In House learning and Development Unit

The learning and development centers in an organization are not a small part of the bigger HR department, handled by people with generic skills, anymore. They have expanded and become important departments in their own rights, adding tangible values to the growth of the organization. Companies have long realized the need to manage and build the capabilities of its workforce to have a credible degree of market capitalization which now also depends on the intangible assets like skilled and dynamic workforce which can spearhead market leading innovations.

The workforce and work environment has changed considerably in the last few years, especially, the post digitalization world has seen multicultural and multi-generational workers contributing to the organizational goals from across the latitudes and longitudes of the world.

What does it mean for the learning and development efforts of the organization?

In a world where the shelf life of the knowledge is as perishable as a carton of eggs, it is imperative that the organizations put a lot of premium of reskilling and upskilling their employees as and when need arises. The other competitive advantages that an organization has over its competitors can be easily replicated in due time, but a dynamic, innovative and highly skilled workforce is difficult to replicate.

Sometimes organizational needs and objectives change without time to prepare and organize. A good example to cite is the recent pandemic which has challenged extensively corporate work culture throwing unexpected problems along the way.

The obvious question that emerges is whether to outsource the training and development or to establish in house learning and development units.

The in-House learning and development units have been in vogue since the early nineties and is not a brand-new concept. Organizations like Apple, McDonald’s and Disney have their universities functioning around tailor made knowledge and learning solutions for their parent organizations.

While Indian heavy weights like TCS and Infosys have their dedicated campuses where new recruits are trained before on boarding, a corporate university on the lines of Apple or Disney to address the mid and senior managerial levels is absent. A large number of organizations still prefer to send their leaders and managers for training conducted by external consultancies that offer programs which may or may not be tailored to organization specific requirement.

So, the question also arises, whether in house Learning and Development units, worth the trouble?

To weigh the question, it will be essential to look at both the pros and cons of such an endeavor.

Several organizations that have opted for in house learning and development units mostly in the form of corporate universities have been able to implement a tailor-made curriculum addressing different managerial levels and different skill sets, in tune with long and short-term organizational goals. Let’s explore this a little.

With the infrastructure put in place which is a one-time investment, the facilities offer a hands-on training and learning experiences. Teams can get together physically and work on real time problems, implementing everything they are learning during the classes.

An inhouse L & D unit can also become an integral part of the performance development planning of the employees, equipping them with skills required to perform their everyday tasks with precision and efficiency.

Cross functional training and identifying talents within the organization for future leadership roles can be approached in a rather detailed and objective manner if such an initiative is conducted in house rather than by an external coach or trainer. It becomes pertinent when the roles are transcending from mid managerial to senior managerial levels where the knowledge of internal dynamics of the organization and the work culture determines the success of the candidate in the new role.

Another benefit to consider is the aspects of “learning opportunities”, the organization will provide to its employees. With the changing times, the idea of staying with the same company for a lifetime has faded, the new generation does not approach work in the same fashion as their predecessors.

Opportunities to enhance skills, training and development and challenging opportunities are viewed as steps to improve the employability quotient. Continues and regular investment in building the capabilities of the employees motivates and excites them about their work.

While retaining current employees, it makes an organization an attractive employer for the job seekers. It should also be mentioned in the same breadth that many organizations face a high percentage of attrition because of the lack of the above-mentioned developmental opportunities within the organization.

It also adds to creating a value-based culture within the organization and reflects on its brand and how it is perceived by the market which in turn has a bearing on the business and investment opportunities for the organization.

Now, it can’t be all that easy or rosy.

Corporate decisions of this magnitude require meticulous planning. Having a dedicated corporate learning unit may appear daunting unless details are thrashed out at the very beginning. The mandate of such a unit, its objectives and its scopes will have to be decided. Needless to say, all this will have to be in alignment to the larger corporate mandate and ambition.

The entire plan has to be helmed by a person credible enough to drive it through negotiation rather than assertion. Strong support from the core management and high individual repute along with long association with the organization and thorough understanding of its work culture are the prerequisites for choosing the leader of such a program.

Should everything be centralized, or done in house? An objective analysis of cost efficiency needs to be done before a decision like this is made. The corporate learning units needs to deliver tangible results and if the goals fall short or the program fails to deliver desired results, it may have far reaching consequences. Also, it would be advisable to still outsource generic trainings which may be more cost effective, thus reducing the burden on the internal units and allow them to focus on organization specific training needs.

A robust network of trainers and coaches will have to be created who can provide need-based training either locally or centrally. In house trainers may comprise of managers and senior leaders thus providing them with development opportunities and exposing them to different functions. In the long run it helps in increasing the collaboration across functions as well. However, the managers will have to undergo extensive train the trainer programs which may tax their time and over burden them in addition to their regular responsibilities.

The technological infrastructure required for a set up like this would require careful customization which may add to the cost.

A governing body can be put in place to overlook the performance of the learning units and consistently evaluate the mandate and realign it to the changing organizational needs whenever needed.

Corporate learning and development units need to be properly resourced and should compose stakeholders from the Board and across the organization, including HR to ensure that the initiative is perceived as a value addition to the overall capability management of the employees of the organization.

Learning and Development units should model themselves to become centers of expertise and strive to deliver results in alignment with the organizational development goals of the parent company. Only then, an initiative like this can prove BENEFICIAL.

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