What Is Organisational Learning & Development
The Association for Talent Development (n.d.) defines Organisational Learning and Development (OLAD) as a “function in an organisation that is responsible for the empowering of employees’ growth and developing their knowledge, skills and capabilities to drive better performance”. It could also be argued that this definition could extend beyond employees to students in a learning environment and volunteers in a not for profit or community organisation.
There are several other terms that have and can be applied, but essentially they all refer to the development of human beings in a professional development sense that provides the organisation with the ability to manage itself and its people to perform in a better manner (Argote, Sunkee & Park 2020).
COVID-19 has changed the manner in which organisations view OLAD and LinkedIn Learning has referred to this change as “The Great Reshuffle”. They suggest that leaders in the learning field are seeking new ways to incorporate learning and skill development into the career paths for people and also as incentivising higher retention. Additionally, learning can build inclusion and greater well being to employees (LinkedIn Learning 2022). The report goes on to highlight that the pandemic appears to have resulted in a much greater appreciation of L&D professionals with several companies appointing Chief Learning Officers and increasing their budgets for learning and development.
According to Samoliu, Bilan and Mishchuk (2021), the interest shown by employees in short term training courses has also increased due to a perception of higher economic benefit than actual income in the short term.
The strategic function of OLAD
In recent decades a noticeable shift has occurred in our economies from that of production based to that of knowledge based. The result has been a considerable paradigm shift from looking at money and resources as the only assets of importance to knowledge being of vital importance. Meihami and Meihami (2013) define knowledge management as the process of creating, capturing and using knowledge for the purpose of creating competitive advantage. On the other hand, that knowledge has to be acquired and this is where organisational learning comes into play. Organisational learning is the process that will maintain a continuous improvement in an organisation and enhance long term competitive advantage (Pastuszak et al. 2012).
People within organisations possess many intangible skills and abilities, including knowledge of organisational structures and also the systems and processes. Such knowledge is often referred to as “Human Capital”. This term was first proposed by Schultz (1961, p. 40) who said that it comprised the “knowledge, skills and abilities of the people employed in an organisation”. The definition has changed over time and now includes such components as motivation, wellbeing and the sustainability of business (Hammoud 2020 p. 2).
Given any definition of human capital, an organisation that holds greater value in this area has a greater competitive advantage which needs to be maintained and sustained.
For learning and development to be effective within an organisation, it needs to be one of the key components in the strategy of an organisation. Whilst this can evolve over time, organisations can never lose sight of the fact the learning and development will be crucial in building competitive advantage, building the knowledge and skills of employees and building retention rates. There is ample literature around to support such principles.
Figure 1: ACADEMIES Framework
The nine dimensions represent what organisations should execute, but few organisations demonstrate maturity across all these dimensions:
- Alignment with business strategy: ensuring employees have the skills that allow them to drive and fulfil the organisation’s strategic goals.
- Co-ownership between business units and HR: HR and individual units need to work together to drive learning opportunities and skill development.
- Assessment of capability gaps and estimated value: make sure employees can deliver to strategic plan by identifying gaps and costs involved in upskilling.
- Design of learning journeys: development of learning journeys, both bulk and individual to ensure continuous improvement and development.
- Execution and scale-up: trial small and scale up so individual cost per unit is declining and more people are trained.
- Measurement of impact on business performance: assess the impact on the business by using KPIs to track results. New skills and new behaviours measured.
- Integration of L&D interventions into HR processes: The two go hand in hand and should be considered at both a recruitment stage and review stage.
- Enabling of the 70:20:10 learning framework: 70% of learning takes place on the job, 20% through interaction and collaboration, and 10% through formal learning.
- Systems and learning technology applications: keep up to date with the latest learning technology that can assist with rapid cloud based deployment of training.
The above descriptions for the acronym ACADEMIES was sourced from Brassey, Christensen and van Dam (2019)
Notes Made on the ACADEMIES Framework
1. Alignment with business strategy
The strategy of the LEAD program LMCLP is to train Community Leaders and provide them with the skills to step back into their communities in leadership roles. All appropriate skills for this role cannot be covered in the amount of time available. Governance is a particular issue that is missing from the training.
