In order to reach a destination, we all know that one of the best tools to use is a roadmap. In this article, we will discuss a roadmap that will take your firm on a journey to one of the greatest benefit destinations that can be offered in the industry today both from an employee and a management point of view; this is commonly referred to as "training.”
While training might be the most common term used for this function within the firm, the word that really describes the journey that we are talking about is "learning”. Learning is described as the "act of gaining knowledge or understanding by study, instruction, or experience”; in other words, it is much broader than simply training. Most firms today will tell you they are "planning their trip” to a learning culture, but they have not yet started the journey. They know their journey will be a long one, but the reward of making the trip will be worth it, with the payoff being an increase in staff motivation, firm productivity and partner compensation.
The successful development of this extremely important function within the firm can be accomplished by following a proven roadmap that has worked with top firms. In fact, many of the firms that helped map the journey for you were true pioneers, and now you can simply follow their path, with a few less potholes and rest stops along the way!
Destination 1: "Open Mindedville”
Don’t go into this process by thinking that you will hire, motivate and develop the initiatives the same as you do in other positions within the firm. There are unique facets to this initiative that may not be found in the talent that you have in the firm today. It is easier said than done, but try not to begin your journey with the extra baggage of pre-conceived ideas that are developed from years of hiring accounting professionals.
This function within the firm will be completely different; therefore, starting the process with the idea that you are "learning” a new skill yourself will be valuable! This requires wisdom and not traditional, industrial-age thinking.
Destination 2: "Learning City”
Now that you have decided to start with an open mind, you must fill up your tank with information about what it truly takes to have a successful learning function within your firm. That means going back to school in the area of "developing a learning culture”.
Read about it in articles and books; call partners of other firms that have been through the process and find out what worked and what did not work. Then call existing learning professionals directly and discover their perspective on what has worked and what has not worked.
This discovery step is so important that it should not be overlooked just to make things happen faster. The more you know about the successful firms that are out there, the more successful your firm will be! Take time to think and plan. It will save you time in the long-term and increase the odds of success. This should not be a ready-firm-aim initiative.
Destination 3: "Town Meeting”
Gather the firm leadership group and ensure you have consensus before you move to the next step. Since you have gathered all of the information from Step 2 you will be able to disseminate that information to the group and answer questions that might be of concern. The greater the feeling of unity after this step, the more successful you will be at finding the right leader for the initiative and the more successful that leader will be when they enter your firm.
Destination 4: "Definition Village”
Just like in any other position you hire for, you need to ensure that you have a comprehensive job description, an initial list of objectives or expectations for the position and a salary range. This should all be accomplished before you begin your search for the "right fit”.
One of the things you will immediately notice is that you are not looking for the type of person you normally would be looking for to fill an accounting position. You are looking for a candidate that has experience as an adult trainer/educator and who has superb organizational skills.
After looking at your "wish list” of expectations, you may also find that you are looking for a "super man/woman”. You might have to negotiate on some of the most important aspects of the job in order to find a good fit for your firm.
Destination 5: "Leader Township”
You have the design for the Learning Professional that you are seeking, therefore it is time to start your search. Armed with the information you developed in Step 4 you are now able to write an advertisement for the various media you will use. Be clear and concise about the requirements you are seeking.
When you are at the point of face to face interviewing, make sure that you use not only your Human Resources Department, but also a panel or multi-member interview process. The Learning Professional will be interacting with virtually everyone in the firm, so gathering several different perceptions will be to your benefit.
Destination 6: "Authority Avenue”
The first meeting you have with your new Learning Professional should be to introduce them to the firm-wide strategic plan and discuss ways their position will support the firm’s initiatives. This is an imperative step in the process of building the learning culture. The more the Learning Professional knows about the strategic goals of the firm, the more ability they will have to support those goals through the Learning Plan.
Destination 7: "Map It”
When the Learning Professional has gathered the appropriate information about the firm, they will begin their work on the overall learning/training plan. In the first year, this might include many "planning and building” steps, such as assessments, personal training plans and curriculum research.
Then in future years it might include more "specific and technical” training such as basic and advanced software skills, soft skills training and supervisory training. It takes time and resources to build a learning organization. It takes even longer when this is a new position!
This planning stage should include objectives, measurements, strategies, accountability, due dates and a budget! The Learning Professional will provide most of the information gathering for this process, but do not just leave them out there to "flail” on their own. It is important for the Learning Professional to report directly and meet regularly with an influential partner.
Destination 8: "Driving Directions”
Just because you have a plan does not mean that you will be able to follow the plan. You must create an environment that allows performance to be driven by the overall plan strategic and learning. Create a Learning Task Force that will ensure strategies are being followed and encourage the Learning Professional to make necessary changes to the plan.
Also, build accountability into the firm’s performance system. If someone is accountable for a strategy within the plan, make sure it is incorporated in their goals for the year and make certain that the supervisors "weigh” the importance at a high level.
Further Destinations…. It is up to you!
The above 8 step process will guide you through the initial stages of developing a Learning Culture. While this is a good start… it is only the beginning of your incredible journey. The journey may seem long, and you will hit a few bumps and detours along the way.
However, you will also reap amazing rewards including a more motivated and skilled staff as well as higher productivity and revenue. Without such a learning culture it will be difficult to attract and retain quality people. You must choose a road: excellence or mediocrity.
If you're ready to take the next step in your development as a HR or learning professional, be sure to register for the 2010 Human Capital and Learning Symposium. An industry standard for over 10 years, the HCLS is an event you cannot miss!