Sunday, May 17, 2015

Linking Business Strategy through Training & Development


As we have entered the 21st Century, there are serious question getting addressed in training and development by linking it with business strategy.  Based on a review and synthesis across a range of literatures covering management, organization, leadership, and training & development, this paper identifies ( has been selected by ISTD and received Gold Medal for Emerging HRD Thinker Award 2015)  :
1 Focus of the research - aligning learning with business needs 
2-How should organization develop and deliver a learning strategy? 
3-How future leaders to be nurtured for VUCA scenario (VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Adaptability) and can meet the organization's goal. 
The main purpose of this paper would be more on exploratory research in approach and would intertwine, how above mentioned elements are leading to great success in the organization and how can employees becoming stronger VUCA leaders to drive business. Evidence are drawn from case studies, literature and telephonic survey . It suggests that a new kind of people and their thoughts are needed and how training & development can be aligned with Business strategy in VUCA world, in the form of new VUCA MODEL – Vision, Understanding, Clear & Adaptability.
 The research paper would focus on a framework toward people development models and to identify and foster the leaders in the  organizations need now and in the future.
Todays Vision for learnings and Trends 
There is a  big shift in thinking from a focus on delivering training (input) to learning at work (process) and its impact on performance (output). A serious attempt by an organisation to align learning priorities with business needs. This takes place both through personal discussions with executives, and through formal structures such as Training Committees at various levels. 
  • The organization is developing varied metrics (both 'hard' and 'soft') for assessing the business impact of learning activities. Measuring 'ROI' is still espoused as the goal in some organization, but is not a very realistic ambition for overall investment in learning as opposed to specific interventions.
  • A shift in learning interventions for most staff towards shorter and more modular formal training, increasing provision of e-learning modules with greater reliance on on-the-job coaching.
  • A desire to offer more experiential learning through projects, secondments, career moves, etc, and more personal support - enriched feedback, coaching and mentoring, are examples. 

Old 'training' wine in new 'learning' bottles?
There are good reasons why the issue of learning is high on the corporate agenda. An organization that learn and adapt are the ones best able to survive and prosper. There is also increasing evidence that development is a key factor in attracting and retaining high quality employees.  And, how far has the idea of 'organizational learning' been converted into something tangible and practical? 
The term 'learning' is gaining in use with “development” of an organization, but is it just good old 'training' under a new name, or a signal of a wider and deeper understanding of the nature of learning at work. 
Research questions  A set of more specific research questions was framed exploring learning strategy methods of supporting learning and delivering T&D activities, and the structure and resourcing of the learning function.

Trends in learning activities in an organization
Hirsh and Carter (2002) summarize some of the key trends in leaders development practice, especially the shift from long formal training programmes towards more experiential and personally tailored forms of development - mentoring, coaching, projects, secondments, etc.  The same trends are hoped for in training and development for the whole workforce, but the more tailored and personal forms of development are very difficult to implement on a large scale. In The Dance of Change (1999), Senge shows how to accelerate successful change and avoid the obstacles that hold back momentum.
Rothwell W (2004) found four main types of role in the learning function 
• Learning strategist• business partner• project manager s• professional specialist

A 'learning strategy' will include how learning is delivered, but should be just as much about a 'learning culture' - which embraces:
• Defining and promoting values and behaviors, such as curiosity, openness, innovation, no-blame, experience sharing, comprehensive feedback 
• Processes and tools that bind together and enable those behaviors, such as knowledge management, career development, learning needs definition, design of learning processes, self managed learning, rewards and recognition, and so on. 

Propositions for a learning framework

High employee involvement practices encourage a much greater level of trust and  communication between employers and employees through involving them more in the  organization. High involvement is in turn accompanied by a high degree of empowerment and the exercise of discretion among the workforce. These practices are linked to higher levels of staff motivation, leadership, communication and teamwork. 
Common involvement practices are: 
• Circulating information on organizational performance and strategy 
• Providing all employees with a copy of the business plan and targets 
• Staff Association 
• Internal staff surveys 
• Staff suggestion schemes 
• Quality circles/total quality management 
• Self-managed or self-directed teams 
• Cross-functional teams 
• ‘Kaizen’ – specific efforts on continuous improvement in work systems 

