Last week I shared my two cents on How Recruitment Managers Can Add Significantly More Value to their company. Once a company’s able to recruit the right talent, it’s only logical to focus on the learning manager. Just like recruitment managers, the talent development managers biggest challenge is to avoid becoming a post box function where he translates training needs (that are identified in the performance management cycle) into training courses delivered by outside trainers.

Although employees and line managers will both be happy with this contribution because everyone enjoys a couple days away from the daily monotony to spend time learning, networking and being pampered. But, it doesn’t add any value to either the development of the employee or to enhancing the organisation.

In my view the learning/talent development manager has two responsibilities:

1. Supporting Employees Develop Themselves

Firstly, a learning manager is responsible for helping the employees develop their personal skills, knowledge and competencies for them to perform their current role and ready themselves for the next one. I sincerely believe that the responsibility of employee development lies squarely with the employees themselves. And although the ‘your-development-is-your-own-responsibility’ mantra has now been around for more than 20 years, I still haven’t seen any credible evidence that companies and employees have created the infrastructure to do justice to this approach.

The line manager responsibility then is to help the employee assess his own learning needs in the light of the companies expectations and career opportunities. The learning manager has two responsibilities:

  1. Firstly he needs to provide the infrastructure for employees to spend their ‘individual learning budget’ by giving them access to all kinds of learning tools: external / internal workshops, training calendars, coaching, conferences, e-learning courses, assessments, certifications and reading material.
  2. Secondly the learning manager has to guide individual on how to best use his individual learning budget and help individuals understand the importance of the 70:20:10 rule in which they ensure that their development plans captures both on-the-job training, education and life experiences.

2. Supporting CEO to Build Organisational Capabilities

Having dealt with the individual learning needs of employees, an even more important responsibility of the learning manager is to help the CHRO and CEO build organisational capabilities. Whereas the individual learning needs address talent needs, building organisational capabilities addresses the strategy of the company as a whole. Focus on developing organisational capabilities trumps the first responsibility as the complexity and impacts is significantly larger.

That of course begs the question: How do learning manager do this? First and foremost it’s learning managers must understand the company’s strategy and the organisational capabilities that it requires excellence in to deliver the strategy. A large bank I’m currently working with has identified customer service and innovation as two organisational capabilities they have to build in order to beat the competition. A manufacturing concern decided that they need to build innovation and leadership capabilities in order to succeed. Different organisations require different capabilities in order to compete in the market.

When those capabilities have been identified the executive team, ideally facilitated by the learning manager, identifies

  • the business case to invest in building these capabilities,
  • a roadmap on how to build these capabilities, and
  • milestones to measure progress.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of building your organisational capabilities in, for example, customer service by ‘pulling’ all employees through a standardized 2-day obligatory workshop. This is just doing lip-service to building capabilities. In order to develop capabilities that are recognized and valued by your customer you need to develop an integrated and holistic approach. A couple of years ago I developed this mind map to capture a 360 view on how to develop organisational capabilities. Hope this provides you with a good starting point to discuss how to build organisational capabilities in your company.

Building Capabilities

In my view a learning manager should at least spend 2/3 of this time and energy on building organisational capabilities and 1/3 on individual learning needs. My experience shows me however that learning managers on average spend less than 10%, if any at all, of their time on the capabilities side. If you simply change this focus I promise you that you’ll not only add more value to the organisation but also have much more fun doing it.

A talent development manager holds great power in my opinion. Just like teachers who mold the future adults of any country, talent development managers have the ability to carve talent into the shape required by the organization.

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