“You need to start by taking baby steps and monitor where you are,” says Piers. “The idea that businesses can make step by step progress is key. You document where you want to get to, take small steps and track progress. That needs to be deeply embedded in the strategy.”
Why does Piers think it is so important to take small steps and keep tracking progress? Because he says that otherwise, transformation isn’t strategic, it isn’t embedded in the organisation and will be transitory. “The world is littered with people who went straight to something and didn’t embed it properly and so it hasn’t held. In the history of the application of learning tech in big organisations there can be corporate amnesia. Organisations implement great stuff and it wins awards but you go back five years later and chances are they are not still doing that great thing and chances are they are not building on it either. Things literally disappears and was just a flash in the pan.”
That’s not to say that organisations can’t take huge leaps sometimes and make incredible progress, but it needs to be part of an overall strategy that is clearly mapped out and tracked. As Piers says, transformation involves substantial change management and “you can’t do that instantly.”
Transformation is also not something that is done to people or organisations. It is something that an entire organisation needs to be bought into. It’s all very well having a visionary CEO or L&D director who has some great ideas to drive the business forward and implements those ideas to great success initially, but if it’s not a vision that the entire organisation is bought into, then the successes will fade. “You have to bring everyone and everything along with you – people, culture, technology, content etc.
To do that, Piers says L&D and business leaders need to be working closely together. The L&D strategy needs to be integral to the business strategy and the business strategy needs to be integral to the L&D one. “It’s about getting the process of learning into the DNA of the business.”
Piers thinks organisations need to start treating learning as a business process. Learning needs to be aligned to the corporate strategy and it needs to be tracked and reported on, just like other business processes. Alignment and constant tracking are essential, he says. “Alignment is key. Often, people align at the beginning of the process but lose the connection somewhere along the way, for all sorts of reasons.”
If L&D can track what it’s doing, measure its impact on the business and identify patterns, that’s when organisations can enjoy real change. As Piers points out, Towards Maturity is a great example of an organisation that has really delved into its data and unearthed some very insightful results. “You measure, and you adjust, measure and adjust. You look for patterns which you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Data is of huge importance”