Many have offered creative approaches to organizational structure, but leaders and authors agree that there is no best practice. However, it is widely accepted that structure should align with and support the business strategy.
Education functions in multinational organizations have been decentralized to a large extent. The strategy was to stay close to the customers of the learning programs and provide training programs targeted to learners’ unique needs. As a result, most international enterprises support a number of internal training organizations, arranged by business unit, country and geographic region. Additionally, learning organizations are segmented by the target audience they support.
Until now, little to no financial information has been available within multinationals regarding overall investments in learning and its effectiveness for the enterprise. Additionally, there are significant overlaps and redundancies in the courseware and curricula developed and delivered through many different training groups. However, as multinationals move toward global integration to serve customers, they are also competing for talent and leadership on a global basis. This requires a new approach to business strategy and its execution, with a closely related impact on learning strategy.
Some strategic business drivers that have an impact on learning include:
- Decrease time-to-market globally.
- Increase speed of implementation.
- Retain customers worldwide.
- Attract, develop and retain leadership.
- Improve innovation and drive change.
- Improve the productivity of the workforce.
Due to the rapid emergence of e-learning and learning management systems (LMSs), enterprises are now able to take a more strategic look at learning and align it more closely with these strategic business goals and outcomes. Global organizations can make learning available throughout the entire enterprise by using learning management systems combined with targeted e-learning, mapping learning to competency models and tracking usage, completions and business impact.
Obviously, these efficiencies are adversely impacted if a variety of LMSs are implemented within various countries, business units or departments. It is easy to recognize the opportunity costs and the real costs accrued due to lack of integration and duplication of effort in the maintenance and support of multiple systems and initiatives. Additionally, there are redundancies in system configuration, system administration and updates, while at the same time, there is a lack of insight into the overall development of competencies within the enterprise and little ability to aggregate enterprise-wide information on investments in learning.
On the other hand, significant economies of scale are realized by having a centralized LMS support group versus building and replicating these capabilities in different business units and countries, particularly considering that much of the required support can be completed in countries with lower wages.
The same applies for the development of e-learning courseware. Learning-needs analysis must be done by people who work closely with business-unit or country leadership and subject-matter experts. It is very inefficient and ineffective to establish relationships with a large number of vendors in different countries on content that is globally required. Costs to consider include:
- Time involved in multiple request-for-proposal processes.
- Similar, perhaps competing, processes within the IT and legal departments to provide access to infrastructure and security.
- Educating multiple vendors on company-specific policies and procedures.
Nick van Dam is Deloitte’s global chief learning officer for the consulting practice. He is author of “The E-Learning Fieldbook,” published by McGraw-Hill (www.elearningfieldbook.com). For more information, e-mail Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.