If there’s a silver lining to the recent recession, it’s that learning and development departments are operating less like a separate organization and more like a department aligned with organizational objectives.
According to research from 1,500 senior learning and development executives released earlier this year inChief Learning Officer “magazine’s 2010 “Business Intelligence Industry Report,” 90 percent of CLOs believe their learning will be more aligned with organizational business objectives this year. That’s music to some executives’ ears.
“Chief learning officers, and the organization under them, [have] to tie what they’re doing to the strategy of the company,” said Bill Whitmore, chairman, president and CEO of AlliedBarton Security Services. “You’re not a separate and distinct organization.”
Agreeing that employee development should align to organizational objectives is the easy part. How to make it happen is where the challenge lies.
At AlliedBarton, “a $1.6 billion company with more than 50,000 employees that provides security officers for a range of venues in the U.S., from office buildings and shopping malls to hospitals and high-security petrochemical plants,” competencies help bridge the gap between strategy and learning and leadership development.
Clear communication and articulation of what good performance looks like at different levels aligns development with measurable business goals, said Jim Gillece, AlliedBarton’s senior vice president and chief people officer.
“The performance management process and having very clear, defined competencies at each level allows everybody, including the employee, to understand what good looks like,” he said.
Yet in some organizations, competency development begins as, and remains, largely an HR-driven initiative. Gillece said AlliedBarton takes an “inside-out” approach to competencies to avoid this pitfall.
“We really want to make sure that it isn’t just an internal HR process that defines what we think leadership competencies should be,” he said. “Our approach has been to really understand what the client wants, what do our customers want, what do our employees want and then build our competencies around that.”
Developing related metrics on customer satisfaction, retention of customers and employees, and number of “ready-now” leaders ensures AlliedBarton stays on track and is giving leaders the experiences needed to drive performance and advance their careers. That alignment of learning and development with relevant competencies and related metrics creates a reinforcing loop that enables and drives strategy.
“That’s a mistake that learning organizations make is that they don’t tie in what they’re doing to the strategy of the company,” said Whitmore. “Our people here, I have to commend them, they do a tremendous job at it.”
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