When it comes to training and education, many organizations are trapped in the past. As a result, human capital is not being managed as a strategic investment. It is being managed under historical departmental scope.
If we view the human assets of the enterprise as the sum total of talent, skills, knowledge and experience of the workforce, then the question becomes: What are the best strategies to acquire and retain those human capital assets over time? Many organizations operate in a disconnected mode when it comes to this question. To see the challenge, think of what takes place outside of the enterprise versus what takes place inside the enterprise.
To start, training is done exclusively inside the enterprise and never outside. Current employees receive training. Individuals outside of the organization do not attend the company training programs. The one exception is customer product or service training, which is designed to increase the sales of the enterprise. Even product training is customized to target a specific set of individuals outside of the enterprise, customers. There are many reasons for this exclusion, not the least of which is that enterprise training is designed to be specific to the needs of the enterprise.
On the other hand, the development of knowledge, including critical thinking, synthesis and analysis of data, and judgment and prediction, almost always takes place outside of the enterprise, in formal education programs such as bachelor's and master's degree programs. In these cases, the hiring process is "take what is there" through a recruiting process that is based largely on bodies of knowledge (such as degree titles in psychology or engineering), the reputation of the university and the grade transcript of the recruit. The potential to do what is routinely done in training programs — customize the learning content — does not even exist. The decision is based on finding the best of what is available, then training the new hire to the specifics of the enterprise. In this case, recruitment from the outside is dramatically different from development from within.
So can we somehow design some of the best of both? The challenge is to take the high impact of customized training content and integrate it with knowledge development; in other words, the context of learning should be the language, business model and data of the enterprise, rather than about widgets. Widgets are generally the focus in most college classes.
Ideally, we would like learning to be in a customized or contextualized format that equips the learner with the real elements of the enterprise. For competitive reasons, such sensitive content can only be designed for and delivered to current employees. Such proprietary content could never be made available to the general public enrolled in programs outside of the enterprise.
So then the challenge is to create educational content that is high impact with the language, decision models and enterprise data as an integral part of the curriculum. The problem is that employee education is largely managed by the HR benefits department. As a result, this approach has largely made the customization routinely used in training unavailable to employees seeking to develop skills and knowledge qualified for company tuition assistance.
While this is the general case, this limiting historical situation is not universal. Customized, co-developed content for emerging leaders can be delivered exclusively to cohorts within each enterprise, thus protecting the proprietary information valuable to creating context and real decisions that accelerate both learning and the favorable impact for the enterprise.
The benefits of this approach are available to every enterprise, but to access them the silos of the past have to come down. Innovation and energy are required to make it happen.