Thursday, December 23, 2010

Career Development and Learning to Learn

Recently, I was able to partner with a business leader in my organization to provide a facilitated management training and leadership development program. I relied upon many of the assumptions about adult learning preferences and structured the course in six modules to be delivered over 2011.

In the needs assessment phase, we utilized a number of talent management tools that were developed based upon the work of Dr. Bradford Smart. One of the tools we call simply a "Talent Assessment." Talent Assessments are a combination of the results of the previous year's performance appraisal information, a history of the manager's employment service and education, their skill rating on the competencies we identified for leadership and for the skills we identified for senior leadership. This information assists the business leader in identifying top players and critical talent and in the identification of any skill gaps. It further assesses individuals for promotability and the time frame for readiness to assume additional leadership or senior leadership responsibilities. This provides a template for succession planning and gives the business leader a tool for staffing plans. When the talent assessments are completed on each individual manager or supervisor, we translate the collective talent interpretation into another tool called the "Talent Review" which is a snapshot of the collective skills and abilities of the current organization. In practice, this information can then be communicated to executive management to assist in the organization's ongoing talent and HR management strategies.

Because of the need to demonstrate the why behind management training and leadership development, there were two pre-course learning or discovery sessions where the participating managers completed individual development plans and then developed learning contracts for 2011. Additionally, we took the time to evaluate each learners preferred learning preferences and styles and explored both individual values, group and organization values to discover the degree of congruence at this point in time. These assessments were facilitated through the use of the book Value Driven Management. Such discovery activities helped to provide the learning context, allowed participants to critically reflect on their career development and personal and team aspirations. This groundwork also helped to form a safe learning environment and moved the team along in terms of the group formation so that when the management and leadership course content is delivered, the group will be at the performing stage.

Through the use of some free courseware, an online component was included to add value to the non-classroom learning process. The site is a wiki environment and is used to store course resources, provide for discussion forums, assignments, class schedule, participant contact information, etc. The delivery format is based upon the 5% rule that our Chief Human Resources Officer articulated years ago. Assuming a 40 hour work week, 2 hours, or 5% of our time at work should be dedicated to learning and professional development. The business unit leader agreed to structure the department calendar to accommodate the training for the entire year. Two weeks a month will have classroom learning and the alternate weeks will consist of the use of the virtual classroom support site and application of the content.

There is a tremendous value add in a group learning environment and the anticipated results of this program are anticipated to be individual learning, group performance improvement and overall improvement of organizational effectiveness. The business unit is a profit center and has regular metrics that can facilitate the actual effectiveness of the learning intervention.

A recent article in Chief Learning Officer magazine shared the discovery of a new category of workplace learners that the authors referred to as super-learners. These super-learners share some common characteristics, two that are well aligned to this course design in that super-learners are self-directed and media savvy. To promote the adoption of social media as a learning tool, the pre-course learning included the requirement for participants to register and set up profiles in LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and internally, they were requested to set up their "talent profile" on the company's Intranet, which is supported by Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint, is to this super-learner, a rich collaborative learning tool and knowledge management application. There was a recent article in Forbes where the title included the notion that the Web 2.0 has found its payday. All this being said, management capabilities will soon require media proficiency to the same degree as computer literacy.  If one has any doubts check out the books by Thomas Friedman!

Learning is an adventure. I always become very excited about beginning a journey. The fact that I genuinely like and care about these participants makes this a very rewarding experience for me. I welcome any feedback from learning professionals so please feel free to comment.

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