In their 2017 High-Impact Learning Organization Maturity Model report Bersin by Deloitte provide a model that can help HR and L&D teams self-assess how well they are preparing their organizations to meet future needs. Here is an adapted summary of their model:
Even for the best of us, the changes required to get to the Anticipatory/Flow level are daunting.
My hope with this article is to provide you with:
In this post, I focus more specifically on learning, leadership, and culture as opposed to other equally critical levers like performance, wellness, and rewards (topics for another day).
If you are being tasked to create a learning organization, you are operating under two assumptions:
In his book, The Design of Business, Roger Martin talks about leveraging the Knowledge Funnel as a way to integrate future search and discovery with reliable delivery and optimization. Here is an adaptation of his model:
Organizations that are mastering the tension between exploration and exploitation:
I believe learning organizations become adept at using this dynamic at every level:
Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockland have been studying HR effectiveness and business impact for 30 years now (Recent book and HBR talk). Based on rigorous research and years of combined experience they conclude that the HR department (its activities and systems, and its capacity to offer integrated solutions to the business) is more than the sum of its parts (expertise and competencies of individual HR professionals):
“the value created for stakeholders (employees, line managers, customers, investors, and communities) was 2 to 5 times more by the HR department than by the HR professionals. Upgrading HR professionals matters but upgrading the HR department matters even more.”
Basically, HR transformation, like anything else, is achieved by systemic solutions and teams not stars.
The insight about teams being more effective than individuals applies to organizations too. Studies show that the mindset that is obsessed with stars and individual performance comes at a heavy price.
In an HBR article titled Why Leadership Training Fails—and What to Do About It, the authors provide this key insight:
“This widely embraced development model (that assumes that organizations are an aggregate of individuals) doesn’t acknowledge that organizations are systems of interacting elements: Roles, responsibilities, and relationships are defined by organizational structure, processes, leadership styles, people’s professional and cultural backgrounds, and HR policies and practices. And it doesn’t recognize that all those elements together drive organizational behavior and performance. If the system does not change, it will not support and sustain individual behavior change—indeed, it will set people up to fail.”
Innovative organizations are turning hierarchies upside down by “reinventing themselves to operate as a network of teams to keep pace with the challenges of a fluid, unpredictable world” (Organizational Design: The rise of teams by Deloitte Human Capital Trends)
Forward thinking organizations are shifting their internal focus from training towards creating the conditions that empower teams to rapidly align, learn, adapt and deliver customer value.
If you’re striving for a shift to a learning mindset, chances are your HR team does the fundamentals well: they bring in great talent, are on top of compliance and do effective risk management, are at least in the process of getting an engagement strategy together, revamping performance management, and offer workshop style training offerings.
But the task of building adaptability at a systemic level isn’t a problem or fire you can go attack. The work begins with adding new capabilities within the HR department, optimizing the learning journey employee’s take with a long-term view, and pushing levers of culture change.
I offer the following framework to emphasize the capabilities organizations are typically lacking as opposed to an exhaustive checklist. You can explore an interactive version here.
Make no mistakes – it all starts with leaders who create safe feedback channels and are willing to take accountability for the impact of their leadership styles.
According to research conducted by the Hay group up to 70% of a team’s climate (think of it as felt culture) is determined by the leader’s style. Climate in turn can determine up to 30% of organizational performance. Of the 6 leadership styles:
The ripple effect of each leader’s individual style and how they work together as a team are felt in everything an organization does or doesn’t do. It can either eat-up and consume all the energy in a system or generate energy that delivers unexpected returns.
Make sure you have mechanisms to get leaders ongoing feedback; that you are helping them become better coaches; and in turn empowering them to do the same for their teams.
Patrick Coolen, who manages HR Analytics and Strategic Workforce Planning at ABN Amro Bank, wrote a fantastic article on how they are blending analytics and design thinking to:
I would add that HR also needs to have the capability to integrate and develop technology-based solutions that meet employees where they are at.
I recommend ‘T’ shaped expertise at the HR-functional level:
Dani Johnson, who headed the learning & career research at Deloitte, often makes this astute observation: work is learning, and learning is work. The trouble started years ago when we divorced learning and put it in a box we call training. And we have been trying to undo this ever since.
Increasingly the job of learning and HR professionals is to deeply understand how work flows through the organization and the career stages staff experience through their various roles. The next step is to design solutions that reduce barriers and create enablers for both work-progress and career-engagement at each step.
The outcomes look a lot like engineering customer experience: simple, intuitive solutions for employees and managers; increased complexity (blending design, data, expertise, and technology) behind the scenes.
One of the things I love about Design Thinking is the ability to wrangle a big, giant, undefined challenge by breaking it down into very specific manageable chunks. I typically see clients take the following paths towards change (see below).
Ultimately you need a place to start, and the approach you take needs to be customized to the level of urgency and sponsorship for change that you have.