersin is the principal and founder of Bersin & Associates. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.Filed under: Leadership Development