Many of these practices are specifically targeted to create a greater depth of human capital investment and hence skill formation within the organization. The evidence is that these will in turn lead to higher organizational performance – e.g. higher levels of productivity and innovation. 
Common human resource practices are: 
• Annual appraisal 
• Formal feedback on job performance from superiors/employers 
• Formal feedback on job performance from customers/clients 
• Reviewing vacancies in relation to business strategy 
• Formal assessment tools for recruitment (e.g. Competencies etc.) 
• Annual review of employees’ training needs 
• Continuous skills development programmes 
• ‘Structured’ induction training 
• Mentoring 
• QA assurance (e.g. ISO9000 or other similar schemes) 
• The Business Excellence Model or equivalent are linked to improvements in the quality of work and the services delivered to the customer. Training to perform multiple jobs ‘Work-(re)design’ for improved performance Workforce diversity for competitive edge.

Performance-related pay gives explicit recognition to the financial rewards and the only tools that are used to create greater commitment among employees. 
Common reward practices are: 
• Performance pay for some employees 
• Performance pay for all employees 
• Profit-sharing for some employees 
• Profit-sharing for all employees 
• Share options for some employees 
• Share options for all employees 
• Flexible job descriptions 
• Flexible working (e.g. hours, locations, job-share etc.) 
• Job rotation 
• ‘Family-friendly’ policies 
• Non-pay benefits (e.g. free meals, gifts or health packages) 
• Benefits covering spouse or family members 

The Origin of VUCA - The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War (Kinsinger & Walch, 2012). VUCA was subsequently adopted by strategic business leaders to describe the chaotic, turbulent, and rapidly changing business environment that has become the “new normal.” 
The essence of T&D is strategic. When properly aligned, T&D contributes to a successful strategy and the financial bottom line. T&D needs to maintain a strong administrative foundation and use this respect to help earn a seat at the strategy table. To gain access to the full involvement with strategy development, T&D needs to acknowledge what it does now, with what it needs to do to provide value to the organization’s bottom line. Once the gap is recognized, T&D needs to measure itself to guide itself, and prove its worth as an ongoing strategic unit. Ongoing monitoring and evaluation of T&D strategic role expansion will prove itself to be worthy or not as a benefit to the bottom line. HR is viewed as the people department and/or resource. The organization’s people ultimately determine the effectiveness of strategy development, implementation, and subsequent competitive success. A strategic approach of T&D that is aligned with HR ensures that an organization’s employees, skills, and abilities contribute to the achievement of its business goals (Huselid, Jackson, & Schuler, 1997).  This helps in further developing leader to handle challenges in VUCA scenario

VUCA Definition: 
 “V” in the VUCA acronym stands for volatility. It means the nature, speed, volume, and magnitude of change that is not in a predictable pattern (Sullivan, 2012 January 16). Volatility is turbulence, a phenomenon that is occurring more frequently than in the past. The BCG study found that half of the most turbulent financial quarters during the past 30 years have occurred since 2002. The study also concluded that financial turbulence has increased in intensity and persists longer than in the past. (Sullivan, 2012 October 22). Other drivers of turbulence in business today include digitization, connectivity, trade liberalization, global competition, and business model innovation (Reeves & Love, 2012). 
The “U” in the VUCA acronym stands for uncertainty, or the lack of predictability in issues and events (Kinsinger & Walch, 2012). These volatile times make it difficult for leaders to use past issues and events as predictors of future outcomes, making forecasting extremely difficult and decision-making challenging (Sullivan, 2012 January 16). 
The “C” in VUCA stands for complexity. As HR thought leader John Sullivan notes (2012 January 16), there are often numerous and difficult-to-understand causes and mitigating factors (both inside and outside the organization) involved in a problem. This layer of complexity added to the turbulence of change and the absence of past predictors, adds to the difficulty of decision making. It also leads to confusion, which can cause ambiguity, the last letter in the acronym. 
Ambiguity is the lack of clarity about the meaning of an event (Caron, 2009), or, as Sullivan writes, the “causes and the ‘who, what, where, how, and why’ behind the things that are happening (that) are unclear and hard to ascertain.” (2012 January 16). Col. Eric G. Kail defines ambiguity in the VUCA model as the “inability to accurately conceptualize threats and opportunities before they become lethal.” (Kail, 2010 December 3). A symptom of organizational ambiguity, according to Kail, is the frustration that results when compartmentalized accomplishments fail to add up to a comprehensive or enduring success.
The VUCA model can be seen as the continuum of skills leaders can develop to help make sense of leading in a VUCA world. HR and talent management professionals can use the VUCA model as a “skills and abilities” blueprint when creating leadership development plans. 

