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Friday, 11 March 2016

Aligning Learning and Development with Organisational Strategic Priorities

Much information exists in the public domain regarding the trends in learning that are impacting organisations of all sizes and in all sectors, not to mention the challenges that these bring to tertiary institutions as well, in terms of both course design and delivery. The massive explosion in technology, both from an application as well as from an enabler perspective are impacting the ways in which people engage within learning and education and respond to the varied opportunities that have now arisen. This represents challenges for organisations not engaged in the process and for those individuals who do not wish to take responsibility for their own learning. On the other hand, it represents opportunities for those organisations seeking a better return on their training investment dollars, and those individuals who recognise the benefit of active engagement with the training and development process.

The UK's Open University's Institute of Educational Technology has identified a number of trends and opportunities in the world of learning, which when considered in the context of measuring organisational outcomes for training and development, provide some potential opportunities for work-based learning programs. Two of the key ones that organisations across all sectors can consider are:
  • Focusing on 'double-loop learning' where learners focus not just on what they are learning and exploring and working out how to solve the problem at hand but also, through a reflection process, they consider how they can become more effective in the process, enabling application of the current problem solving process to future problems. This has organisational implications insofar as such a learning process can be the foundations for knowledge-sharing across the broader organisation.
  • First-hand experiences can be amongst the most powerful learning experiences and can be applied to both individual learning as well as organisation-wide learning. In the case of the former, processes and procedures need to be put in place to maximise the individual impact, and the ability, time and context for reflection to underpin this value. From an organisational perspective, story-led materials that are tailored to, and form the base of, organisational learning, ensure that work-based experiences are shared across a wider platform, placing story-telling as a key organisational tool that can deliver learning that fits the requirements of the organisation by maximising engagement.
Whilst learning and development opportunities have been identified through such sources as the UK's Open University's Institute of Educational Technology, recognition of the possible gaps in organisational learning and development were discussed in a recent edition of MITSloan Management Review, where the focus of recent research in a number of commercial organisations pointed to the need to develop corporate learning and development programs that link directly to the organisation's strategic priorities. Key outcomes of that research resulted from the research question of "How can corporate learning programs more effectively develop leadership talent?" The findings pointed to 3 key issues which were:
  1. there was a need to align the learning agenda with the CEO's strategic agenda
  2. there was a need to create governance mechanisms that linked learning to the rest of the business, and
  3. there was a need to direct capability-building efforts too those that mattered most to the organisation.
Viewed in this manner, the research pointed to the importance of focussing less on how learning is delivered and more on linking content and structure with the organisation's strategic imperatives.

One thing is clear from the above discussion. Past methods of evaluating the effectiveness of learning and development expenditure within organisations can no longer rely on an outdated performance measure of staff attendances at 'off-the-shelf' or standardised 'training packages' delivered outside the organisational context, divorced from the organisational reality. Given the way people learn and the tools that exist to support learning, mean the lack of understanding of the true organisational and individual value-add of such training, can no longer be justified, especially in the non-profit sector where financial resources remain challenged.

OPTIMUM NFP in conjunction with Action Learning International launched the Action Learning Question program ("ALQ") in the nonprofit sector in mid 2014. The ALQ program has been running successfully in the UK for over 15 years, across nonprofit, commercial and public sector organisations. In the latter alone, over 200 participants have successfully completed the program over the last 3+ years. In Australia, the ALQ is being delivered as both an in-house program as well as a public program. The latter are known as Cross-Oragnisational Cohorts ("COCH"). The ALQ program, in both formats, responds directly to the challenges and opportunities discussed above and fully supports a more evaluative framework for assessing the effectiveness of organisational learning and development.

The first COCH completed in November 2015, whilst the second program is currently underway and is due for completion in early June 2016. The program has been recognised by the Australian Institute of Management Business School who, after rigorous review of content, structure and delivery methods, has accredited the program as 1 Unit (elective) towards its highly acclaimed 12-Unit Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree.
The feedback from the first COCH was excellent and exceeded the expectations of those that attended. The second program is heading in the same direction with participants currently very enthusiastic about the process. A third program will be launched shortly for commencement in July 2016. Places for these programs are limited to ensure the best outcome for attendees.

Whilst registration forms will be available shortly on the OPTIMUM NFP website, you can register your preliminary interest by contacting David Rosenbaum at or you can contact David Rosenbaum on 0411-744-911 to discuss the program in more detail to determine its applicability to you and your organisation.

Visit the OPTIMUM NFP website at and click on the "ALQ Workshops" tab to read the testimonials from the first program and to obtain information as to the structure and process of the COCH generally.

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