To thrive in a global business environment, learning and talent management staff must disregard prevalent myths and develop new capabilities.
The world's business environment continues to be marked by turbulence, complexity, ambiguity, and relentless speed. Never before has the world been so flat, so networked, so interdependent, and so transparent. The rules of the global game are fundamentally different as new competitors from developing economies emerge and challenge traditional business models.
Learning and talent management professionals are risking their credibility if they continue to rely on traditional—and soon to be obsolete—learning and talent practices to drive business impact. To be successful in organizations faced with record changes in strategy, business models, and market fluctuations, we must challenge these seven myths and develop new capabilities.
Myth 1: Your company's future leaders will come from your existing pool of high-performing managers.
Reality: The technology revolution, coupled with the rise of such key emerging markets as China, India, and Brazil, have shattered the business world as we know it. Those skills and capabilities required to achieve scaled efficiencies against today's performance agenda will not naturally translate into those skills and capabilities required to achieve innovation in process, product, and organization and management models against tomorrow's performance agenda.
What L&D professionals must do: We need to think progressively with our business leaders not only about those leaders who can effectively run today's business, but also about those leaders who will be positioned for the future. This requires you as professionals to know what those capabilities look like as well as how to assess for them.
Myth 2: Learning and talent management are strategic HR processes.
Reality: Talent management is a business imperative, not a strategic HR process. Business executives need to manage talent investments as well as they manage capital, technology, and brand. Your role as a learning and development professional is to create strategies, processes, and environments that enable leaders to apply the same rigor in analytics around talent as they do around business development, innovation, and business management processes.
What L&D professionals must do: Consult with leaders to examine "talent capitalization" in the same way that they are looking at market capitalization. Your consultation should result in processes that proactively engage leaders in rigorous level setting for the future rather than in reactive "fit it" behavior. Your job is to provide your senior leaders with human capital data to drive business, talent portfolio, and capability decisions.
Myth 3: Innovation comes from the top.
Reality: Innovative ideas rarely come from the top of the organization, but the culture and process discipline certainly does. Organizations that can outsmart, out-problem solve, and out-innovate their competitors will thrive. The key to innovation is in purposefully creating a culture that will take risk (and be rewarded for such approaches) and be supported by disciplined processes that enable viable ideas to come to fruition.
What L&D professionals must do: Encourage the conditions for innovation and experimentation and build development programs that transmit knowledge and build capabilities toward new business models, product solutions, or process innovations. Learning and talent management processes (selection, deployment, executive development, training, and performance management) should align to a culture of growth, innovation, and productivity.
Myth 4: Learning and development automatically belongs in the HR function.
Reality: In the business world, CEOs have one priority: growth. In the world of workplace learning and development, practitioners should only have one priority: build the organizational capability and consultative capacity to achieve that growth. We strongly believe that the core processes of learning and talent management should remain in the HR function because the alignment is critical to enabling robust consultation between business leaders and HR partners. However, there is a body of work regarding organizational learning, talent optimization, and organization development that must coexist alongside the
What L&D professionals must do: Be aligned to annual processes and organizational effectiveness. Know your strengths and limitations in delivering business needs and expectations. When thinking about learning and talent optimization, your methodologies and programs should be built on data, processes, and initiatives tied to business priorities.
Myth 5: We can continue to rely on the same practices that have enabled blue chip organizations to succeed in the past as we move our strategies and practices forward.
Reality: Stop right here, put down this fabulous publication, and study your history. It goes without saying that what got you here will not get you there. We live in an interconnected, global world where our economies are based on others, and the biggest companies are no longer the best.
What L&D professionals must do: Understand what globalization means to your business (market scale or innovation) and then match your learning and talent strategy to your globalization strategy. As you look to expand your global footprint, you will need to understand global trends and global capabilities so that you can decide whether you do so with local talent or send in your own talent from corporate. As you localize your products, it's important to know how to market with culture in mind. As learning and development professionals, it is becoming more and more critical that we are students of industry as well as of global trends and the diasporic
movement of talent.
Myth 6: Just because your strategy demands it, it doesn't mean your culture will allow it.
Reality: How many of us have taken business strategy and designed impressive processes and programs that will enable the business to excel, only for the culture to kill the program? Budget cuts are the best leverage to enable resistance to change and transformation. Both small and large companies have cultures created by people. There are power players and resistors who work consciously and unconsciously to ensure that homeostatic balance remains—regardless of industry transitions, market shifts, or the competitive landscape.
What L&D professionals must do: We need to be strong in our ability to manage change. We don't mean that one is strong in understanding John Kotter's change model. What we mean here is that we build capabilities such that we can be the organization's social psychologist on the dynamics underlying change and transformation. Our ability to bring wise consultation to our leaders is priceless.
Myth 7: The current systems for building future leaders will support evolving business needs.
Reality: The traditional systems designed to enable the development of leaders are ill-equipped. Executive education systems are designed to produce knowledge, not transform capabilities and build through experience. And as the fields of learning and talent management have shifted from a profession to an industry, approaches have shifted from customized solutions to "one to many" products.
What L&D professionals must do: We need to take control of how we build high-performance, innovative organizations—this is not something we can delegate to traditional business schools or consultancies. The reality is that the approach you will need will differ from your competitors and your partners. To be successful, it must be an approach that aligns to your culture, not against it. It must have a brand with your CEO's directive embedded in each step of the journey. You need to be able to take your organization's strategy and build robust, innovative, and effective programs that develop leaders and train employees across your talent pipeline. You also need to effectively measure the true return-on-investment of these activities against business metrics.
Our complex, globalized and highly technological business environments are creating demand for new business models, new management models, and new ways of leveraging the human dimension of business. As organizations evolve, so must the roles of learning and talent. As learning and talent professionals get stronger at positioning the organization (and its capabilities), we will play the critical role in helping to truly shape our organizations' futures.