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November 29, 2013

Managing Performance - Learning & Development

An important part of Performance Management process (formal/informal) in any organization, is to help employees improve their skills and capabilities. Considerable resources – monetary, efforts and talent is spent in developing talent. This is more so in technology and services industry. L&D is as important spoke in the wheel for organizational talent retention and rewards strategy.
Learn being the driver of my earlier discussions (earlier blog), topic for this discussion is how to go about learning and development discussions. We all have asked, heard and been requested for Coaching, mentoring and training programs during our performance review sessions. Each employee sees being nominated for trainings as sign of reward and organizational investment in their development.
Now have we ever wondered, in organizations most people having graduated from reputed colleges, being trained at top rated companies/institutions and hired through same process and screen; why performance levels vary so much? This isn’t a modern phenomenon; throughout history some of the best coaches, mentors and philosophers had varied results and every disciple didn’t actually go on to be a role model or success.
Hint to solving this puzzle may lie in Aldous Huxley’s quote – “"I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself."
In this context let’s discuss what we can do to improve our and our teams’ learning quotient.
As Manager:
  • Being an effective leader is about being facilitator and liberator. Instead of looking at training program as a solution, work with employee to create a learning solution for him/her. Organizations do Training Need Analysis and use it for creating Learning Calendar/Strategy. This is nothing but trying to change the world. How about creating Need to Learn as first step of creating learning Solutions? Unless there is a desire and need to learn, no amount of coaching, mentoring or training program will help employees.
  • Effective way to create Need to learn is, making employee’s goals and aspirations  foundation for learning solutions. More often managers tend to be driven by project needs, to use available training slots and distribute them among team members. Worst in some cases to meet minimum number of training days as per organization policy.
  • Expose your employees to experts, role models and successful people within and outside organization, there is no better tool to create Need to Learn.
  • Next step towards creating a need to learn is to assign the employee a task or deliverable as an apprentice before hand to experience need for skills and competency being offered through the Program. Also, ensure that employees get to practice and use those newly acquired skills and completes ‘Earn’ (read more) part of Learn.
  • Never assign any deliverables or responsibilities outside learning program during duration of the program. Apart from adversely impacting capability to benefit from program, it seriously brings down value and seriousness from employees perspective.
  • To maximize return on investment both for employee and team, assign apprentice to train under employees having undergone same training. This way you create pipeline of need to learn ready team members. Also works as a great tool to asses and develop your people further.
As an Employee:
  • Let’s start by looking at cost to you as an individual during your career, if you don’t take learning programs seriously. You are at best 4 Sigma productivity in your entire working life, If you are not serious and don’t benefit from only one program of 3 days duration, every 3 years in your entire career, 11 programs or 33 days. (Career spanning 35 years,@200 working days/year). You have lost opportunity of roughly 0.5% of your productive life time.
  • Follow ‘LESS’ (related article) to create your individual learning solutions. Please understand, however well intended, well funded and organized, no organization or Manager can develop you.Only person who can and will make you learn and develop is YOU.
  • Stop Whining. Nobody has got it all; every human being has limitations, blind spots, development needs. Every minute spent complaining is waste; instead use it to learn something whilst you work for a better solution.
  • Remain focused on your goals (Big Y) and never confuse tools and process (training programs, forms etc) with key drivers. Critical X will always be your need to learn and grow. Buck stops at YOU. Contrary to what we like to believe, Company or manager are not there to develop you. There primary objective is to serve Customers and make profit, everything else including Talent development and retention is driven by and should be driven by that need.
  • While developing your development plan, focus on creating opportunities to apply  skills. Look for stretch assignments, explore possibilities to be part of teams which have people you can learn from.
  • Apart from learning skills, leverage opportunities to network with people from different part of organization and different organizations.
  •  Become part of online forums, industry associations and expert groups.
  • Create and schedule time on your calendar for gaining knowledge and learning/improving skills. To quote Larry Bossidy – “I expect people to read, to watch the news—not just because it makes them more interesting but because what happens in the world affects what happens to us, to our marketplace, and to our competition.”
Human Resources team:
  • Focus on culture of ‘need to learn’. Explore metrics which capture and allow measuring Learning Culture not in terms of number of days spent in training rooms or seminars.
  • Look at example above and impact of one 3 day program in 3 years, re-evaluate effectiveness of current L&D strategy. What is your Sigma Score? To quote Deming:  “Quality is defined from the customer’s point of view as anything that enhances their satisfaction.”
  • Help create a robust apprentice/coach relationship within organization. This is not only in semantics (new one for Mentor / Mentee) but very different at fundamental level where responsibility and initiative rests with individuals.
  • Proactively, train and educate people in building business goals integrated with development goals. Relentlessly hold people accountable for meeting development goals.
  • Bring business customer in focus and work backwards, mostly we in HR stop at managers and employees as our customer.
  • A different perspective can be brought simply by growing beyond employee advocacy (whole notion seems outdated where employees need an advocate to speak on their behalf) and being a facilitator for business, employee and customer.
Happy reading and remember path to excellence is continuous and iterative  and few words from Steve Jobs - 'Stay hungry, stay foolish'.
Warm Regards
Pankaj

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