Published: June 4, 2022
It is often the clear disconnect between ‘learning & development strategy’ and ‘business strategy’ that we observe, which contributes to much of the disengagement in the workplace – despite the very best efforts of HR/L&D to improve engagement, working culture and practices! Across a wide spectrum of cases, we find everything from businesses built on a culture of oppression; treating workers as near-slaves with little or no investment in L&D – to organisations grounded in an ethos of true human partnership, where building on personal/professional development and organisational culture are at the heart of the HR/L&D strategy.
Part of any management and leadership role is to manage the levels of engagement that manifest as part of your organisation’s culture. The question is, what degree of strategic transformation is required to enable and encourage a top-down culture of ‘being best’ across the whole organisation, and for your people to be not only ‘fit for purpose’, but to be leaders in your business and industry – fully engaged and on-top-of-role?
Lasting learning is grounded in the understanding of an ‘inside-out’ NOT ‘outside-in’ methodology of people development, because that is the core nature of how most human beings learn. HR/L&D practitioners need to remain grounded in this fundamental truth and espouse its benefits at the highest level.
This is typically the basis of a teaching style that starts in our schools and colleges by providing rudimental knowledge and education. But passing on knowledge is only the start. Knowledge, facts, basic skills, policy, best-practice etc, can be passed on very efficiently in a training and educational environment, but only offer a foundation of learning. This form of outside-in ‘training’ certainly has its place, but also has its limits and boundaries. It is well documented that ‘taught knowledge’ can often get forgotten over time, where ‘learned knowledge’ tends to stick for much longer. An outside-in methodology of training is a great way of instilling or reinforcing fundamental skills and knowledge, but can become a tick-box exercise with no real connection to any strategic purpose, or with the people on the receiving end of the learning. There is nothing wrong with this ‘outside-in’ methodology in itself – on the contrary – but why do so many businesses still have a ‘send them on a training course’ mindset as the only or primary means of professional development?
Deep learning, systemic thinking, innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship cannot easily be taught as a skill-based qualification – but are a set of skills that can certainly be unlocked within most people and can dramatically improve employee performance and engagement levels within any organisation – especially if you link personal and professional development to business objectives and ambitions, i.e. giving the development strategic context and purpose. Adopting an ongoing ‘continuous development’ mindset, rather than a ‘training’ mindset, firstly requires the organisation to give all the people in business the opportunity, space and environment to ‘learn how to learn’… a subject we’ll pick up on in a future article. However, this approach to continuous development can often be overlooked (or even deliberately suffocated) in many organisations and replaced by a top-down ‘do as I say’ culture, where individuality and self-reliance is frowned upon!
Part of the HR/L&D function in the most enlightened businesses is to instil and facilitate a culture of ongoing continuous learning and development at the core; and to open up the natural curiosity, character, capacity and capability that is within everyone.