After 30 years in enterprise learning and 10 as a columnist for this magazine, I am on the “back nine” of my career. It’s time to focus on giving back to the profession that has been very good to me.
As time goes on, I will continue with the process that got me here — which I tripped onto decades ago — searching for innovative practices, interviewing those involved and sharing their stories with colleagues through writing and speaking. Moving forward, this will be directed toward new areas, open-source and collaborative projects. Here are a few things I’ve noticed about our industry:
CLOs’ evolving roles: CLOs have to balance the demands of the C-suite with talent management. We are beginning to see the second generation of CLOs, and they will take the profession in directions we cannot predict.
New professionals: We must support those entering the profession. The next generation has a lot to teach us; they are up-close examples of the new workers we keep talking about. Elliott Masie has led the way with his “30 Under 30” program, now in its fourth year. The program provides support, visibility, voice and development to the next generation.
Academia and student partnerships: The profession needs to be more involved with faculty and provide support for the right research. Enterprises or local chapters can adopt a university program, much like companies adopt a local public school. Why is it that when we ask CLOs where they search for leading-edge practices, they mention the top business schools, and not one mentions a graduate school of education? The American Society for Training & Development, or ASTD, does its part by recognizing a top dissertation each year. We need more.
Peer-reviewed best practices: Best practices are critical to every profession. They are the building blocks for an industry, combining timeless principles and innovation. Imagine the impact if, as a community, we create a better process to promote and make available best practices and innovative practices.
“We are one of the most professionally generous groups there is. But we need to shrink the world — make the truly best practices more widely known and accessible by all,” said Nancy Lewis, former vice president of learning at IBM and former CLO at ITT.
CLOs often cite respected colleagues as a major source of best practices. Our networks are critical. However, our profession could produce greater results if we followed a rigorous methodology related to shared learning.
Suppose doctors shared only with their network. Bloodletting sounded pretty good for about 2,000 years, contributing to the death of George Washington, among others. We’ve come a long way. Medical science improved because of an agreed-upon method for experiments, data collection and sharing results in peer-reviewed journals. The first science journals were published in 1665, so science has about a 300-year lead on us. It’s time to get cracking.
The Best Practice Institute offers patented products and services ranging from enterprise learning and leadership development, to workforce planning, performance management, talent management and others. Louis Carter, founder and CEO of the institute, has written or co-authored 11 books and clearly knows his stuff. He reports depth and breadth on archives of best practices, a methodology to help clients find next practices and communities of peers.
Industry award programs, including those from Chief Learning Officer, play a role by identifying best practices and best practitioners. Chief Learning Officer uses a panel of judges selected from industry experts. ASTD’s Excellence in Practice and BEST programs emphasize peer review and shared learning.
Jonathan Jones, manager of organizational development and special projects for U.S. Security Associates, a uniformed guard company, earned a best practice award from ASTD. “The application was very rigorous; it served as a valuable internal audit in itself, showing us some gaps in our program, which we corrected,” he said.
Last, good knowledge management would dictate that we capture knowledge from long-term learning professionals. Such a group would be available to advise the profession and provide input on critical long-term issues.
You start it and invite me, or vice versa.