Tailoring learning and development for global and local needs

Tailoring learning and development for global and local needs

By Thomas Berglundhrmagazine.co.uk

One of the inevitable challenges for any business which grows to operate on a global level is how to remain relevant locally – how do you embrace everything that access to global markets, economies of scale and international exposure brings, without losing home-grown skills and focus?

This often hits home for HR when they are delivering learning on a global scale. On the one hand, a multi-national organisation needs a workforce working to a high level of consistency – they often need to be taught to do the same things in the same way. Equally, many industries (particularly where knowledge-based businesses operate) also need a detailed understanding of local markets to succeed. One size doesn’t fit all and global learning programmes have to be underpinned by an appreciation of what works ‘here’.

Therein lies the problem – it’s a tall order to expect that learning content developed centrally can be delivered with the speed and accuracy required to have credibility on a local level every time. Many organisations have looked to overcome this by encouraging, or at the very least allowing, regions to develop large chunks of their own bespoke learning content. But what almost always happens in these circumstances is that learning becomes highly inconsistent, or effort gets duplicated with budget and content used over and again for essentially delivering on the same objective. The end result is that the learning is neither one thing or the other, and certainly not a good mix of global and local.

So what would an effective learning function look like to accommodate these competing challenges? It will have to be agile enough to respond incredibly quickly to local change, with the minimum gap between ‘need identified and learning deployed’. It will use hands-on experts to deliver strong learning content geared towards today’s diverse working culture, using tools employees trust and actively want to use. Critically (and most often missed) it will need to continually fine-tune learning already deployed to deliver the maximum impact on an on-going basis.

A change of approach is required. HR and learning departments should stop acting as the primary (or in many cases, the only) source for learning output, but instead provide a framework which allows appropriate content to be developed locally. In practical terms, HR and learning leaders need to set direction and objectives for learning output from the outset, and then give the local teams the autonomy and tools to produce their own content. They need to strike a balance between overall corporate consistency and tailored, local output. What elements must remain consistent, no matter where you are? What areas of learning content need to be localised in order to have an impact locally, on the ground?

A key component is the inclusion of collaboration, as the learning function works best as an enabler, bringing together centres of excellence to design high-impact learning. Thanks to new technology such collaboration is now straightforward and doesn’t involve the disorganisation of yesteryear or management by committee, and more importantly it can happen quickly. Increasingly, ‘agile’ organisations assemble expertise, design learning collaboratively and deploy to the target audience, often within a matter days.

In addition, more content maintenance should be taking place locally. Historically, organisations have outsourced almost all their cing the technical skills and tools to do it themselves. In more recent times, though, the learning technology market has moved to give in-house knowledge experts the real option to maintain and update their own courses and content. This adds an enormous amount of flexibility to both global and local learning programmes, and is not unlike the changes already seen in the web development market, where Content Management Systems have added that extra element of agility to organisations who want some measure of local control.

So, those HR and learning professionals looking to address global vs. local learning are adapting their approach despite the pressure to deliver new employee skills to the front line more rapidly. The future learning landscape will evolve into something quite different from that we see today, with far more emphasis on learning built from local needs up, rather than global needs down.

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