How to turnaround Talent Development from an Expense into an Investment
Let’s face it, the word “transformation” is simply “change” rebranded, and we use that word because change - thinking about it, planning for it, doing it - is often hard, painful even. Think about the popular example that we use when describing transformation: the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. I mean, that transformation, or change, is super taxing on that poor caterpillar.
But change is critical in business; it means you are growing, learning, evolving. The fact that good organizations embrace change has been extensively written about; some transform to serve customers better, others transform to survive. I would argue that it is mainly because organizations evolve that internal Training & Development exists. Ultimately it’s the people behind the scenes that make such transformations possible.
So what does it look like when a whole organization is “transforming?” More importantly what does it require?
I can’t think of an organization undergoing a bigger transformation right now than ACT, moving from an Assessment organization to a Learning, Measurement and Navigation company. Not an easy task. You can tune in to our previous episode where I had the pleasure to speak with ACT’s CEO, Marten Roorda, to learn about his vision for the education ecosystem and the organization’s transformation beyond assessment, into a holistic learning company as part of that ecosystem.
In the second episode in our ACT series, I talked to someone whose job description is a little different from what most people think when we consider the field of education and learning. I had the pleasure to speak with Jennifer Yi Boyer, the Chief Talent Officer at ACT, about the need for great organizational and corporate learning and training.
How she and her team approach learning is refreshing and inspiring: no longer seeing it as an expense but as an investment in each team member. I’m so excited that she sat down with me to open the hood on this part of ACT and share her insights.
A few points really stuck with me:
1) Training with a Holistic View
“I’m a strong believer that people bring their whole self to work and they take their whole self home every day.”
There’s a stigma around corporate training programs as employees often struggle to see the value - perhaps because the programs are usually only relevant to their current positions, because they’re designed to highlight gaps in capabilities, or because they’re often boring. Jennifer emphasizes that by “modeling the types of things that we think will strengthen not only education and learning, but also will be personally more enriching,” training will not only benefit the organization, but it will be valuable enough that people take this knowledge back into their communities and into their families. “So as we look at creating these [training] pieces it’s not singularly about learning, it’s about the entire ecosystem.”
2) Mission-Driven Development is Personal
“Helping people really feel special, included, and involved is a human need agnostic of industry.”
In traditional training, we often focus on what knowledge we want to impart, and forget the needs of the learner. Learners who feel a part of the process are more engaged and persist in meeting learning goals. There are several ways to achieve student learner responsibility including giving them meaningful choices and allowing them to self-assess/reflect. When it comes to corporate learning we should go even further. Employees should also see the connection and feel included as a part in the company’s growth and transformation. As a learning designer, I was encouraged to hear Jennifer pinpoint experiential learning via simulated environments as a means to help create a picture of what the transformation looks like, to make employees feel part of it and understand their role in it to bring people along.
3) Assessment with a Purpose
“We are not necessarily interested in measures for the sake of measurement. We’re interested in assessment and measurement for the sake of creating an environment and an outcome that drives success and drives productivity.”
I was looking forward to hearing how ACT, as a company deeply rooted in assessments, leverages their expertise and puts it into practice when thinking about training programs. Traditional learning is often focused on remediation, but corporate learning needs to be different if people are to come to it with enthusiasm. Within ACT, a lot of the performance assessment focus between managers and team members is about moving forward. Something that stood out was their focus on building foundational capabilities that can be transferred across roles, while also preparing employees and building capabilities for future jobs that don’t yet exist. True forward thinkers.
4) Clear Alignment of Business Objectives
“Understand what are the capabilities that we need to deliver as a company to fulfil the strategy and the mission”
Jennifer claims her nontraditional background helps make her very focused on the talent-related nuances required for successful business delivery – and that includes the company’s team members and their well-being. Her approach to designing a great training program reflects exactly this new focus. Instead of just asking themselves what training the team members want or need, businesses need to define their goals, then they should decide what capabilities will help them fulfil the strategy and how to best connect this to their talent. These capabilities can then be broken down into different skill sets and knowledge bases. These bite-sized pieces are critical to team member understanding. An important consideration is to build these within the right window of time to be able to leverage those skills in a way that would be useful and helpful for the company’s customers.
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ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Headquartered in Iowa City, Iowa, ACT is trusted as a leader in college and career readiness, providing high-quality assessments grounded in nearly 60 years of research. ACT offers a uniquely integrated set of solutions designed to provide personalized insights that help individuals succeed from elementary school through career. To learn more about ACT, visit www.act.org.