On March 4, learning leaders from both the public and private
sectors offered solutions to current organizational and human
capital challenges at the forum, "Engage the Experts: What's
Working in the Learning Industry."
Alan Malinchak, vice president and chief learning officer at
ManTech International, moderated the session that included Jody
Hudson, chief learning officer at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC); Fred Lang, director of training and knowledge management at
the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Kimo Kippen, chief learning
officer at Hilton Worldwide.
Engaging the workforce
Employee engagement arose as a persistent theme, and the panelists
agreed that effectively engaging the workforce is an ongoing
challenge. "Everyone has the responsibility to fully engage the
workforce," Lang said. "That means finding out what's important to
a particular employee and making sure his assignments tap into his
full potential so that when he comes to work he's using all of his
skill sets, not necessarily only the skill sets he was hired to
use." Lang described how the Department of Commerce leverages
mobile learning tools and the use of avatars and three-dimensional
technology in training to better engage its employees.
Hudson shared NRC's challenge to protect employee engagement in the
face of impending budget cuts. "We want to provide people with
opportunities for learning and development - although this might
occur differently than it did in the past," he added. "Whereas we
have sent people to very premier learning events (such as the World
Nuclear University at Oxford and Harvard University's School of
Government) we are going to have to find other alternatives now to
protect employee engagement."
Meeting the demand for innovation and growth
Although budget cuts and a leaner workforce continue to plague the
public sector, Lang took a glass half-full approach, citing
innovation and creativity as positive outcomes in the midst of
these tough times. "We're all faced with lean budgets; we need to
embrace that," he said. "The statistics tell us that in lean times,
patents go up, and new inventions are created. More innovation and
creativity happen with a lean workforce because we must find
creative and new ways to do things. We can come out of this much
more creative than we ever thought we could."
For Kippen and the hospitality industry, the horizon looks less
bleak. Hilton is currently experiencing a renaissance,
repositioning itself as the leader in hospitality, and adding
15,000 team members in the Near East and North Africa region and
25,000 in Asia Pacific. The biggest challenge for Hilton's learning
department - and the recovering private sector's learning
profession as a whole - is how to effectively meet business demand
generated by this new growth.
"There is this sense of urgency that we have when it comes to guest
satisfaction and driving guest loyalty," Kippen noted. He
identified the need for collaboration and relevance as lessons
emerging from the learning landscape at Hilton. "If you're not
relevant, you're dead," he said emphatically. "If you're not adding
value to the organization, if you're not in tune with or partnering
with the business, and if you don't have executive sponsorship,
you're not relevant. If the business doesn't need it or want it,
there's no point in doing it."
Managing talent and change
A final theme that transpired from the forum was the need for
skills training and talent development in anticipation of change.
For example, the NRC's workforce is preparing for the release of
new nuclear designs in the near future as a result of the United
States' growing interest in nuclear energy, security, and
"We must be able to respond to this changing demand and what's
happening in the nuclear arena," Hudson said. "The challenge is
getting skilled up in time so that when the industry is ready to
roll out these new designs and apply for licenses, we will be ready
to evaluate and inspect them."
For the Department of Commerce, a closer look at existing
competencies and the development of new skills for tomorrow's
workforce is a priority. "Those in the private sector need to be
nimble enough to change direction on the dime, and they must have
the competencies in place to compete in the workforce," Lang
charged. "The idea of social networking and mobile learning might
be a clue as to the new competencies needed for your organization
to be on the cutting edge."
Additionally, leadership development tactics must adapt as a result
of career development changes within the public sector. The average
time between an entry-level and senior executive position in the
federal government today is approximately 16 years, compared to the
23-year period of maturation from years ago.
"How do we allow individuals in that compressed timeframe to have
the same experiences and develop the same depth of insight and
wisdom as in the past?" Hudson mused. "We provide people a greater
number of stretch assignments to give them those experiences, and
we incorporate more realistic simulation exercises in training, but
we're always scratching our head, looking for new ways to address
this particular issue."
Hilton's change management and talent development strategy is to
create mobility - to give employees the tools, resources, coaching,
and experiences they need to develop new skills. This includes
reverse learning and cross-organizational and global assignments.
"As leaders, how do we deal with change not as a sprint, but as a
marathon?" Kippen posed. "Our response should be: How do we
continue to keep things very simple? It is our job to create
learning that is quick, accessible, and easy to use."
When asked how managers can engage employees in their own
development and make training meaningful enough that it sticks,
Kippen concluded, "Give people time to think, pause, and reflect
before moving to the next thing: This is where learning happens."