Accenture outlook-the-learning-enterprise


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Bringing new and relevant skills to the workforce has never been more important. To do so successfully, organizations must absorb the best practices of internal and external experts into their own knowledge base, connect people in ways that will encourage innovation and turn the entire enterprise into a learning team.

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Accenture outlook-the-learning-enterprise

  1. 1. This article originally appearedin the 2012, No. 2, issue ofThe journal of high-performance businessTalent & OrganizationThe learning enterpriseBy Diego S. De León, Terry Nulty and Geirean MarcroftBringing new and relevant skills to the workforce has neverbeen more important. To do so successfully, organizationsmust absorb the best practices of internal and externalexperts into their own knowledge base, connect people inways that will encourage innovation and turn the entireenterprise into a learning team.
  2. 2. Every year, companies spend billions driven, capability-based training to of dollars on their enterprise learning critical workforces, combined with programs—more than $171 billion in new social media and collaboration the United States alone, according to a technologies, the time has actually 2011 report from the American Society never been better for bringing relevant for Training Development. Are they skills to the workforce while also getting their money’s worth? encouraging the interactions that generate innovation and increase your Not according to the recent Accenture organizational brainpower. Skills Gap Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 employed and unemployed The social dimension US workers: Only 21 percent of respon- Most employees recognize that much dents reported developing new skills of what they need to perform better, in the past five years through formal improve their skills and gain more training programs offered by their knowledge is around them all the time: companies. learning by observing colleagues, receiving coaching from a supervisor, This failure to deliver relevant skills having access to proven ideas and best in a timely and consistent manner is practices, as well as simply getting being felt on both an individual and on-the-job experience every day. corporate level. For workers, frustration Seventy-five percent of workers is setting in: Our research shows that responding to Accenture’s survey build although 55 percent of employees say new skills through job shadowing, they feel pressure to acquire additional observing others and on-the-job skills, less than a quarter report they’re experience. getting the support they need. The challenge for companies is to trans- For companies, skills shortages are form the inherently ad hoc nature of this increasingly common. Despite growing informal learning into something with unemployment in many countries, more structure and rigor. That’s where organizations from almost every social networking and collaboration industry are struggling to find people technologies are now beginning to create with the capabilities they need to learning opportunities. deal with changing technologies, markets and customers. Social media is an inescapable presence today. It would be hard to find a major If hiring needed skills is not necessarily business that’s not asking people to the answer anymore, then companies follow it on Facebook, or that isn’t must find ways to retrain the people tweeting regular news about its products. they already have, which in many But it’s one thing to leverage the cases includes significantly upgrading enormous popularity of social net- skill levels and training people to move working to reach customers and into roles with different capabilities. But manage brand awareness. It’s quite that doesn’t mean operating in isolation another to integrate social media into when it comes to capability development. a core capability such as learning. Quite the opposite: It means transforming Sound easy? It’s not. your entire organization into your enterprise learning team—connecting What training professionals refer to people in ways that result in innovative as “social learning” will be a force in ideas—and turning the best practices of every organization, sooner or later. In internal and external experts into your the words of Claudia Rodriguez, vice own knowledge base. president and head of Motorola Solutions Learning, organizations are at “a major2Outlook 2012 In fact, given the learning field’s inflection point” when it comes to theNumber 2 potential to deliver consistent, expert- use of social media and collaboration
  3. 3. tools in business—not just in learning posting audio and video podcasts. The but in everything a business does. platform has been enormously popular, “Gradually, social networking is be- with download traffic up 115 times in coming so ingrained in how we live its first two years. that it will also become ingrained in the way we work,” says Rodriguez. Its value resides largely in how easily “The question is, how do we do it in employees across Microsoft’s global a way that advances the business and organization can translate interactions, also contains the risks? We are answer- meetings or timely personal insightsSocial media tools ing that question by providing more into content that can support betterhave great potential robust tools that make collaboration learning, performance and idea genera- even more accessible and efficient to the tion. For example, using the platform,to harness the broader internal and external ecosystem, virtual meetings can be captured,experiential dimension while also educating users on how catalogued, indexed and converted to be effective and more accountable to video or audio. Content is search-of the workplace. social learners.” able, and learning programs are also organized and catalogued by topic, Social learning is not without risks— creating a kind of virtual