Taming the Beast: Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy

by equusnyder

Once again I find myself using this blog as a way for me to articulate the thoughts in my mind, not necessarily to share them with you, but because the mental images are lying in a big heap in the middle of my brain and I cannot make sense of them.


The tactile effort of typing the words, and then seeing the words on the screen, seems to help my brain understand the logic that is screaming to get out. It’s no wonder my ears ring.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead a corporate learning program that’s never really been formally established in a 60-year-old company. What a challenge! But, what an even greater opportunity! I am blessed beyond measure.

I joined the company in 2013, just as half of it was being acquired. This was a good thing for me. I spent 2013 getting ready for the split, and 2014 regrouping. 2014 was about positioning. I allowed our content to maintain status quo while I focused on getting a new robust LMS up and running, and getting a skilled learning specialist to partner with me in the venture. We had a few good ILT courses in Q4, but by and large, this year was about preparation.

kkfayWhich brings me to where I am today – crafting what the company’s learning strategy will looking like in the coming years. I feel a bit like Fay Wray in King Kong, being flailed about at the top of the Empire State Building. It is hard to get my arms around this monkey.

Starting with the End in Mind

As with most problem solving and invention, it’s usually best to start with the end in mind. What do my learners look like in, let’s say, three years from now? (The timeframe is an unknown at this point – until I know what they need and how I will deliver it, I don’t know how long it will take.) What do I want them to do that they’re not doing now? I need to identify specific goals that address problematic areas.

The challenges our company faces are similar to all others, usually falling into one of these areas – communication, leadership, performance. Based on our recent employee survey, I can identify some facets of each of these areas in which we need to focus. I used a mind-map to help narrow down the subjects, but there are other things I must consider beyond what we need.

How will I sell it? I’m going to need executive support for this to be able to implement it across the company. I’ll also need buy-in from influencers throughout the company. Influencers are not always the company leaders; as identified by the authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, sometimes they are the opinion leaders. Both groups are important components to ensure a full, smooth implementation.

Who needs it? As I see my subjects come into focus, it’s clear not everyone needs to learn all of it. How do I determine who needs what? What subjects need to get to everyone? Might this be a point at which I can introduce Individual Development Plans? Would it be necessary for everyone to have one or do we roll them out to one group at a time?

In thinking through the logistics, to be able to apply the subjects where they’re needed, we will need to scrutinize our job codes, descriptions, and competencies or we will miss our targets.

And speaking of targets, I need to consider performance levels and assessments. How well do they perform now? How much better do they need to perform to deem the program a success? How am I going to measure this?

Once I figure all that out, how and when will the subjects be delivered? Some will align better with eLearning, some with ILT. Others might provide an opportunity for just-in-time training and perhaps a mobile application. Some of the subjects will build on each other, which will help define my timeline. Figuring out this piece of the puzzle is the fun part!

You clever Instructional Designers have spotted the beginnings of ADDIE, haven’t you? Indeed, I’m essentially using the same elements as when I’m designing a course, just on a grander scale. (Note: I’m not a hard-core ADDIE fan from the perspective of the linear approach, but I do think it provides a good starting point.)

One additional piece to this puzzle is bringing training to our non-US contingency. It adds a whole other layer of complexity because I can’t just take an ILT and make it a vILT. I can’t assume the eLearning modules that are effective in the US can be used in other ports of call because of the cultural and language barriers. And the issues we face in the US are sometimes a little bit different than the issues faced abroad. Our “Legal Aspects of Supervision” class is being transformed into “Ethical Behavior (or Behaviour) in Supervision” because our US laws are not the same as those across the Atlantic (or anywhere else). Even the words are spelled differently.

There are a lot of moving pieces to this puzzle. While these thoughts have been streaming in and out of the transom of my mind for months, this is the first chance I’ve had to start spelling them out.

monkey hand

So, how am I doing? Am I on the right track? What am I missing? Have I tamed the beast at all?

Thank you, giphy.com, for the images.