Overcoming HR Development Challenges World-Wide: 3 Case Studies for Executives

Asian Executives want results-driven learning:

James Engel, senior director at APM Group in Bangkok, Thailand, agrees with Salvis when he says that there is a need to migrate from training to on-the-job learning and from building competence to developing capabilities that can be measured, observed, and translated into business results improvement.

Solutions to human capital development (HCD) challenges in Asia must be strategic, innovative, and holistic. Learning leaders in this region suggest the following strategies.

  • Assess competence and long-term commitment of associates, supervisors, and managers with high potential of retention, and build different learning and development strategies for this group to ensure a greater return-on-investment and higher learning effectiveness and engagement.
  • Conduct cultural and human diligence as part of the instructional learning design process, ensuring both Western and Eastern views are considered, as well as the local, global, and “glocal” (local factors with global perspective) aspects of the market and business.
  • Involve a sponsor, client, and end user in learning design, and translate the learning strategy into a business strategy that can be measured and clearly linked to results improvement.
  • Blend media and methodologies according to learners’ levels of expertise, engagement, and cultural alignment.

Latin America: The 3R challenge

Carolina Ferrer, Chevron’s human resources manager in Venezuela, calls this the 3R challenge. “Recruiting, retaining, and retraining is the essence of our job, and the learning and development effort is crucial in our quest to achieve global and local human talent management objectives linked to the business,” she explains. “Our talent is moving rapidly to countries with better economies, inside of our own company. Our problem is not a matter of organizational retention, but of geographical retention, and this is affected by economic and social conditions in developing countries. Keeping our talent capable and aligned to our standards requires a very agile learning and development system.”

Another major challenge in Latin America is making the content of learning and development programs relevant and adapted to different operational, cultural, and generational realities. “Sometimes it seems that the operations run faster than the learning initiatives, and it is my job to ensure they are aligned in time and space and that each formal and informal learning experience in our company is relevant to the learner and linked to the business,” says Karina Mendoza, learning and development manager at Xerox in Mexico.

Solutions to these challenges require specific action plans. Successful HCD executives in Latin America recommend these strategies:

  • Build the learning and development program to include the support of the chief financial officer, chief operational officer, and executive in charge of business and sales, ensuring that every learning initiative is linked to strategic objectives.
  • When designing learning content and delivery, ask people from different operational, cultural, and generational backgrounds to share their needs, desires, concerns, and challenges.
  • Blend tech with touch. No matter the effectiveness of virtual learning, people still seek face-to-face learning interaction. Finding the appropriate mix for an organization’s unique cultural and strategic demands is the difference between the success and failure of learning and development initiatives in a climate of constant and rapid change.
  • Provide effective systems, procedures, equipment, resources, and conditions that allow learners to apply what they learn in the field.
  • Create a knowledge management system that preserves the know-how of essential company and market business functions to protect the company from workforce migration.

Europe: The organization of the future

The VOV Lerend Network, a Belgium-based network for learning and development professionals, asked its members the following questions to inform immediate executive-level decisions: “What will the organization of the future look like?” and “In what kind of society will the organization of the future operate?”  The answers supplied tremendous creative insight about the role of human resource development (HRD) practitioners.

Just-in-time, just-enough learning. Future learning initiatives will be increasingly affected by rapid change, and HRD departments must create learning initiatives that can keep up with these changes. The question of learning relevance may be most important: People and organizations alike do not have the patience to invest in learning activities that take a long time and for which relevance is not immediately clear.

Just-in-time learning requires that individuals cope with ongoing changes. Beyond providing relevant learning products, HRD must create contexts in which people can think proactively and possibly co-create new competencies as needed. Anticipating the future while simultaneously solving immediate needs is a challenge for most HRD practitioners.

Autonomy and cohesion. Closely linked to an increase in highly skilled, knowledge-intensive work is employees’ expectation of greater autonomy in the workplace and resistance of micromanagement practices. To provide greater employee autonomy, many organizations in Europe are experimenting with time-and-place independent working by providing telecommuting options or co-working spaces.

However, organizations want to ensure that employees are still connected to their goals and culture. This poses a new challenge for HRD to maintain a connection to the organization yet steer clear from classic, hierarchical management methods. Building trusted relationships and acknowledging employees as partners in achieving business goals will further bolster autonomy.

Blurring of organizational boundaries. This trend is especially true for knowledge workers in Europe who are, for example, working not only on an operational team, but also in a network with other organizations to create new value streams. Industrial workers often are sent to other local companies in times of economic downturn, with the understanding that the organization will ask them to return when demand rises again. These examples, which are now exceptions, are expected to become more common in the future.

Key challenges in management development. According to Niall Gavin, head of human resources and learning technologies at Firstgroup UK, “To be successful, the organization needs to be flexible and resilient when experts leave the company and walk away with knowledge and experience. Knowledge and expertise need to be more distributed to fill the gap when needed and to benefit from employees at different levels adding their capabilities and bringing in more service.” To work toward these goals, learning leaders invest significantly in talent management and succession planning.

Mirjam Burgers-Gerritsen, human resources expert and consultant in management development, and the chief architect of the Managers with Impact program for frontline ING managers in the Netherlands, characterizes the ING organization as both “eager to develop and a pressure cooker.”

Organizational and staffing changes are frequent, and managers may be left feeling that there is little time for learning and development. Burgers-Gerritsen recognizes ING managers’ willingness to learn. Learning is either fully informal, via the pace of daily change and challenges, or fully formal, through the Managers with Impact training program.

ING frontline managers prefer to learn from peers. “Any training we develop that will allow managers to learn from each other is an instant success,” Burgers-Gerritsen comments. Brought together in this formal learning environment, managers are eager to interact, ask questions, and get to work.

The future learning organization. When looking at the future of learning from a general UK perspective, Gavin has some clear ideas. Organizations will place more emphasis on learning best practices by sharing knowledge and experiences through peer networks. Also, there will be a shift away from formal learning and toward supported and facilitated informal learning.

Burgers-Gerritsen concurs and adds her own vision: She sees a broader HR perspective in which learning and development takes a more prominent role by becoming better aligned to the strategy and structure of the organization. Learning experts must become competent in consulting managers on such matters as change, reorganization, engagement, and mobility.

Source: T&D Magazine, February 08, 2013 – Written by Fernando Sanchez-AriasHannelore CalmeynGer DriesenEvert Pruisadapted by Bryan Tanner.


About bryantanner

I'm obsessed with learning via the appropriate technology. My professional mission is to effectively deliver instruction to learners in a way that yields the greatest results for all stakeholders involved.
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