Outlook 2010: Learning to Succeed

This is part of a special advertising section on the challenges facing HR executives in the coming year.

Friday, October 2, 2009
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Three topics receiving a lot of attention in the learning and HR communities today are likely to impact us for years to come: the link between learning and development and performance management, social learning and outsourcing enterprise-learning business processes.

How can L&D and HR performance-management processes come together harmoniously?

Organizations are increasingly adopting performance-management software linking HR to L&D. This presents a number of opportunities for the two departments to collaborate to control processes and build greater performance throughout the organization. For example, direct linkage can enable and simplify processes for adopting a system of requisite training for specific job positions or pay grades, and could even include validation of qualifications and certifications.

But as the two come together, let's not forget the primary mission of L&D, which is to improve performance in alignment with organizational goals. The requirements of this objective may not always conform to the fixed metrics HR departments are familiar with. It's a more fluid, individual process that includes both formal and informal learning over the course of time. So, as L&D and HR come together, it's important for both entities to work together on solutions that honor both entities' primary roles within the organization.

What do I need to know about social networking and formal versus informal learning?

The benefits of social learning and networking are not new to the learning professional. Experiential activities have always been included with classroom instruction and assure effective and measurable on-the-job training. What's exciting today, however, is the emergence of Web-based social networks and the advancement of mobile communication devices, linking learners to significant Web-based learning opportunities, not to mention global information sharing.

There are many questions within the L&D community related to developing both practical and technological social-learning strategies to meet business objectives. Alongside those discussions is the subject of formal versus informal learning. As you consider your own definition for formal and informal learning, consider whether your learning is:

* Deliberate versus intentional

* Pre-delivered versus on-demand

* Pushed versus pulled

* Informal community locations versus formal

* Planned versus serendipitous

In the end, though, you'll need a strategy. Here are some thoughts to guide you: Your employees are already learning through "new" social and informal means. Because social networking and mobile learning enrich and expedite learning efficacy, L&D organizations should both enable and leverage learning in this way, applying fundamental practices for design, delivery and evaluation.

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As for formal versus informal learning, I suggest the following perspective by Goran Folkestael of Lund University who was quoted in the British Journal of Education in 2006: "Formal-informal should not be regarded as a dichotomy, but rather as the two poles of a continuum; in most learning situations, both these aspects of learning are, in various degrees, present and interacting."

Why should outsourcing still be considered in the current economy?

The reasons for outsourcing L&D services in a down economy are the same as for an up economy -- cost efficiency and improved learning. Today's L&D and HR organizations are looking at shared services and federated processes and then deciding which services can be outsourced. Valuable internal resources can then be reapplied to focus on their customers' future learning needs.

Through collaboration and planning, training will become an integral part of operations, performance solutions. When this happens, financial models for shared services are easily developed and accepted.

The knowledge and skills requirements of most companies are evolving at a rapid pace, as are the technologies and methods of learning. Companies are looking for an outsourcing partner with a reputation of flexibility and responsiveness.

And when considering outsourcing traditional HR processes in conjunction with L&D processes, they will be better served by leveraging a collaboration between a best-of-breed L&D service provider and a best-of-breed HR service provider than looking for a one-stop shop. In the end, it's all about doing it right.

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