Growing in the New World | Part 3 | 5 Calls to Action for the Business Leader
In our previous posts in the series, we explored the roles that L&D professionals and people managers can play to further the learning and growth agenda of the organization. Let us now turn the lens to those at the helm – the business leaders – that can make or break learning and development efforts. Our recommendations to the leaders are simple enough – point the boat in the right direction and make sure everyone rows in sync.
Build a shared vision for discretionary learning
The hallmark of a learning organization is a shared vision; one that every single member of the organization believes in and is inspired by. So much so that they put in discretionary effort, experiment, and learn, not because they are told to do so but rather because they want to. In today’s choppy waters, it is even more important that every single team member, down to the last deckhand knows where the company is headed.
Here are three effective but simple actions you can take towards building a shared vision. Ask yourself whether you are crystal clear on what the long-term future of the organization looks like. Can you articulate this in a simple yet powerful manner? Put this picture to the litmus test. Can every single member of the organization also voice the same vision? The last step is to plug the gaps or reinforce the vision. Given that the traditional means of inspiring in-person conversations are not feasible or scalable, put in place a cascaded form of storytelling. Your role becomes to use the future vision and company values as cornerstones in your dialogues and to hold others accountable to do so as well.
Make business of L&D
They say that never let a good crisis go waste. The current one is a great opportunity to revisit the shared vision, transform and introduce innovation in your business model; it is also perfect for fundamentally overhauling the learning agenda and charter to make it business-backward. It has long since been a subject of debate, whether L&D should fold into HR. We believe that it does not matter who leads learning – as long as it is lead as a business vertical and the professionals in charge of learning understand the company’s business at least as much as they understand the functional domain of learning.
Having the right people in charge is half the battle, the other half is what you measure them on, or what the organization expects of them. The learning dashboards need to be closely linked to the company’s business objectives which in turn lead to the long-term vision of the organization. Go beyond metrics like training days to measure, for example, the proportion of home-grown talent that can take up expanded responsibilities or the impact of innovations that have grown out of collaborations.
Promote inclusive learning
On the subject of collaboration, what kind of partnerships and relationships do your learning solutions drive? In the absence or reduction of in-person meetings, dialogues with co-workers suffer. It becomes the leader’s role to build platforms for conversations, both formal and informal. You do not have to traverse this road alone – people managers, other leaders, team members – learning is as much their business as it is yours. Encourage them to ideate and implement new ways of learning and teamwork.
On your part, promote learners and the process of learning. In your next All Hands Meeting, recognize those who have exhibited a growth mindset, those who have teamed up to learn, those who have experimented and innovated. These need not have resulted in the firm’s next million-dollar idea but would have pushed the envelope in new ways. Recognize the ordinary people, the often overlooked, who have extra-ordinary learnings.
Cut your training budgets, but increase your investment
Business leaders are having to make some tough calls, cutting down on planned expenses to tighten the belt. The L&D budget typically is a fair-weather investment and is one of the first line items to face the chop with the first signs of the skies darkening. Make the cut but do not let yourself, your leadership team, people managers and the L&D function off the hook when it comes to investing in learning. The means may need to change, the mandate does not.
The simplest way to increase the organization’s investment in development is to up your interest in it. If what gets measured gets managed and what gets managed gets done, then what gets measured and managed by the leadership gets done even better. Make the learning OKRs part of your business reviews, and quiz other business and L&D leaders hard on them. Encourage them to be creative, leverage network learning, explore high impact low budget ideas, to stretch, and to make the limited learning dollars go as far as possible.
Promote a winning mindset
The times are certainly difficult – for individuals, for teams, for organizations. While a lot is beyond our control, our actions in response to the crisis very much are. Your employees will look to you for leadership and for direction. What you say and do now can make all the difference when it comes to the organization having a winning mindset.
We advocate going beyond acknowledging the crisis to messaging it as a time of growth and learning. While the losses have been many, the lessons have been significant. Having a growth mindset will help us rewrite our limiting mental models. For organizations and working professionals, one can go beyond surviving to thriving. In the words of Nassim Taleb, “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and… (this) Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness.”The key to unlocking anti-fragility is having a growth mindset and using that to re-craft the way we do business, overhauling the playbook. As the captain, through your messages and actions, you can steer the organization to become anti-fragile.
Author: Ekta Poddar