VUCA MODEL redefined to Vision. Understanding, Clear & Adaptability:


In the VUCA model, volatility can be countered with vision because vision is even more vital in turbulent times. Leaders with a clear vision knows where they want their organizations to be in years to come, for example, by making business decisions to counter the turbulence while keeping the organization’s vision in mind. 

Vision : “Vision makes work meaningful.” Jesse Stoner 
Vision always drives and directs change-makers but never executes or operationalizes anything. Vision points! “Being forward-looking is the quality that most separates leaders from individual contributors.” Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in the Leadership Challenge.
The clearer the vision the greater the vitality.
Whenever a vision is followed by action, the vision can be turned into reality. One important action of leadership is the formation of a formidable team. No single skill set is sufficient in achieving success in business. A visionary leader recognizes talent and recruits individuals with skills that complement each other and contribute to business growth.
Before any action can be turned into reality, a great deal of discipline is necessary. Discipline requires that you follow through with your purpose and direction, even in the face of obstacles and setbacks. This may require the leader to take responsibility for the team’s actions and decisions.
A visionary leader turns vision into reality by creating a vivid image of the target they need to attain and creating a specific strategic plan for the coming year. The leader details what goals the company must accomplish and the specific responsibilities of each key team member. Along the way, the leader keeps the team informed of their progress. And the leader celebrates small victories with the team, while remaining focused on the big goal.

Exemplary Performance of Visionary leaders in Industry by introducing new product and inclusive growth :
  1. Changing demand of customer and identifying there need is an important factor for visionary leadership and fulfilling need is action aspect. Eg when a product introduced - A PC that's half desktop, half notebook. An operating system that runs entirely on the Web. A radically made-over office suite. A thin, super stylish handheld with both Wi-Fi and a usable QWERTY keyboard.  

Uncertainty can be countered with understanding, the ability of a leader to stop, look, and listen. To be effective in a VUCA environment, leaders must learn to look and listen beyond their functional areas of expertise to make sense of the volatility and to lead with vision. This requires leaders to communicate with all levels of employees in their organization, and to develop and demonstrate teamwork and collaboration skills. The Concept focuses on: 
  • -Individualized consideration: which is the degree to which the leader attends to each follower's concerns and needs, and acts as a mentor or coach to the follower.
  • -Intellectual stimulation: which is the degree to which the leader challenges assumptions, takes risks, and solicits followers' ideas.
  • -Inspirational motivation: which is the degree to which the leader articulates  vision that is appealing and inspiring to the followers.
  • -Idealized influence: which is the degree to which the leader provides role model for ethical behavior,  instills pride, gains respect and trust.

Exemplary Performance by leaders in Industry towards reportees / followers:
Banking sector -  ICICI bank Creating IDEA Generation Platform -ILAB gives an opportunity to its employees to submit their ideas for growth of an organization further gets vetted by seniors and also implemented resulting in cost reduction and increasing productivity. Leaders discuss each idea with their subordinates and understands their needs on a regular basis. 

Complexity can be countered with clarity, the deliberative process to make sense of the chaos. In a VUCA world, chaos comes swift and hard. Leaders, who can quickly and clearly tune into all of the minutiae associated with the chaos, can make better, more informed business decisions. 
Exemplary Examples :
Marico continues to occupy the number one position in the hair-oil segment across rural and urban low- and middle-income groups. The “low-cost/fail-fast” prototyping model has been key to Marico’s success. This model has helped Marico repeatedly fine-tune product characteristics and packaging of coconut oil to suit the budgets and usage requirements of low income.

