According to data from the Corporate University Xchange (CorpU) 10th Annual Learning Innovation and Excellence Benchmarking Study, the majority of all learning organization respondents (55%) allocate at least part of their learning budgets based on the most important company objectives. What's more, 85% of the learning organization respondents identified as Experts allocate at least part of their budgets based on company objectives.
Aligning learning budgets with current business needs is an important, if not a critical, element for learning organizations to be seen as strategic. However, the allocation of funds to long-term capability planning initiatives, while not an uncommon approach to budget allocation among all respondents (44%), may actually be the most important method.
Corporate University Xchange defines a strategic learning organization as one that identifies business needs and develops and deploys learning and talent programs to strengthen existing — or produce new — differentiating capabilities for the organization. A strategic learning organization begins from the business's vision for competitive advantage and finds ways to develop employees as individuals as well as members of teams and units working in harmony to achieve these goals. It develops innovative programs and services to prepare knowledge workers to identify and adapt to marketplace changes, and - by so doing - supports the organization's agility and capability to innovate. Thus, a strategic learning organization is not only focused on meeting the needs for the business at present, but also to anticipate and build toward the emerging needs based on changes in the competitive landscape in the near future. A truly strategic learning organization is one that builds capabilities the company will need to achieve and sustain success.
According to additional data from the 10th annual benchmarking study, respondents from organizations identified as Expert are more likely to participate in taking an active role in the business's capability planning process. A disturbing data point is that, among the total respondent base, about 42% claimed that they do not have a capability planning process or that they do not participate in it if one does exist, suggesting that significant numbers of learning organizations concentrate on individual skill building rather than defining programs to address collective needs of bands, roles, teams, groups, or units.
As the data suggests, the difference between Experts and others is reflected in part by the amount of effort they spend to consider, define, and prepare programs to link individual skill building toward the collective needs of teams, groups, or units. The data suggests a correlation between organizations that attending to long-term capability planning and being recognized as a strategic partner by business leaders.
Based on the data from this 10th annual study and gleaned over the last 12 years of benchmarking the best practices of learning organizations globally, the effort spent on capability planning — one of the CorpU 12 Dimensions of Learning Excellence — ought to be on a learning leader's list of priorities. If capability planning is not on your radar yet, start by researching capability planning best practices. Find a leader (or more) on your company's executive team and talk with him or her, planting the seed regarding the importance of capability planning to your company's future. Nurture the development of a picture in that leader's mind of how learning can support workforce readiness in a broader and longer-term fashion. With at least one strong advocate on your side, propose a monetary investment in a capability planning initiative. It can be small and it can be short-term, but the point is to get started down the road of being future oriented, and thus more strategic.
This article supports the CorpU 12 Dimensions of Learning Excellence - Execute (Program Design and Delivery).
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