2. Co-ownership between business units and HR
The business unit and HR are effectively integrated being a training organisation. If anything, the participants in our courses could be regarded in the same capacity as employees. We are always looking at ways to effectively increase their skills and expand their knowledge.
3. Assessment of capability gaps and estimated value
Some of these are well known. There are also gaps created as a result of time availability. Some additional specialist training would be extremely helpful in assisting participants in the program to perform better back in their communities.
4. Design of learning journeys
Design of learning journeys has already been done with the LMCLP program and is constantly reviewed to reflect a contemporary approach to community leadership.
5. Execution and scale-up
The LMCLP program is currently underway for 2023. The needs analysis and skill gaps to be identified will be incorporated into plans for future training. Consideration is also being given to pursuing a formal qualification for the training, but the setup implications may be too onerous.
6. Measurement of impact on business performance
It is difficult to measure the impact on community organisations through KPIs. At this stage, my view is that anecdotal evidence could be sought through councils and community houses. Participants in advanced training could also report on their own feelings on improvements.
7. Integration of L&D interventions into HR processes
This is a continuous improvement process at LEAD where we look to provide best practice experiences for participants in community leadership.
8. Enabling of the 70:20:10 learning framework
This is already in place. People who participate in the LMCLP program are already active in their communities so they are learning on the job. The program affords them the opportunity to interact, collaborate and learn from other participants in the program and subsequently, the Alumni. The remaining 10% would be the actual program days and formal additional training.
9. Systems and learning technology applications
The program currently is delivered by way of a modern hybrid model that employs both in real life retreats and Zoom meetings. Participants are also broken into teams and encouraged to interact with each other outside formal sessions. Plans are in train to consider the implementation of Community type software such as Mighty Networks or Circle to enhance the experience.
Some organisations choose to ignore this area of strategic practice until such time as an event occurs that triggers the realisation that it is desperately needed. Covid 19 could be regarded as one such trigger and also the Great Resignation that followed. Employees began to review their position and revisited their goals and aspirations and as a consequence moved employers. These employess would have been looking at such things as remote work, hybrid work, learning opportunities, organisations that better reflected their personal values and the list goes on.
What is Workforce Planning
Workforce planning is effectively structuring a synergistic relationship between the strategic goals of the organisation and those of the employees. Such a blend creates harmonious co-existence in the workplace between the organisation and the employees where both are working with each other to achieve mutual goals. The Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI 2022) defines workplace planning as “having the right people, in the right place, with the right capabilities at the right time”.
Benefits of Workforce Planning
Planning in any environment is always beneficial, and with Workplace Planning, it means devising strategies instead of reacting to events and circumstances. According to Workforce Planning Factsheets CIPD (2022), planning can assist organisations in:-
- reducing labour costs in favour of workforce deployment and flexibility
- responding to the needs of their customer base
- identifying skills gaps and areas of succession risk
- relevant strategies for talent management and people development
- targeting specific and identified inefficiencies
- employee retention initiatives
- improving the quality of outputs
- improving work–life balance
- recruitment and training responses to changes in the education system.
Operational vs Strategic Workforce Planning
Several methods exist around workforce planning. An important aspect is to involve all stakeholders in the process and ensure they are fully informed on the perceived needs in both the short and long terms.
Short term planning in the range of three to twelve months is referred to as Operational Workforce Planning whereas beyond that and out to five years is known as Strategic Workforce Planning. This second area is somewhat more complex as it involves anticipating future needs that are often based on circumstances beyond the organisation’s control.
Stages of Workforce Planning
The main stages are demonstrated in the image below.
Figure 2: Workplace Planning Process
Understanding The Organisation and its Environment
Capelli (2009) suggests that this initially involves an internal consideration of the organisation and the existing staff in the current circumstances and if nothing was changed. The internal forecast then considers what needs to be done so employees can meet the changing environment in which the organisation operates. The organisation can ask questions such as:-
- Given the current structure of the organisation, how will it look in the future?
