Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning and Development – Cost Center or Profit Enabling Center? – Part 1

The question is crystal clear, but is the answer?…Are we part of a fraternity that is an unnecessary cost to a company’s financials or are we, in the real sense, being able to enhance productivity towards the P&L graph progressing northward?

Digging some graves here would mean that we led a function that conducted trainings either because some employees were sitting free and had no work (shows the inefficiency of their managers and ineffectiveness of the recruitment team whose hiring forecast was crap), or because there was a new product launch / update, so functional training had to be imparted? Operations would tell us what training needs to be done, what should be the duration, what should be the content………and so on and so forth…doesn’t this sound like “Operations team rules us and we have no say in the organization”? Does it not make you feel hand-cuffed???

Well, the tables have turned now and for those who have not turned them as yet, you better wake up!!!

Our key motive should and needs to be “Optimization and Enhancement of Operational Excellence”. Now the question is what do you do? First and foremost it is imperative that we ‘collaborate’ with Ops, instead of ‘becoming their slaves’. This can, for sure, be challenging initially, but believe me, once this is achieved, you will take your first giant leap towards contributing to the business of your organization.

Now the next question that comes up is ‘how’ will you do this? Start by understanding WHAT is the business. If as an L&D representative, you do not understand what business you are catering to, how will you decipher the customer’s needs vs actual production? Start spending time with the ones who are directly dealing with the customers, taking it to the senior management level where you will see why and how a strategy is made to enhance business. Spend more time on the ground / shop floor and ask questions till you are 100% sure with what and how a business unit functions. Simultaneously, communicate with peers of other companies or other industries, to work around a benchmark. As an example, I remember, when I was with ‘X’ telecom company, I would visit the market stores of ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ also, to understand what we were doing great or not too great. This helps in generating the needs for development and coaching.

Once you have good hold on the business acumen front, you will be more confident to walk up to your business leaders, stating (with numbers, figures and other data) the training needs of that unit. Explain to them that if the attrition right now is 40%, then what is it that L&D will do to bring this number to 20% and keep a turnaround time against it. You need to convince them through data only (they hate listening to English ‘gyaan’) that we can help your sales figures shoot up by 5 or 10%...Even a small positive movement will make a huge difference to the monthly / quarterly / annual P& L sheet.  

(…To be continued)


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