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The Leadership Brief: Taking your business to the next level

Liam Butler, VP, Sales, SumTotal Systems, a Skillsoft company

Word Count: 868

There is one universal truth for businesses across every industry sector and it is that change is inevitable. According to Gartner’s recent 2016 CEO Survey: The Year of Digital Tenacity, despite increasingly challenging market conditions, business leaders maintain their commitment to driving growth through digital transformation. It is also evident that the growing importance of digital strategy has become unified and even synonymous with that of the overall business objectives – so much so, that many are choosing to refer to the transition process as digital business transformation.

This is important because it introduces a key theme for the future of learning and development (L&D) within the workplace; digital is the way forward. Therefore, educating the workforce about new technologies and digital tools is paramount in promoting greater success within a modern business. The constant evolution of technology also highlights the need for businesses to adopt a model for continual development in order to stay in touch with the latest technology and therefore the most advanced capabilities. As a result, many businesses are moving towards the self-developing organisation approach, where the company:

  • - Promotes employee development through learning materials, training and mentorship from senior staff
  • - Establishes solid talent pipelines to prevent the formation of skills gaps
  • - Empowers employees to take responsibility for their own learning by nurturing learning agility and offering appropriate reward programmes to recognise achievements

Having defined the need and the solution, only the problem remains – how to implement the necessary frameworks and deliver the required services that will provide employees with the tools and knowledge to improve their skills, knowledge and experience.

Where the book lies

The question of who leads the digital business transformation is very simple to answer. The Chief Information Officer (CIO) or the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) are clearly the natural choice for pioneering the changes to infrastructure within the organisation. They would also be in prime position to advise how best to provision training to update and expand the skills of the employees using the new technologies. However, whilst it is not the responsibility of the CIO/CTO to manage staff development, they are highly unlikely to be experienced in this area. The CHRO is in a better position to lead the development programmes on a macro level, but they often lack the time-capacity and visibility amongst employees to support learners on the ground.

Some would argue that the learner themselves should take responsibility over their learning. This is a fair assessment to a certain extent – as younger workers in particular demand development opportunities and self-directed learning has an inherent advantage in terms of motivation – however, there is an urgent need for local support to ensure learners are engaged and have all the necessary tools to facilitate advancement.

That’s a job for a manager!

The answer is through experienced leaders; capable of navigating their teams through the changing enterprise landscape whilst enabling individual team members to develop the professional skills necessary to take the reins when the time comes. This should not be a surprise, as Gallup’s 2016 study into employee development identified that managers account for a 70 per cent variance in employee

engagement across business units, indicating just how important the role of management is in influencing the workforce.

The first step is the most significant and also the most difficult, as managers need to inspire their teams, enabling them to direct their own learning and engage in a self-development cycle. This not only increases the quality of work and boosts productivity within the team, it also establishes a precedent that can be emulated by other teams around the business. Once team has been effectively mobilised, the manager’s role becomes one of evaluating programmes to ensure that both the employee and the business get the most out of the activity. By analysing performance, identifying points for improvement and driving productivity through increased capability, it’s possible for managers to take a very active role in accelerating the transformation of their business into a self-developing organisation – a key step in overcoming the challenges currently facing the enterprise market.

Lessons for leaders

The nature of market trends and demand from customers is inherently dynamic and will continue to alter the shape of industry and therefore the approach that companies should be taking to remain competitive in their sectors. Technology has become a major differentiator for enterprise and its rapid evolution has created a need which can only be filled via the provision of continual training and learning programmes and facilities. With employees demanding greater opportunities for advancement and self-development from their bosses, there is an increased focus on improving the learner experience, both to encourage development but also to maximise the benefits that L&D brings to the workplace.

Though arguably there are many professionals within the organisation that are responsible for promoting learning amongst employees – not least the employees themselves – it is clear that the influence of management plays a key role in engagement, performance and the overall adoption of the measures that enable the self-developing organisation. In order to implement an effective development programme, businesses need to on-board managers at all levels to do their part in mentoring employees and supporting learners in their journey towards becoming part of a higher functioning workforce.

The SumTotal Learn solution is the market leader, with over 45 million people using the solution to increase their effectiveness and productivity in companies of all sizes and all geographies. SumTotal Learn is the only LMS that provides personalised, contextual learning with the flexibility to enable world-class formal training and certification programs as well as day-to-day informal learning and knowledge sharing. With powerful learning management capabilities for businesses of all sizes, complete learning content management, content creation, measurement tools, offline learning tools and next generation mobile and social learning products, the SumTotal Learn solution can be used anytime, anywhere on nearly any device.

SumTotal’s Enterprise Learning Management enables organisations to:
- Deploy faster with open activity architecture
- Reduce non-compliance with continuing-education management
- Improve user adoption with an enhanced, intuitive user experience
- Increase visibility with personalized dashboards
- Reach employees on the go with mobile and off-line learning capabilities

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