curriculum. some perceived but some very real: The academy is available on workers’ leaked information, learning programs mobile devices as well. that might be inconsistent and contradictory, productivity losses The Academy Mobile platform is and a candor in exchanges that may especially valuable to employees such not always be productive. as salespeople: It enables them to learn rapidly about particular products, Consider the company that established solutions and sales techniques so an internal forum akin to a Facebook they can capitalize on an immediate page. Direct reports to a senior executive customer opportunity. were asked to post their vision statements for their organization onto his page. How does a Microsoft employee know One manager did so, but the executive what content is more valuable than other didn’t like it. His response—visible to content? In part, through a ranking everyone in the entire company—was system from the users themselves. The that the manager’s posting wasn’t a ranking (from one to five stars) becomes true vision statement and would need a means by which the best ideas rise to to be totally reworked before it would the top because of their practical value. be acceptable. Not something that’s likely Employees can also interact and ask to stimulate learning and the open questions of content creators, generating sharing of ideas again anytime soon. a dialogue that may become as important as the original posting—and offers anoth- Properly designed and managed, er indicator of what content is “hot.” however, social media tools have great potential to harness the experiential The ability to rate content sourced dimension of the workplace to deliver online will become increasingly impor- relevant learning experiences that tant to effective enterprise learning. In reflect both proven expertise within a its totality, the Internet is the world’s function or industry and timely access greatest source of learning but, to use to an organization’s best thinking, the cliché, that’s a bit like saying that wherever it might be. a fire hose is the greatest source of drinking water. Global learning A social learning solution developed A company’s knowledge system might by Microsoft—called Academy Mobile— well provide a search capability and3Outlook 2012 is an internal platform employees can generate abundant content in responseNumber 2 use to share knowledge by creating and to a query, but then what? Content
  4. 4. may be king but context is queen. The right blend To provide value to employees and The point here, however, is not to enable faster routes to innovation, throw out everything organizations a search engine needs to aggregate know about learning and supporting results from a number of internal their employees’ performance and and external sources and then, as the replace it with a user-generated Microsoft solution does, rank those social learning solution. The point is results according to how likely the rather to recognize where different content is to support someone’s needs media and learning approaches are and intentions. most appropriate and have the best payoff in terms of performanceStatistical evidence Technology optional improvement—then to blend or chain Not every company needs to develop these together for maximum impact.suggesting that some its own social media platform. Manytypes of formal learning organizations will find that the social The statistical evidence suggesting networks already in use by consumers that some types of formal learning areare failing to deliver have functionality that goes well failing to deliver value to employeesvalue does not mean beyond what they can create in-house. does not mean that traditional classroom training or e-learning is inherently anthat traditional Rather than trying to introduce com- out-of-date delivery channel. Rather, it peting solutions, companies should is an indication that it too often deliversclassroom training or think about how to integrate com- learning experiences that are not timelye-learning is inherently mercially available (and popular) or relevant, and not linked to reinforcing social media technologies into their knowledge, and so the program doesout of date. own learning ecosystem. Using exist- not ultimately support an employee’s ing platforms like YouTube, companies ongoing needs. In other words, formal have ready access to rich sets of tools learning isn’t failing because it’s formal that deliver learning in a format that but because it’s often poorly conceived has already gained widespread and delivered. acceptance and popularity. It’s not uncommon to hear disparaging Social learning doesn’t even neces- remarks in the learning field about sarily require technology-based tools. how, in spite of all the innovations Coaching and mentoring programs in electronic and web-based learning, require planning and time from su- as much as 70 percent of corporate pervisors but little capital investment. training is still delivered in the They can also support employees who old-fashioned way: an instructor in don’t fit the typical knowledge worker front of a classroom. But the fact is, profile. formal channels are still the best way to deliver many forms of training when For example, at Tiendas Aurgi, a chain consistent knowledge and performance of automobile repair shops in Spain, a behaviors are what’s sought. new informal mentoring system helped to quickly provide employees with For example, what Accenture calls new skills. Those whose skill sets were an “academy” approach to learning restricted to such tasks as changing tires is a way to ensure that specific were able to get the personal coaching, workforces, such as finance, supply through a master-apprentice model, chain and sales, get high-quality needed to perform more complex and consistent knowledge to drive tasks, such as repairing clutches. common understandings and common The program improved overall shop approaches to getting things done. floor productivity by more than 30 percent, which the company believes Learning is targeted to jobs and roles,4Outlook 2012 will potentially lead to a 20 percent and designed to fill specific needsNumber 2 increase in revenue. and skills gaps. There is rigor to the
