Tips for creating an education programme that cultivates agility

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Written by Armin Hopp on 27 February 2017

There is a significant gap between what organisations actually want from workforce education programmes and what they achieve, according to the ‘Towards Maturity’ November 2016 report. It found that 94% of organisations wanted to improve talent strategies through better learning and development, but only 16% managed to do so.

Also, 95 per cent of organisations wanted to improve organisational performance but only 25% of organisations achieved this, while 95% of organisations wanted to deliver greater value for money but only 33% succeeded. 

So why is there this huge gap between what organisations want from their learning and development programme and what they’re actually getting? The bottom line for any corporate education programme is that it should translate to measurable improvements on the bottom line.

But, the journey from implementing learning and development to achieving better results may be less like a superfast train or plane taking the organisation direct from A to B and more like a transcontinental road trip with stops and border checks on the way. 

Breaking down team silos

Some of the stages on the way to success include improved rates of talent retention and better organisational productivity. As a result of effective workforce learning and development, teams will no longer be in technical or geographical silos. Instead, they will be fluid so that organisations can form and reform teams to meet business demands.

Ensuring that all employees, no matter what their main function is, have good language and communication skills will have a translatable effect on customer service. 

Individuals armed with a portfolio of skills that include language and communication skills as well as technical knowledge will be available to deploy across borders, either by relocating physically or virtually. In this way, providing people with the skills to collaborate with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds and speaking different languages will lead to better outcomes for the organisation.  

Also, all employees have a role to play when it comes to customer service, especially once customer service is no longer localised and instead handled at a global level. Ensuring that all employees, no matter what their main function is, have good language and communication skills will have a translatable effect on customer service. 

Addressing barriers

There is often a misalignment between the expectations business leaders have of an education programme and what L&D or HR delivers. As long as an ‘education programme’ is seen as something that is quite separate and discrete from the day-to-day operations of the business, it is unlikely to succeed. Here are five tips to combat this:

  1. Ensure the performance management process looks at more than technical and vocational skills. It must facilitate the movement of people so it should address the skills and competencies that individuals need to acquire if they are to be deployed beyond their current role or location. Very often an individual may have good communication skills and even a high level of competency in a second language. If that person is lacking an element of technical knowledge, the skills gap may be easily filled, compared with developing a person’s language and communication skills.
  2. Move away from the traditional hierarchical pyramid. If employees feel that they can develop their skills and move into more interesting roles within the organisation that do not mean moving ‘up’ into management, they are more likely to stay with you. A more stable engaged workforce will deliver better business results.
  3. Match skills development to the aspirations of individual employees as well as aligning it with corporate goals. For example, many millennials are looking for an opportunity to travel with work. Offering this opportunity to them may help retain their skills for longer. In contrast expecting older employees with families to move may alienate them and cause them to look elsewhere for employment.
  4. Ask for employee and management feedback, via interviews and surveys, on the expectations of the business and how they are being met.
  5. Spend time defining and designing KPIs to measure your organisational progress – in some industries these will also need to meet compliance requirements.

As the Towards Maturity report concludes, organisations that are successful with their learning and development are those that are turning Harold Jarche’s statement that ‘work is learning and learning becomes work’ into a reality: “They are actively considering how to use a digitally enabled infrastructure to boost performance through providing support the point of need. They are leveraging thriving ecosystems of connected motivated workers to cultivate agility.”

Only then will the organisation be able to see learning and development spend translate to bottom line benefits.


About the author
Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx. Speexx helps large organisations everywhere to drive productivity by empowering employee communication skills across borders. It offers an award-winning range of cloud-based online language learning solutions for Business English, Spanish, German, Italian and French. 


More from Armin

Setting up corporate education programme that attracts top talent

Encouraging greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Effective testing, reporting and learning

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