Why Corporate L&D should adopt lean start-up mentality?

Why Corporate L&D should adopt lean start-up mentality?

In the recent article on VUCA world in TIA, Soon Eng-Sing raised the question on HR’s agility to navigate in current turbulent economy. The question remains whether HR should transform to an agile function by forecasting future requirements (if yes, then how) or is it better to be in the safe harbor by continuing with tried and tested practices in the turbulent times. Whatever the choice is, we are not sure how obvious the consequence would be of this decision on HR community and more to the point of this article, the Learning & Development (L&D).

Warren Buffett shared the insights in his decision to buy stocks during economy turbulence. "A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful" (New York Times, October 17, 2008)

During economy slowdown, the L&D teams brace themselves for budget cuts and potential lay-offs. Instead we need to adopt Mr Buffet’s wisdom to turn this misfortune into an opportunity.  It’s an opportunity to effectively transform the organisation by adopting an agile and resilient L&D model which focuses on returns on investment. Our first challenge is that L&D teams in corporate are too large & traditional to be able to cope with the changing business and demographic needs. The second challenge is to justify the ROI and any tangible business impact made. To some extent, we can overcome these challenges by adopting lean start-up mentality:

1)      Lean L&D Teams

We need to be disruptive & start challenging the current processes. Building smaller, agile and autonomous L&D teams is the way forward. This could be achieved by focusing on high value agenda while eliminating the tasks with low returns.

First, we need to challenge why spend most of the efforts to develop & deliver formal learning programmes which seems to contribute only 10% in overall employee development (as per 70:20:10 rule). Is that a judicious use of time? Second, do we really need to exhaust many man-hours on follow-up with participants or to churn out reports which doesn’t serve any purpose (training hours is not an effective measurement as we all will agree)? Lastly, we need to turn the tables. Career development is an individual’s responsibility (partly manager’s) not HR. Creating a culture of ownership will ensure those classrooms are packed & employees care about their career growth & development.

 2)      Build from within

Laszlo Bock stated in his book Work Rules “Your best teachers already work for you…Let them teach!”

Isn’t it then the obvious choice to engage our innovative employees who are already committed to our company’s growth, and get them involved in continuous learning? It reduces the risk of failure as these experts already know what needs to be taught. Google has a successful programme - G2G (Googler to Googler) to tap into the employees’ potential. The credibility of these in-house trainers is no joke; they’ve already been there & done that!

 3)      Best learning resources are free

We are in an era where World-class learning experience from institutes like Wharton, Harvard, University of Michigan & others are available for free (or really low-cost) on MOOCs (Coursera, edX, Udacity etc) and unlimited amount of learning videos can be accessed through  YouTube. Apparently it will take us 60,000 years of non-stop watching to watch each and every video available on YouTube. It’s a huge learning data resource which is still not under L&D radar. Check out Top 10 Tools for Free Online Education here. ZALORA has created an e-library of selected courses from these resources for employees to enrol. It helps to make it scalable across region with no or minimal cost.

There is a dire need to revamp the current traditional L&D structure to make it leaner and more relevant for the current workforce. In simple mathematics, if we can’t quantify our returns from L&D activities, we will have to find a way to reduce our investments considerably (Returns/Investment) and create lean development programmes. 

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