Finally, ambiguity can be countered with adaptability,  the ability to communicate across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions (Kinsinger and Walch, 2012). 
In today's environment of complex challenges and rapid change, the ability to solve problems becomes even more crucial. Adapters prefer a more adaptable, methodical and organized approach to problem-solving, and are more likely to seek a solution to a problem by working within the current framework rather than developing a completely new one. Innovators on the other hand, prefer a less orderly, more unconventional and ingenious approach to problem-solving and are likely to seek solutions by thinking outside the box. One looks to do things better, the other looks to do things differently. Leader knows where its team is in this dimension by checking adaptability on four scales:
  1. Openness to new ideas.
  2. Adaptation to situations.
  3. Handling of unexpected demands.
  4. Adapting or changing strategy.
Exemplary Example
1-Eureka Forbes launched AquaSure, a water-storage purifier, through its traditional distributor-dealer channel in rural markets, sales did not pick up. It then teamed with Basix, a micro-finance company, to sell the product. Sales jumped by 20 percent. Eureka Forbes built in Basix’s network of loan officers, who serve as the link between the company and rural populations, providing customer intelligence while also marketing the purifiers to the self-help groups that it meets regularly.

It  been explored organization has showcased and excelled in challenging situation as they have focused on VUCA Model on individual basis. 

An organisation’s people, not its product or service, ultimately determine the effectiveness of strategy development, implementation, and subsequent competitive success. When properly aligned to the business strategy, T&D will contribute to the financial bottom line.  Why is this? Because strategic T&D management is the design and implementation of internally consistent practices that ensures  an organisation’s employees, skills and abilities drive the achievement of its business goals. 
Today's vision for learning – trends in thought and activity
Some fairly clear trends emerge both in ideas about learning and practical activities to facilitate learning in organization.
  • A shift from focus on delivering training (input) to learning (process) at work and its impact on performance (output).
  • A serious attempt by learning leaders to align learning priorities with business needs. This takes place both through personal discussions with executives, and through formal structures such as Training Committees at various levels. 
  • Organization is developing varied metrics for assessing the business impact of learning activities. 
  • A shift in learning interventions for most staff towards shorter and more modular formal training, increasing provision of e-learning modules and other resources via computer access, and greater reliance on on-the-job coaching from the line manager.
  • Technical training is still important and being given due attention. External regulation in many sectors is actually increasing the emphasis on, specific, and assessed, technical or job-specific knowledge. 
  • A desire to offer more experiential learning through projects, secondments, career moves – and more personal support through enriched feedback, coaching and mentoring. In practice, this is quite resource intensive and is usually only delivered to key groups such as managers and sometimes professional staff.
  • There is much talk of blended learning, but only for key groups do we find 'programs of learning activity which combine varied methods in complementary combinations and sequences. 
  • A shift in thinking from individual learning to organizational learning. In practical terms, we see more emphasis on bespoke and team interventions as a means of bringing learning closer to the business and the job, and also becoming a more collective experience. The term OD is being used widely as a label for this type of development work, often aimed at specific business issues or major changes.
  • Things That HR Must Start Doing to Meet the VUCA Environment is developing employees includes leader in a focused approach of VUCA model and follow organizational learning and develop new leaders

  • Apollo Research Institute staff (2012 March). The VUCA world: From building for strength to building for resiliency. Apollo Research Institute. Retrieved from default/files/future-of-work-report-the-vuca-world.pdf. 
  • Caron, D. (2009 February 08). It’s a VUCA world. CIPS. Retrieved from 
  • Dan, A. (2012 October 14). In a VUCA world, Unilever bets on “sustainable living” as a transformative business model. Forbes. Retrieved from 
  • Forum staff (2010). Speed in a VUCA world: How leaders of the future will execute strategy. Forum. Retrieved from 
  • Horney, N., Pasmore, B. & O’Shea, T. (2010). Leadership agility: A business imperative for a VUCA world. People & Strategy, 33, 4. 
  • Intagliata, J. & Small, D. (2005). McDonald’s Corporation: A Customized Leadership Development Program Targeted to Prepare Future Regional Managers. Best Practice Champions in Organization Development and Change (Eds. Lou Carter, Dave Ulrich, Marshall Goldsmith and Jim Bolt), Jossey Bass. 
  • Kingsinger, P. & Walch, K. (2012 July 9). Living and leading in a VUCA world. Thunderbird University. Retrieved from 
  • Kail, E. (2010 December 3). Leading effectively in a VUCA environment: C is for complexity. HBR Blog Network. Retrieved from 
  • Kail, E. (2011 January 6). Leading effectively in a VUCA environment: A is for ambiguity. HBR Blog Network. Retrieved from