In a world in which the nature of work, the workplace and workforce are changing at a relentless pace, organisations must respond to change. In the context of such rapid change Learning and Development (L&D) functions play a vital role. The transformation of organisations demands the transformation of L&D practitioners, however many L&D teams are struggling to change.

Jerome Joseph shares his reflection here.

When I started my training career over 20 years ago, I was told “the only constant is change”. However, I believe change has become exponential. L&D professionals are not spared by these changes. In a CIPD factsheet written by David Hayden, Aug 2020, he discusses 10 shifts in evolving L&D practice. While the role of L&D professionals may shift from being a “sage on the stage” to “guide on the ‘side’ or ‘creator’ to ‘curator’ of content, our focus must always remain the same – PERFORMANCE. As L&D Business Partner, our focus should be to improve performance that drives business results.

After reading “Performance Consulting–Moving Beyond Training” (Robinson, 1996) I have embraced my role as a Performance Consultant. Whether I’m supporting the business in an HR Generalist or L&D role, I view my role as one who develops and ensures the performance of human capital in the organisation.

In the last two decades, many articles have discussed the changes that are taking place and how L&D must become relevant to the business. However, the message itself has been consistent. Technology has been a key driver in changing the business environment and creating new business models. Computer age changed the way we worked, the internet increased the speed and now digitalisation continues to change the way and the speed at which we collaborate. 

The next agenda has been about the new workforce entering the workplace. I believe this quote from George Orwell will resonate with most of us, “Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it”. L&D will need to prepare the workplace for the next generation, embracing technologies and developing work cultures that the new generation is born into.

New technology and changes in social and demographics are already transforming the world. The new awareness is the exponential rate at which these changes take place. As L&D Business Partners, we will need to support the business to thrive in these changes and improve performance. I would like to share three areas of thoughts for L&D Business Partners.

Shift from alignment to co-creating the business strategy

In the past we have received advice to align L&D strategy to the business strategy. Don’t wait to be told what the business strategy is. Be part of the team that develops it.

Digitalisation is changing business models, and it is not only impacting our business but also our customers, vendors, suppliers and other stakeholders. As we focus ultimately on performance, L&D should extend its environment scan beyond the company to the entire value-chain. PESTLE is a common acronym discussed in business schools which stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal and Environmental. Observe the changes that are taking place in these areas and what impact it has to your company and your external stakeholders, which eventually impacts your business. Adopt an outside-in approach and think about how you could influence business results by improving performance anywhere along the supply chain. The next generation of L&D will have an impact beyond their own company.

Building competencies within a company is no longer just about training and developing employees. It is about improving how “man-machine-process-systems” work together to improve business results. L&D professionals must move beyond the traditional roles as trainers to performance consultants.

Embrace the shifts in L&D practice

L&D partners must continually embrace the shifts in the L&D practices to improve business performance. New technologies and digitalisation are providing more choices to L&D to impact a wider audience while tailoring to the individual needs. Whether you adopt digital-mobile learning or bite-sized learning, meeting the needs of the diverse workforce is of importance. The phrase “different strokes for different folks” is apt to remember.
Speed of delivery of L&D interventions are paramount. Being agile is the new norm to manage the unexpected and rapid changes in the business environment. As L&D partners, you can no longer stay in the side-lines and support the business. You need to get in the game. You need to be in the business to improve performance.

Your L&D interventions should go beyond the employees and should consider work structures, processes and business systems. With the increasing use of augmented and artificial intelligence, you need to adopt a system approach to performance improvement.
Manage by Results

L&D business partners should also be ruthless about understanding how they impact business results. How else would you claim to be a business partner if you are not impacting the business?

“Begin with the end in mind” is Stephen Covey’s second habit of highly effective people and is a good habit for a L&D partner to embrace. Work with the business to measure the impact of L&D interventions. As a performance consultant, understanding the SPIN selling technique could be a good move. SPIN selling teaches you how to ask questions to build rapport and position your service as a solution. SPIN is an acronym for asking questions centred around the situation, problems, implication and needs payoff. As an internal consultant, while I typically had a better grasp of the situation and problems, the SPIN model opened my eyes to asking in-depth questions around the implications and the needs payoff. Implication questions draw out the negative impacts of the problem, while need-payoff questions identify the positive impact of fixing the problem. Showing impact of L&D to business drivers and bottom-line is not only important to the business but helps build L&D credibility.

While the HR and L&D fraternity have been talking about becoming a Business Partner, the transition has been slow. The exponential rate of change is making it imperative that we not only become Business Partners but immerse ourselves into the business as performance consultants. With new technology and digitalisation, L&D should not only focus on improving employee performance but improving the “man-machine-process-systems” performance.

This article is contributed by Jerome Joseph, Director for HR Coach Pte Ltd and an Associate Trainer with CIPD Asia.

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