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Embedding L&D: Sparky PLC - Eve's Commonplace
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Embedding L&D: Sparky PLC

The latest edition of 360° The Ashridge Journal comes out on Monday. I’ve written a piece in it about embedding L&D into organisational culture, and I’d welcome your ideas. Here is my example of what I think good could look like. Our organisation, let’s call it Sparky plc, has ‘learning and development’ listed as a formal competence. As with all of its competencies and values, success stories are celebrated through corporate newsletters and conferences, so an employee who has particularly triumphed in this field is fêted throughout the organisation. The organisation sets staff annual targets for days spent focusing on development, supported by self-service e-learning and personalised budgets. As part of their competence framework, line managers have to demonstrate their coaching skills, and these skills are a standard part of their formal training provision on promotion to the grade. All staff belong to an action learning set, comprising colleagues drawn from across the business units, and the organisation makes time for quarterly action learning meetings to discuss learning and development issues. Management meetings incorporate a meeting review at the end, and have as a standing agenda item a debrief on team learning activity. Many 1:1 meetings are conducted as reflective walks to aid the thinking process, and larger meetings make use of devices like De Bono’s Thinking Hats to guard against that enemy of organisational development, groupthink. The organisation has a lively range of job-shadowing and secondment opportunities, keeping a wiki for staff to offer resources and skills to help colleagues with projects organisation-wide. Wikis and other on-line tools are also used to encourage staff to share innovative ideas and new ways of working, and reward structures are in place to support this commitment to on-going innovation and change. The organisation uses hot-desking to take advantage of accidental learning through chance encounter, and is committed to supporting wellbeing through the provision of gyms, sleep counselling, medical insurance, nutritionally sensitive canteen menus, and the option to buy or earn additional holiday allowance. When hiring, the organisation requires applicants to include their ‘learning CV’ as part of the application process, to demonstrate their commitment to lifelong development. All staff are assigned a mentor on joining, and are encouraged to retain or swap out this mentor as appropriate throughout their career. Informal peer learning trios are also encouraged, to focus on more episodic organisational or functional issues, and to provide further opportunities for peer networking and support. Staff who work with software have e-learning prompts embedded into the system so that when they are working with particular modules they can easily find just-in-time support (for example, the system offers a quick reminder on negotiation skills when the user accesses the customer contact database). The organisation makes strategic use of executive coaching, open programme attendance, and tailored interventions as required, and is diligent about bolstering and following up the benefit gained from this investment. For example, clear and specific learning objectives are agreed between line managers and staff before any programme attendance. Staff debrief their colleagues through the ‘learning’ slot on the team meeting agenda, and managers agree – and give feedback on – stretching tasks and assignments to enable the application, practice, and sharing of new skills and competencies. Peers are often used as faculty on in-house programmes, thereby embedding their own skills through teaching them to colleagues. The organisation retains an external learning partner to act as a ‘critical friend,’ providing supervision to L&D as they steer the organisation’s learning agenda, and L&D are generous in sharing their ideas with other L&D professionals to ratchet up performance across the industry. Do you have any other ideas about how organisations could make L&D more a part of their DNA?


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