- Are there plans to change the business model, increase production etc?
- Will new technology be deployed?
Consideration of the external environment will also be an essential component and a PESTLE analysis can be of assistance in this regard.
Analysing the Workforce
This includes such things as a skills audit of people, attrition rates and engagement levels. Much of this can be achieved by asking people for their input. In rapidly changing environments, this information needs to be collected on a very regular basis to keep pace with changing attitudes and needs.
Determine Future Workforce Needs
Capelli (2009) considers that predicting the future workforce needs can be somewhat difficult and also suggests that organisations often underestimate their needs. Scenario planning can be a useful model for predicting skills and needs into the future.
Identify Gaps in the Workplace
Given an organisation’s plans for the future, it needs to identify what skill gaps may exist that would prevent them on delivering on these plans. Identified gaps will need to be addressed or plans reconsidered if it is not possible.
Develop an Action Plan
Building flexibility and agility into the people within an organisation can put it in an enviable position to meet challenges head on through adapting to the circumstance. It could be argued that such a position is one of culture that is cultivated amongst the organisation’s people.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Like all organisational processes, this process is also a loop that does not conclude with the implementation of the action plan. Effective monitoring and evaluation practices need to implemented and the entire process is continued.
In order to discuss talent management, a definition of talent is useful. According to the CIPD (2022), talent management is defined as:-
the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention and deployment of those individuals who are of particular value to an organisation, either in view of their ‘high potential‘ for the future or because they are fulfilling business/operation-critical roles.
It is also useful to include the CIPD (2022) definition of talent also as the above definition flows from this one.
Talent refers to individuals who can make a significant difference to organisational performance, either through their immediate contribution or by reaching their highest levels of potential.
The video below utilises an existing customer relations model for talent management which is a very useful transfer of models. The implications are discussed below the video.
The focus of this subject for the author is in the not-for-profit and volunteer space and more specifically on organisations that deliver community leadership programs and the participants. Consequently, the above model will be discussed in this context.
A community leadership program, like any competing educational institution, needs to attract applicants through its branding and reputation. Programs of this nature do not generally carry an academic qualification and as they last around twelve months, an applicant needs to be confident that their time will not be wasted. Testimonials and recommendations from past participants are of vital importance.
Getting the right people involved requires a multi pronged approach. There is a direct approach through the program’s web site, socials and other presences. In addition, applicants are sponsored through the program by both government agencies and industry scholarship providers. Encouraging these sponsors to actively participate in the recruitment process encourages greater engagement with the program. Finally, the recommendations and active recruitment of potential applicants through past graduates is also a useful means. The provision of encouragement and up to date information to all stakeholders is of great importance.
In the model discussed, revenue refers to the return on investment. This can be a more difficult metric in a community leadership and volunteer role. One such methodology however is the use of community projects. All participants must complete a community project as a part of their involvement in the program. Success in this regard is a key metric as is a continuation of involvement in new and ongoing projects in community.
The referral of new participants has already been touched on in the activation area. Well trained participants will refer others to have the same experience that they have had. The bonding that takes place with participants in a program year cannot be fully described or underestimated as a means for gaining subsequent referrals to the program.
In the community leadership model, retention revolves around having an active alumnus who are continuing the interactive processes with each other and sharing information around community building, leadership and ongoing projects. The organisation needs to facilitate this through the provision of regular updates, opportunities for further training and regular events, both on and offline, that encourage the engagement of the alumni.
Contemporary Talent Management Practice
Hancock and Schaninger (2020) list five practices that can be beneficial for organisations to consider.
1. Find and Hire the Right Talent
Recent rapid changes in societal demands has seen a shift in skillsets required in many organisations. Although many organisations may find it easier to shift to temporary labour recruitment businesses, this does not necessarily provide for the long term stability of an organisation. Dealing with spikes in labour and skills demand is one thing, but if needed on an ongoing basis, then strategies need to be developed to find the right people seeking better length of tenure.
