How to Build High Performance L&D Through Agility? – Part 2

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In Part 1 of this series, we explored our situation today with respect to the Technological disruption that is going on around us. We looked at what makes the L&D organization a High-Performance Organisation. We established the fact that if L&D organizations need to be relevant, in the wake of these changes, we need to shift to the agile model.

Now, you might be wondering how to implement it to build an agile L&D function. Well, building an agile organization needs to be intentional. Let’s explore the SEMA process, which will help you in this regard –

The sema process

1) Strategize (S) – Traditional method of getting ahead and implementing the training program is dead. Every L&D function needs to make sure that they strategize their learning activities to align with the business and talent strategy.

2) Establish (E) – Establish goals of what you want to achieve, establish processes for how you want to do it, systems to be used and other metrics to measure the learning success. Also, establish partnerships to analyze who caters to your exact needs.

3)  The measure (M) – What gets measured gets improved. It is crucial to measure the success but when it comes to L&D, they tend to measure what is easy to do so, like the number of learning hours, people trained and training programs, which is not so likely to yield positive results. In any organization, there are three types of stakeholders, one who intrinsically support L&D, another category who are neutral, and the third one who considers any investment in L&D as a complete waste of money and effort.

An L&D professional must identify key stakeholders, and what brings impact to them. Measure the business impact, measure how your learning program has transformed lives and generated social impact. It is a responsibility of the L&D to identify measurements that will keep all the three types of stakeholders happy. Encourage the cheerleaders, make sure the neutral people are turned into supporters, and ensure that the naysayers don’t damage your plans.

4) Accelerate (A) – To be future ready and to stay ahead, learning organizations needs to be accelerating the organizational transformation and not just following the organizational change process. Be proactive in identifying new skills that are required in the future, technologies that are really cutting edge, and implement new methodologies for training and learning. Let us look at Strategy first. The Learning Strategy needs to be first aligned with the Talent Strategy of the organization.

To transform the talent at any organization, there are three areas one needs to work on –

  • Engagement – Talent transformation efforts need to be focused on engaging the diverse, Born to Learn employees that we are likely to get in our organizations.
  • Capability – Talent strategy needs to be focused on building the new age capabilities like innovation, narration etc.
  • Organization – Now that most organizations are moving into project-based organizations and becoming flat than a hierarchical one, organizations themselves need to be agile.

Organizations are increasingly becoming global and the culture itself is becoming entrepreneurial. Decisions are taken quickly and on the fly. So, the L&D strategy needs to align with this type of a need or this type of talent transformation strategy.

Read Also The L&D Career Landscape in the Era of Digital Business: An Overview

The L&D strategy itself needs to be centered around the expected outcomes from L&D activities, and that cannot be the number of training hours or the number of classes etc. It needs to be focused on the Business Impact and social impact aspects. To make this happen, the L&D strategy needs to be focused on Experience, Engagement, and Enablement. Experience is king and we have to find ways of providing a great learner experience every time. Learning needs to be engaging for all types of employees in the organization.

Our Focus Area

Providing a great experience for the employees, enabling and engaging them and helps in building such outcomes. To be agile and stay connected on organizational strategy, there are six areas to focus on –

1) User Experience – Delivering learning through apps, device agnostic, games, or live streaming, and providing personalized curation and recommendations.

2) Content – Providing a great user experience will not suffice, the content needs to be relevant and good. To make sure of a quality content, partnering with best partners who provide the right type of content.

3) Diversity – A learning and development manager must be able to cater to different genders, racial origins, physical abilities etc. The learning strategy needs to be able to enable all of them.

4) Partner Ecosystem – As discussed, partnering with the right set of training providers is very crucial to any learning system.

5) Talent Infusion – Use learning for infusing talent into the organization.

6) Digital Culture – Last but not the least, use learning to build a digital culture. Digitization or digital disruption is not so much about technology adoption. It is not so much about apps, tools, systems or gadgets, it is rather about mindset.

Learning organizations need to accelerate and help organizations become future ready. The motto is to build a learning which is accessible, collaborative, omnichannel, personalized, and interactive. Our experience shows that if we follow the SEMA process, our chances of making the L&D organization into a truly agile function will be successful. We have tried it and found it to work.

Read Also Mobile Learning: An In-Depth Look at the Next Trend in the L&D Space

Does Leadership Matter?

While the SEMA process will help change the agility of the L&D function, we also need to focus on building the right Leadership culture within the organization. After all, as Maxwell said, ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership.’

What type of leaders do an L&D need to focus on the building? For me, it’s Servant Leadership. As humankind, we have seen sufficient or enough of self-serving leaders, who basically serve their own interest. We cannot have that going on. We got to be able to shift to a different model of leadership. Robert Greenleaf, known as the Father of Modern Day Servant Leadership says about how do we measure that somebody is a Servant Leader, “The best test is: Do those served, grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” That is what really matters. The time when we can boss over others, use our power authority, a position to get things done is no more. With things getting digitized, and with things becoming equally accessible to everyone, the only way we can really make teams effective is by being Servant Leaders and not being self-serving leaders, is by not using our power and authority to get things done but by putting others first.

This is very important for agility because if we want to get things done fast, we can’t be doing everything ourselves, and we can’t be micromanaging, and we got to be able to give a lot more autonomy to our people and let them do things and we need to be able to enable right. As Ken Blanchard says we need to be able to turn the pyramid upside down and let the execution be done by the team members and the leaders primarily provide vision and not micromanagement. I would strongly position new leadership paradigm of Servant Leadership as something we need to adopt as L&D ourselves and promote in any organizations.


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.

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