How to Build High Performance L&D Through Agility? – Part 1

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Learning & Development has undergone big changes in the last 5 years and trends suggest further changes on the horizon. Changes in the learning preferences, lack of engagement, and the ever-changing and dynamic landscape of business are some of the traditional challenges which an L&D professional faces. But despite all odds how can L&D organizations overcome all challenges and ensure the success of learning and build high performance? Well, agility can be a solution to this.

What is high performance when it comes to L&D? Is it about the L&D organizations providing a maximum number of training or the hours spent for organizational or employee development.

High L&D Performance Organizational Priorities

High-performance L&D is built upon three major aspects –

High-performance L&D needs a solid foundation of a Learning Culture, and several enablers like Business acumen, Subject matter expertise, Business Connects, Digitisation and strong Partnerships. But the real performance indicators of an L&D organization are three things –

1) Transforming Lives – The interventions of an L&D organization does need to transform their employees’ lives through employee engagement and development.

2) Business Impact – Through this change, they need to make a significant and tangible impact on the business in terms of revenues, margins, retention, branding, and CSAT.

3) Social Impact – Beyond all these, it needs to even attempt to make a social impact as in outside the organization.

Read Also: How to Build High-Performance L&D Through Agility? – Part 2

I would definitely call an organization as ‘high-performance’ when all these performance indicators are met. And ‘No, it’s not about how many trainings are conducted, what types of training are conducted or for how long are they conducted.’ It is about employee development, enhancing their skills, mindset, making them more productive, inspiring them to be a significant part of the business growth, and entailing a social impact. Having understood what High Performance is in the L&D context, let us now try to understand why L&D organizations need to be Agile in order to become a High-Performance organization.

Technology is transforming nearly every industry. Things around us are changing 24×7. The gadgets which 007 uses in James Bond Movies are available in the market. You can potentially buy a spy-cam or a camcorder. Basically, technology impacting our lives is no more science fiction or limited to the silver screen. Robots have come out of the silver screen and are available in our living rooms today. With the change, the human mindset is shifting and today it will not be an overstatement if we say that we are living through one of the biggest shifts in humankind, where everything is getting digitized and easily accessible.

Tech companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Netflix etc. have changed the things we do, the things we experience. We are really going through a digital shift around. But we are yet still living in a digital kindergarten. We are yet to see and experience the real impact of digitization or what a digital disruption can actually result in.

In his book, ‘Thank You for Being Late’, Thomas L. Friedman says that, the technological growth and change has really overtaken the speed of the human brain’s adaptability to change. There was a time when human adaptability was higher than the pace of technological changes but today the technological changes have significantly overtaken the ability for us to adapt.

There’s no denying the above-mentioned fact. You learn one technology and it becomes obsolete soon. You buy a gadget and the newer version of the gadget is available a couple of weeks later, if not months. Technological changes are happening at a much faster pace than what human beings can adapt.

While the adaptability of human beings itself is lagging, the adaptability of Businesses is even slower than that. And worst, of course, is the public policies related to Technology.

There’s another aspect which can’t be ignored, i.e. ‘The Longevity of Life’, which has changed drastically in the past decade and our careers are thus no more a short one. In the book “The 100 Year Life”, Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott has put forward their study which revealed that with the lives becoming longer, our careers becoming longer, the whole concept of life stages have changed. Life stages are Getting Redefined

Earlier it was a three-stage model, where you get educated, get to work and retire. But today this model is not effective anymore. It is a multistage life where –

1) In the education life, one explores the industry outside, sometimes interns or works in an organization

2) Land in a job or try some self-employment

3) At this stage, many indulge in higher education,

4) Some voluntarily work, or do a job, or become an entrepreneur

5) and ultimately, think of retiring.

With this multi-stage model, where the career span is much longer, one doesn’t stick to one job his entire life. Any skills learned becomes completely obsolete in 5 years and thus the average tenure one sticks to a job is 4.5 to 5 years.

There are a lot of disruptions going around us, technologies are changing, life stages are changing, even the jobs themselves are changing. Jobs which did not exist in the past are existing today and vice versa and many professions vanished just like that.  

Agility is the Only Way Out!!

It’s thus just rhetorical to say that it is always something new that we don’t know about or we haven’t learned yet. Hence we, the L&D professionals need to appreciate and understand that traditional method of managing and running the L&D function is not efficient anymore and is dead. The need of the hour for learning & development industry is to be completely agile. Only agility can help us to cope up with the digital disruptions around us and the changes of life stages. L&D professionals can no longer afford to have old types, methods, and measurements or performance indicators of learning.

In the next post in this two-part series, we shall take a closer look at how to develop an agile L&D organization. We shall also dwell into the aspect of the leadership style required for driving such a transformation.

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About Dr. Madana Kumar

Dr. Madana Kumar is a Thought Leader and Strategist with more than 35 years of experience. He has shaped the learning strategy of the growing organization to create and nurture a Learning culture in the organization and to accelerate the Digital Culture within the organization. With dual bachelor Degrees, a B.Sc (Physics) and a BR from Indian Institute of Science, he holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration. Dr. Madana Kumar was named the "Chief Learning Officer of the Year" for two years in a row, 2014 and 2015, for his leadership in transforming the L&D function of UST Global.

Posts by Dr. Madana Kumar