Push the Reset Button

Charles Jennings made a comment on Corporate Learning Trends that got me thinking about the need for a reset of the whole training function:

Baldwin, Ford and Weissbein’s research (20 and 10 years ago, respectively) showed that the USA spends around $100 billion on training every year, but only about 10% of the expenditures result in transfer to the job. I’m sure if the research was re-run today the results would be similar, whether in the US, in Western Europe or anywhere else, for that matter.

In other words, if CLOs were in any other ‘C-Level’ jobs they wouldn’t last long. One look by the CEO/President at their P&L statement and they’d be shown the door…

The current economic situation is being called by some The Great Reset, or a time to re-evaluate our financial and economic systems. This is also an opportunity to reset our notions of learning and working. Face it, training and anything else that comes under the industrial umbrella of Human Resources are always secondary to operations. It doesn’t have to be that way, but sticking to “tried & true” methods is not going to get any breakthroughs in how we integrate learning and working, an essential part of thriving in a networked economy, in my opinion. Organizational learning and human performance need a great reset as well.

Here’s what I see for the great learning reset:

  • Think and act macro (what to do) and leave the micro (how to do it) to each knowledge worker.
  • Become a part of the business not a peripheral department – if you’re in Ford’s HR department, your business is cars & trucks, not human resources.
  • Throw away all notions of “delivery” and focus only on solving organizational challenges – training is a solution looking for a problem – just solve the problem.

Learning has to become part of the organizational and individual DNA and during a reset that may require learning specialists, but in the long run the learning function should be absorbed. That leads to the future role of the “learning specialist”. I would say it is to continuously make yourself redundant. Teach people how to fish and move on to the next challenge. If you’re maintaining a steady state, such as developing courses as requested, then you’ve failed in integrating learning into the work.

2 Responses to “Push the Reset Button”

  1. Ken Allan

    Kia ora Harold!

    I go with solving organisational challenges, not training to cope with it.

    So much of postmodern thinking (and I use the word postmodern deliberately here) is into overlooking rather than overviewing, as in “think and act macro”. The two are not the same, but overlooking is often palmed off as overviewing.

    But I do challenge (at least part of) the intent of your second bullet. Okay, it’s cars and trucks, but these are people-made resources, sold by people, bought by people and used by people. To lose sight of the handle is to think program and forget interface.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

  2. Harold Jarche

    Of course organizations are all about the people but my main point here is that people and the business have to become integrated. HR can’t be an afterthought. Learning has to be part of working. If HR or training folks don’t know the business, how can they really help any business that is changing faster than the speed of ISD?


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