Are learning leaders in corporations ready to learn?

Are learning leaders in corporations ready to learn?

It’s ironical that one function that has been most resilient and insulated to change has been Corporate Learning. The same learning that is meant to serve as enabler for individuals and institutions to respond and adapt to change.

There has been a lot of talk in seminars and roundtables about innovations in learning yet, the practice by and large, has been to present old wine in new bottles. Technology has been adopted to render content ‘e’ and ‘m’, experiments have been carried out with making delivery informal and leaders have been brought in to become teachers. Yet radically nothing much has changed. Not many hard questions have been asked in terms of what is the role of learning vis-a-vis business. Very little, if any, adoption of new approaches to enable a process of learning that impacts business has been embraced. Leave alone learning leaders taking up the accountability of delivering such impacts and being measured on that. Businesses, also, therefore, have accepted Corporate Learning as a support function of sorts providing some ‘soft’ cushions as and when required to keep the song and dance on. There are budgets for learning to be used in good times to run nice-to-have glitzy training programs to keep up employee morale and satisfaction scores and to be summarily slashed, come any slow-down or recession.
CEO and CLOs continue to be strange bedfellows. Despite knowing and having tangible data to justify deep interventions to bring in attitudinal shift amongst expensive line managers and make them more accountable, the CLO finds it difficult to get the budget approved by the CEO because of his low credibility. Despite sitting through a staggered one week long soft skills development program (conducted by an in-house resource using copy-paste content courtesy Google to save cost), within two weeks of its conclusion, the billable participants are back to square one with zero application of what they were meant and sent to learn. After releasing the direct reports for three-days of a leadership development program, when they come back with the zeal to apply their learning and create a business impact, the CEO feels threatened and promptly ensures that they go back to doing things the old way. The CLO has very little say.

By far it’s been a look-good and feel-good strategy ticking off items as they are ‘delivered’ for Corporate Learning offices till now. With the advent of the next wave of economy – the Human Economy – slated to peak by year 2015, such luxury is short lived. Corporate Learning will no more be a nice to have ego / morale booster for employees and leadership but will be required to take on the role of an essential business enabler, just as technology has been a business enabler for the Industrial Economy wave, which is on the ebb.
This emergent shift in economy is now calling for some radical re-thinking on the part of learning leaders in terms of how to:      

  • Get the individual contributors as well the leadership get out of being complacent with sustained mediocrity and create in them a undying hunger for excellence
  • Unlock the vast potential of the individual (which is more than 90% un-tapped) and convert the same into strength that creates business value
  • Create an environment of learning and enhance individual learnability so that learning can be tapped from the environment, on-demand
  • Get SMEs and managers equipped to take responsibility for enabling learning of the contributors, not just download information and content, with naivety and hope that it will work and, most importantly
  • Embrace initiatives and programs that are bottom up designed to impact than look for doing postmortem ROI assessments, wasting valuable time, effort and money.
It’s time the business heads combined with the stakeholders take a stand to bring learning into board rooms and, among other things, equip and upstage their CLOs to become CBEOs – Chief Business Enabling Officers.
The million dollar questions that however remains to be answered is are they ready?
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