  5. 5. curriculum because, frankly, no one they do their stock inventory—that is, wants different members of the finance through careful assessments of what workforce analyzing a balance state- they have versus what they need. Only ment in different ways. Formal learn- 53 percent of employees responding to ing is good at that—building common the Accenture Skills Gap Study said skills, ensuring shared understanding their employers document their skills. and making best practices available to Even those that do skills assessments everyone at the same time. rarely go beyond a “dump” of basic resume data. Properly designed, this approach can also be a way to improve relevance. An organization’s strategic plans An academy, for example, offers content should generate a list of the workforce tightly aligned to functional- and capabilities needed to execute business industry-based competency models strategy, as well as a monetary value and job frameworks so that learning for each capability based on how crit- is tailored to real and relevant perfor- ical it is to generating new revenues mance needs. Content can be continu- or reducing costs. Then, as with a ously updated by an organization’s well-managed supply chain, companies internal experts as well as by academics should compare the skills and experience and industry specialists. they need with the inventory they actually have. The formal learning aspects of the academy can also be augmented by The gap between the ideal and the social media and collaboration oppor- real can keep learning needs (and tunities, and other kinds of follow- budgets) in line because it will sustain on experiences to reinforce initial a focus on what people really need to training. Without that, the learning be competent and execute strategy. program can stagnate and lose relevance and credibility. Identify interdependencies However, many organizations actually block their employees from external A related, but more difficult, task social networking sites; their col- is to identify the interdependencies laboration platforms may be adequate between competencies. No worker for internal use, but they are closed operates in isolation. Everyone systems and offer an inadequate link depends on one another, and every to outside perspectives. By building business function interacts with social media hooks into formal learning others, so identifying the most solutions, an organization can lever- critical dependencies is important. age the biggest database of all—the It can also be helpful in developing collective experience of people both the most useful social media-based within and outside their own organi- support tools, identifying which zation. parts of the organization—and which learning sources—need to be How can an enterprise harness the best especially linked. qualities of both formal training and informal, social learning to turn its entire organization into a corporate- Locate pockets of expertise wide enterprise learning team? The ability to identify particularly valuable content or performance Inventory your skills behaviors and then rapidly get those into training vehicles is especially5Outlook 2012 Companies rarely manage their work- important to delivering on bothNumber 2 force capabilities with the same rigor relevance and timeliness. Several
  6. 6. leading companies work to design Create responsibility for learning experiences for a particular learning among employees function based on what top performers are doing, right now, to be successful. Employees need to understand that they cannot be merely passive recipients For example, the Eastern European of training. One of the more positiveThe keys to harnessing unit of a major consumer products results from the Accenture Skills Gapthe best qualities company was looking to improve the Study was the finding that more than performance of its sales force. The two-thirds of workers surveyed believeof both formal and company was able to identify specific they bear the primary responsibility forinformal learning to behaviors of top-performing store executives and field sales supervisors, their ongoing skills development. But they also need to understand the cur-create a true learning and rapidly embed those insights and rent and future demand for their own approaches into training activities. skills and the value of skills they couldenterprise are relevance, Those activities were a blend of social develop, and then be proactivetimeliness and or informal learning such as coaching, participants both in their general as well as e-learning modules and career development and in any specificcomprehensiveness. instructor-led workshops and classes. re-skilling they may need or be inter- ested in. Create learning chains Of course, the organization needs to support employees and harness their It is important to leverage many energy as they work to upgrade their sources and modalities of learning, skills, helping them develop learning and to offer a variety of reinforcing plans and providing them with access experiences linked together over to expertise, often through the social time. This can improve retention, learning tools discussed here. reinforce knowledge and encourage behaviors that support business goals. For example, global retailer Carrefour This is an excellent way to combine has implemented a social learning the best of formal learning techniques pilot at a number of its stores, involving with social learning as well as with about 1,000 employees. The program such related areas as communications has enabled workers to identify skills and coaching. they wish to develop, and then find experts to help them do so. Employees For example, one company with identified a learning gap in a simple a supply chain academy combines database, then shared it with