Supercharge your organizational learning strategy for 2021 - IMD Business School

Supercharge your organizational learning strategy for 2021

Turbulent times call for clarity of purpose. These six key focus points will ensure your learning agenda drives performance impact in your organization and remains on point whatever the business challenge is.
6 min.
January 2021

If there is one thing 2020 has taught us all, it is the importance of adaptability in the face of unprecedented challenge. In business, while many of the past year’s strategic volte-faces have been a reaction to exceptional circumstances, a new year offers the opportunity to refine and realign our agendas on the basis of what we have learned so far and what we can expect to experience in the future.

For chief learning officers (CLOs) and all those responsible for learning and leadership development in their organizations, it is time to ask: knowing what we now know, how can we ensure the learning we offer our people is both purposeful and impact-driven? The answer to that question involves a hard look at the business terrain and changing trends in both the workforce and the workplace to identify where the greatest opportunities for impact lie.

In terms of organizational learning, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressor to the system. As stark economic realities have placed any extraneous expenditure under an unforgiving lens, many learning programs have been scrapped entirely. However, on the plus side, necessity has proved, yet again, to be the mother of invention leading to an uptick in our collective ease around innovative collaborative software as well as leading to significant investment in and the acceleration of EdTech.

You must apply a wide-lens view to foresee and prepare your teams for the road ahead. Proactively create learning solutions that incorporate learning innovations and cultivate competencies identified as business priorities, to ensure all efforts are targeted towards a single, common goal. Use metrics to measure success and communicate these effectively to make sure learning is positioned as a crucial pillar in the foundational architecture of a successful enterprise. Here are six points your learning offer must reflect to guarantee it is relevant and meaningful in times of uncertainty.

Six focus points to supercharge your organizational learning strategy and deliverables.

1. Align your learning plan with the business priorities

If your energy company is exploring renewables, how can you create capabilities and competencies in alternative energy? By understanding the challenges faced by your organization and your industry, you can develop an awareness of where disruption might come from and create learning programs that directly address and align with business strategy. Asking what your CEO is losing sleep over every night is a good place to start.

2. Scan for and assimilate emerging trends

Create innovations around learning by incorporating new technologies. The remote working practices imposed as a result of the pandemic introduced our teams to the joys of Teams, Slack, Moodle, Zoom, and many other such platforms in many cases for the first time. Now it is time to get to grips with how such collaborative vehicles can provide a convenient medium for rolling out rich and accessible learning programs. Additionally, stay abreast of the EdTech platform space to keep track of emerging players that may be relevant to your agenda.

3. Leverage learning to drive behavioral change

Behavioral change is ultimately what corporate learning is all about and your curriculum should reflect it. Whether your company is transforming or moving from a hierarchical structure to a matrix organization, its success will rely on how well you prepare your workforce for that operational shift. Corporate learning is not about teaching you something for your infinite wisdom. It’s about creating a different set of behaviors in order to drive performance at the organisational and individual level.

4. Develop a smart stakeholder strategy

Identify the critical business and non-business players that you need to bring on board to drive through the solutions you offer. These key stakeholders can be your champions and your allies. They may help you identify new learning approaches and directions, or they may sign off your budgets. Either way, you need to foster strong relationships with them to make sure your offer is current, valid and approved.

5.Benchmark your team and the value it brings

Commit to robust metrics around your learning programs to gauge and monitor the impact they have on both behaviors and performance. Evaluation can take a multitude of forms and even be tied to sales figures where relevant. Once you have the metrics, you can articulate them.

6. Set your course with clear timeframes

Having identified the business and learning priorities for the year, commit to your agenda by setting clear time frames. Your investment in its people and the value it brings must be communicated to the business so report it to your board and across the business. Such commitments confirm you have a plan, a timeframe and, essentially, skin in the game. You now have everything to play for.

Shlomo Ben-Hur is a Professor of Leadership, Organization and Corporate Learning at IMD. He is the founder and director of the Organizational Learning in Action (OLA) program, which has run for the past 10 years. This year, the program moved to the virtual arena in order to continue to provide learning and talent development executives with insights and best practice on how to hone their learning offer to the specific needs of their organizations.


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