2. Learning and Growing
The impact of Covid 19 certainly highlighted the skill gaps around digital knowhow in the remote workplace area including leadership and management. Many roles changed in how they were performed, particularly sales where the face to face situation option was removed. As a result, upskilling in several of these areas becomes critical to the ongoing success of the organisation and maintaining their comptetitive edge.
3. Managing and Rewarding Performance
Traditionally, this has been one of those annual events that just happened to be on the calendar. The performance review now becomes an important means of considering an individuals abilities and contributions and how these can best be managed in the interests of the person and the organisation.
4. Tailoring the Employee Experience
The remote work experience has had the result of blurring the lines between work and home life. In turn, this can create additional anxieties for people that can be a source of ongoing problems unless addressed. The answers will vary for each organisation, but developing policies around inclusion, engagement and well being will be essential.
5. Optimising Workforce Planning and Strategy
One situation that has been identified is the existence of a collection of roles that are critical to the organisation’s strategic objectives. These roles need to be identified as such and emphasis placed on workplace planning around them to ensure continuity.
Application in Community Organisations
To continue the community organisation and not for profit discussion from earlier, the same issues can be applied. In particular, there has been considerable recognition of the need for additional training in the sector and the problems faced around volunteers dealing with compliance issues that may well be beyond their expected skill sets. The role of Treasurer is one such example where many small community organisations would not have an individual skilled in digital bookkeeping.
Strategic HR Approaches
Several models for looking at the strategic relevance of organisational learning and development exist. Here, we consider two such models, the LAMP model and the Balanced Scorecard.
LAMP is an acronym for Logic, Analytics, Measures and Process. In the context of OLAD the model looks at these four components to achieve knowledge and planning to direct an organisational model (Boudreau 2017).
Involves the documentation of the relationship between talent and success strategically. In addition, what conditions and principles are involved that can forecast behaviour by both the organisation and an individual.
What tools can be used to interpret the data and provide meaningful information in the form of insights.
With the analytical tools in place, how can these then be measured to inform and drive the strategies around organisational and people performance?
Consider the communication channels and timing of information that will provide maximum impact on decision makers.
Most importantly, the LAMP process can be used in a broken down format to focus on only one or two components. This can considerably weaken its impact by focusing too heavily on one area rather than taking a balanced view. The image below shows the process in whole.
Figure 3: Lighting the LAMP Process
The Balanced Scorecard is used by several organisations for considering their strategic goals. The model, which was introduced in 1992 by Kaplan and Norton, provides organisations with the ability to measure their performance from four key areas.
- Internal Processes
- Innovation and Learning
This model takes an overview approach on a holistic basis of the organisation and how it is perceived by others and itself.
Figure 4: Balanced Scorecard Approach
The Financial Perspective aspect of the image could well be modified to how we appear to our stakeholders as opposed to just shareholders. Although this is a departure from what seems to be a predominantly US view these days, it is more reflective of the Australian environment where social accounting is more appreciated and expected.
Again, the importance here is the holistic view of the organisation by looking at the four areas in balance. According to Becker, Huselid and Ulrich (2001), we see again the importance of treating the review in a balanced manner. They state that the Balanced Scorecard offers the benefits of:-
- Reinforcing the distinction between what HR can do and what HR cannot do.
- It enables the the ability to control costs and create value
- It will measure the leading indicators which impact on key performance drivers
- It can assess the contribution of HR to the organisation’s bottom line and strategy
- Allows HR professionals to manage their strategic responsibilities
- Encouraging flexibility and change by focusing on strategic direction
This module has provided a very solid introduction to the concepts of organisational learning and development. Although the notes adopt a relatively heavy corporate perspective, the concepts can be transferred to lower level to suggest practices easily adopted in small and medium sized businesses as well as communities and not for profits.
Extensive reading has been undertaken in compiling the notes here and it is worth mentioning the working paper on the Balanced Scorecard, which provided extensive insights into its development and use (Kaplan 2010).