their formal training (both classroom and supervisors for approval. Once approved, online) with informal learning that the need was posted, and experts may come from Internet searches, volunteered to work with individuals podcasts, YouTube videos, professional to help them develop new capabilities. research organizations, books and Preliminary results have been journals, as well as internal resources. impressive, with the pilot stores reporting a 267 percent increase in So a search for knowledge and sales of specific product lines. skills in a particular area does not simply turn up a course to enroll in or to take online; it delivers Keep learning continuously comprehensive results that provide aligned with business needs information sources across a wide range of internal and external media. It is critical that organizations keep It is important that employees be an eye on how well learning is aligned given a choice in the medium and with business goals and needs, particu-6Outlook 2012 channel they use to learn, depending larly as these programs grow. This canNumber 2 on their location and need. be especially important when it comes
  7. 7. For further reading to dealing with social learning and offerings and skills in sales and networking, which, because they are marketing—stays in lockstep with“Embracing the consumer IT revolution— still early in the hype cycle, may business objectives. The regionalat work,” Outlook 2012, No. 2 engender an enthusiasm that needs to leaders in the learning organization be tempered by operational realities. then validate these priorities with“Solving the skills crisis,” Outlook their go-to-market colleagues and2011, No. 3 Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, vice president adapt the scope and delivery timing to and general manager of Learning@ best suit each region’s specific needs.For these articles and other Cisco, which delivers product trainingrelated content, please visit and career certifications at Cisco Rodriguez and her team Systems, is adamant on this point. developed tools, processes and com- As she wrote in Chief Learning Officer munications plans (formal meetings magazine, “Business needs come first, multiple times a year, plus ongoing social learning second.” engagement) to obtain input, prioritize training development and drive To reach Cisco’s global audience of alignment at those two levels. It’s employees, partners and customers important to have one common vision with timely information and training, for training development not only the company created a social learning for strategy reasons but also for environment called the Cisco Learning management efficiencies. Notes Network. But the idea, as Beliveau-Dunn Rodriguez: “I develop one list of stresses, wasn’t the social learning priorities that my head of design and platform for its own sake; it was about development can plan against from serving the needs of the business. a capacity planning perspective.” The development team spent consid- erable time upfront to understand the She concludes, “At the end of the day, business needs that the platform was what we get out of this governance meant to address. and planning structure is alignment with all the right stakeholders, true The drive to ensure ongoing alignment visibility to what’s going on and then with business needs has generated ultimately even the ability to measure innovative approaches at high-tech the impact of all those key priorities company Motorola Solutions. As Claudia and validate that they are helping to Rodriguez explains, the audience for achieve the company’s business goals.” learning at the company is extremely varied—employees, channel partners and customers. It’s also global, but Social learning represents a shift, and organized into four geographic regions. a major opportunity, for organizations. So in developing innovative learning, It enables the exchange and delivery Rodriguez has to balance and align of timely, relevant knowledge and can with different levels of priorities. bring people together—inside and outside the enterprise—to generate fresh thinking Globally, learning development leaders and potentially profitable innovations. are joined at the hip with global business leaders to ensure that the At the same time, it’s not the answer to training strategy—from new product everything. The key is to plan the right and solution introductions to service learning and collaboration solution7Outlook 2012Number 2
  8. 8. for the right need, and to blend formal About the authors with informal to reinforce knowledge and build new skills. Diego S. De León is the global lead for learning and collaboration offerings and As they seek to harness brainpower capabilities within the Accenture Talent through social media platforms, Organization management consulting integrated with formal learning, group, and the lead for Talent Organi- organizations should bear in mind zation in Europe, Africa, Middle East and the same kinds of development rigor Latin America. He is based in Madrid. and consistent delivery that has brought them success in the past. New York-based Terry Nulty is the lead for Accenture Academy, a suite of online learning environments focused on improving the skills of critical workforces. Geirean Marcroft is the lead for learning and collaboration offerings and capabilities within the Accenture Talent Organiza- tion management consulting group in the United Kingdom. He is based in London. geirean.marcroft@accenture.comOutlook is published by Accenture.The views and opinions in this articleshould not be viewed as professionaladvice with respect to your business.The use herein of trademarks that maybe owned by others is not an assertionof ownership of such trademarks byAccenture nor intended to imply anassociation between Accenture and thelawful owners of such trademarks.For more information about Accenture,please visit © 2012 AccentureAll rights reserved.Accenture, its logo andHigh Performance Deliveredare trademarks of Accenture.