You've probably heard me say this before, but I am increasingly of the view that the workplace training/learning/L&D (whatever they're called in your organisation) team should be moved out of HR and into Operations.
Well, HR is responsible for looking after people: their payroll, their working conditions, their treatment under employment law, etc. and has no direct accountability in terms of the organisation's business objectives.
L&D's job is all about performance, and performance is an operational thing. Our job is to help the organisation meet its business objectives by helping people do their jobs.
While L&D remains under the umbrella of HR, it remains okay to take people out of their workspace and put them into a learning space, and then to put them back into their working space again at the end of it.
An operational view of learning means that learning needs to be situated in the workspace, because it's part of the job.
Let's take the research and development bods at a sweet factory. I pick this example (a) because I'm a bit of a chocoholic and (b) because my mother worked at a sweet factory for over 30 years, so I have some vicarious insight. They don't know before they start working on it whether their new idea for a confection will work. They don't know whether the new flavour of toffee will enjoy favour with their customer base. So they experiment a bit. They find a recipe that works, and they send out a bunch of the new flavours to the children of all the staff members. They ask the kids to identify what each flavour is and to mark it out of 10. They also ask the kids to suggest some flavours that they would like to see added to the range. My reponse said that flavour A was 'mint 8/10'; flavour B was 'chocolate 9/10' and flavour C was 'soap? 0/10' (it turns out flavour C was actually grape). I suggested licorice as being a flavour they should look into.
The R&D team gathered back all the results and decided to go with the mint. They also developed a licorice version (obviously other people had suggested it, too), and they eventually took those two flavours to market.
In fact, the whole process was a learning process. They learned how to make the new toffees. They learned what the consumer reaction was to the different flavours. They learned what other flavours consumers would like to see. They learned how to make those.
Once they knew how to make the new flavours, and the products had been given the okay, the R&D team passed on the information to the factory. The manufacturing staff then learned what changes needed to be made (and when) in order to produce the new flavours.
Work is learning. We can seldom say we know how to do a thing before we need to do it for the first time. And when we come to do it for the first time, we might
- experiment, based on past experience/existing knowledge
- watch someone who already knows how to do it
- look it up
- get some advice from someone else who may have some ideas
Too many of our learning solutions require people to separate themselves from the very context in which the learning applies. Now I don't doubt that there are some tasks for which this will remain a necessity, but, applied as a blanket approach, this ensures that learning is an interruption of the workflow, instead of facilitating it.
I know it's a gross generalisation, but the COOs I've met have always been driven, results focused individuals. This is where I believe L&D needs to position itself. Learning should be viewed as a strategic function, one that contributes directly to ensuring that the organisation meets its targets and achieves its vision. It's not something you do in order to ensure that union requirements are met.