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How the best global organisations build world-class learning ecosystems




By Wilhelm Crous, MD, KR

“If your company is to prosper in the future, it must compete on the speed of learning…”

This is the key takeaway from a new survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group amongst 120 of the largest corporations in the world.


The authors Dyer, Dyrchs, Puckett, Burkner, Bailey and Sharikov, indicate that in order for organisations to benefit from the latest generation of technological advances, they need to become bionic organisations (i.e. organisations that can positively utilise both the power of machines and the power of humans).


But how effective are global learning strategies?


According to the survey, 95% of the respondents agreed corporate learning was crucial for the future of the company. However, only 15% said they delivered on this. This may be due to the difficulty of developing a world-class learning capability.


In addition, there are individual differences among the world’s leading companies when it comes to corporate learning. For example:


  • Amazon promotes constant reskilling powered by technology;

  • Google espouses an “always-on” learning mentality;

  • Microsoft practices what CEO Satya Nadella calls a “learn it all” mindset, which he contrasts to an old-style “know it all” mindset; and

  • Toyota advocates lifelong learning.

But what distinguishes these world-leading companies from most other organisations is their focus on learning as something long-term, business-related, strategic and constantly evolving. This is in contrast to organisations that pursue corporate learning as once-off, short-term upskilling initiatives designed to close a newly-identified skills gap.


What can we learn from these leading organisations?


The authors discovered that the world’s best corporate learning ecosystems have common characteristics that fit into a framework of five domains and 18 dimensions.


The five domains are as follows:

  1. A refined strategy: A clear “why” for learning within the company.

  2. A mature learning organisation: A sophisticated learning culture with leadership support and a well-resourced learning function.

  3. A high-quality offering: A first-rate library of content that’s delivered through diverse channels.

  4. A set of enablers to support the delivery of learning programmes: A robust learning infrastructure with appropriate measurement tools and technology

  5. Learnscape integration: A network of connections inside the company and outside the company, with the wider community of corporate learning and development providers.

In addition, it’s crucial that CEOs and CLOs give special attention to the 18 critical dimensions:


  1. Have a learning mission: Define a clear “why” for learning.

  2. Develop a learning strategy: Ensure that the learning strategy derives from the overall business strategy.

  3. Nurture a learning culture: Create a vibrant culture that prioritises learning as critical to personal and corporate growth.

  4. Harness business leaders: Make senior executives and frontline managers day-to-day champions of the learning organisation.

  5. Enhance L&D organisation and operation: Design a cross-functional model that supports L&D, and consider making the chief learning officer a C-suite priority.

  6. Establish learning needs: Establish a sophisticated process for identifying current and future skills gaps across the organisation.

  7. Grow learning content: Curate a relevant, best-in-class curriculum form a diverse set of learning and development providers to upskill, reskill, and cross-skill teams and individuals.

  8. Build channels and formats: Deliver learning programmes in a wide variety of ways – from online and offline to on-the-job and offsite.

  9. Pathways and experiences: Develop personalised learning plans that encompass formal and informal learning for employees to follow throughout their careers.

  10. Offer credentials: Build a library of certificates and credentials that give employees public recognition of their learning achievements and offer incentives for further growth and development.

  11. Use the right technology and tools: Put in place the right enabling infrastructure to support learning that is instantaneous, on-the-go, interactive and engaging.

  12. Build seamless workflow design: Make learning a part of business as usual, by incorporating learning programs into the everyday rhythm of daily work.

  13. Measure and assess: Monitor what and how much learning is occurring, using a robust set of tools to effectively, reliably and consistently gauge employee development.

  14. Offer incentives and build accountability: Recognise that learning and development are central to the company’s growth prospects, and structure incentives, benefits and a bonus system around them.

  15. Value individuals: Put the individual at the heart of the learning ecosystem, and design learning journeys accordingly.

  16. Don’t forget about teams: Introduce a robust offering of group-based learning activities to foster collaboration and improve team performance.

  17. Keep the organisational objectives in mind: Capture and foster organisational learning with analytics, in a way that increases business-level knowledge throughout the enterprise.

  18. Build a community beyond your organisation: Forge dynamic connections with customers, clients, universities, and other external stakeholders as part of a proactive effort to give employees access to the best learning and development opportunities available.

Once there is a clear understanding of this ecosystem framework, the process of assessing how well the organisation’s learning capabilities are, can take place. In other words, answering the question: “How good is the organisation “at corporate learning?”. BCG stress that the response to this question could determine the fate of their company for years to come!


As a learning or talent professional you don’t want to miss the upcoming ATD Africa Learning and Development Conference. The 100% virtual event will feature four-days of networking, 200+ attendees, 30+ international and local speakers and include the option to complete two ATD certificate programs. Here are just some of speakers who will be presenting:

  • Elizabeth Ninan, Education Specialist, World Bank

  • Vir Amar, Talent Director, Schneider Electric (UAE)

  • Foster-Pedley, Director and Dean, Henley Business School

  • Yolanda Jordaan, Head: Learning and Development, Nedbank Group

  • Sanjana Joshua, Group Talent And Learning Executive, Old Mutual Limited

You can learn more about the ATD Africa Learning and Development Conference – here.



Reference:

Dyer, A., Dyrchs, S., Puckett, J., Burkner, H.-P., Bailey, A., & Shakirov, Z. (2020, November 17). bcg.com. Retrieved from bcg.com: https://www.bcg.com/publications/2020/turn-your-company-into-a-learning-powerhouse

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