Data to drive decision making
As I talked with the editors of Chief Learning Officer about plans for this column in 2009, we agreed on two main goals.
The first is to bring objective facts, research and data to readers. Those facts and research conclusions will focus on approaches to unlocking the long-term potential of human capital investments.
Learning is an important component of human capital issues, but equally important are related topics such as employee engagement, leadership development, recruiting, retention, strategic alliances and, of course, measuring the value created by human capital investments.
The other goal for the column is to take a more proactive posture on issues of importance to our industry. That includes interpreting data and research, communicating implications, asserting priorities and advocating solutions where appropriate — in other words, to become more proactive on issues critical to our industry.
For some of you who have been exposed to the heat of my passion for the human capital issue, it may seem hard to believe that the editors had to encourage me to take a stronger advocacy position. But for purposes of the column, it’s true. My scientific education has operated as a form of restraint on my activities of interpretation and advocacy in the past.
Data and research are rooted in objectivity in the external world, while advocacy is crafted from subjective dimensions of the person: his or her beliefs and opinions. My commitment to readers is to deliver on both dimensions with the highest level of integrity that I can muster and communicate in a way that increases the value created by human capital investments.
So with that, let me move on to a topic of critical importance: what we need to know to compete for the workforce of the future. This will be a theme for the balance of this column, but also a thread appearing in future columns.
At the Bellevue University Human Capital Lab, we have been working with professionals in the industry on research to be presented at the quarterly Human Capital Lab colloquium in Omaha, Neb. This work is revealing important features of the workforce issues that will confront us during the next decade.
The elephant in the room is the well-known fact that approximately 77 million baby boomers will be leaving the workforce, while a mere 44 million Generation Xers are available to assume their leadership roles. We all have been a part of the debate as to whether the boomers actually will retire, especially in the face of a severe loss of wealth in the current world economy.
That debate is immaterial. The fundamental fact is no matter when the boomers actually leave, the Xers will have to assume the leadership roles, and they will have to do so fast. The implication of the numbers, independent of the timing, is that Xers will have to be much more productive as leaders than the boomer generation, and they will have to do so on a much more accelerated development cycle. They will have to learn at an increased efficiency and rate, and on-the-job experience will not be sufficient to get them far enough fast enough.
This is not to say that informal learning is unimportant. It’s important, but not sufficient. Targeted and accelerated leadership development, such as that provided by Verizon Wireless and The Home Depot, need to become the standard, not the exception.
The other recent conclusion comes from research involving a sophisticated, multivariate statistical analysis of tuition assistance programs at Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. That research showed that the tuition assistance program had a disproportionate impact on exactly the segments of the labor pool that will become ever more critical in the future: young people, women and minorities.
I look forward to continued conversation about human capital investment in the columns and articles to come.