Strategic Organizational Learning
The cost of training in North American companies exceeds $60 billion per year. Try to visualize that. Picture a stack of 1,000,000 $1 bills. Now try to picture 60,000 of those stacks. Amazed? Then consider this fact: estimates of training costs worldwide approach a quarter of a trillion dollars ($250,000,000,000) when indirect costs and opportunity costs are included. Do you find those numbers as difficult to comprehend as I do?
Understandably, senior executives are concerned about the ROI (return on investment) on these massive investments. Many executives are not convinced that the benefits of training exceed the costs.
Corporations are now looking for organizational learning (OL) consultants who can serve as partners in the strategic decision making about these large investments of resources. These OL consultants will be expected to help improve not only learning, but ultimately performance.
To serve as strategic business partners, OL consultants must have expertise in adult learning theory, methods to promote self-directed learning, usage of learning and development agreements, knowledge capture, knowledge transfer, management and professional development, expatriate training and support, corporate universities, and what I call “strategic learning.”
The first step for the OL consultant is to be sure the organization has a well-crafted strategic plan that clearly communicates how senior management intends to fulfill the organization’s mission. Frequently, the organization has a vague mission and/or unrealistic strategic plan. There is no way to develop strategic learning and development systems until senior management has completed the strategic planning process.
Only after the organization has a well-crafted, well-communicated strategic plan can the OL consultant recommend learning and development systems that will help implement the plan. “Strategic learning” is learning that is focused on helping the organization fulfill its strategic plan.
Senior management must be able to depend on OL consultants to maximize the organization’s investment of money, time, and other resources to build its human capital into a sustainable competitive advantage. In an era when human capital is far more important than physical assets, the role of the OL consultant is critical.
Raymond Noe has made the following predictions:
the focus of learning will become business needs and performance
there will be increased emphasis on the capture and storage of intellectual capital
new training technologies will be developed
the demand for training for virtual work will increase
the use of learning management systems will be widespread
HRD departments will develop partnerships with outside vendors (e.g., traditional universities)
the practice of outsourcing training activities will continue
Senior management will be seeking the OL consultant’s advice on all of these issues. Are you and your organization prepared to address these issues?