|The manager — as is becoming increasingly obvious to organizational
experts — is crucial to the process of learning. Learning takes time, give
and take on real problems, systems thinking across boundaries, trial and
error, and reflection. Managers are in the best position to:
Peter Senge sees the role of line managers as one of significant responsibility because they have a bottom-line focus and can undertake meaningful change at their level. Moreover, line managers can sanction new experiments to enhance results, and they have the knowledge and practical experience needed to become teachers.23
Managers do not and should not work alone and unaided in facilitating the learning process. You can and should get support from a wide range of sources. This chapter describes those sources and the types of help they provide. Specifically, you can get support:
Employees as a Source of Support
Employees are also recognizing the value of being multiskilled, particularly in the downsized, streamlined environment of today's government. With multiple skills, not only do they have more value in the positions they hold, they can also move more easily across functional boundaries and to different assignments as workloads shift.
Managers can increase employees' awareness of how important it is to update their skills and do whatever it takes to provide value to the organization. This understanding comes when employees become more knowledgeable of business management practices and are treated as trusted members of the team.
You can expect motivated employees to:
Managers can promote and promulgate these behaviors by creating an environment in which employees feel secure in making suggestions and by rewarding employees who aggressively seek out learning opportunities for themselves and their organization.
All employees have a need for lifelong learning, and when they are convinced of the benefits that can be derived from workplace learning activities, they will be enthusiastic helpers and participants in the process.
Executive Leaders as a Source of
Executive leaders can build the all-important infrastructure in the organization to sustain continuous learning by:
Executive leaders can strengthen organizational performance and growth by:
HRD Offices as a
Source of Support
The HRD community is reinventing itself to play new, valuable roles in the organization. For example, when learning moves from the classroom into the workplace, HRD professionals become learning facilitators and advisors to managers. Instead of being in charge of the classroom, HRD professionals are in service to the workplace. They play a strategic role in linking learning to the organization's performance goals. They serve as the protectors and developers of the core competencies of the organization. They thus must understand the business of that organization.
In the reinvented HRD office, HRD professionals are consultants on organizational change and performance interventions. They know how to develop formal and informal learning activities, and have a good command of new learning tools and technology. They can facilitate work teams, create mechanisms for sharing learning, and assess the value of learning initiatives. They can structure competency-based career systems and needs assessment tools that enable employees to develop along career paths that enhance their contribution to the organization. All the while, these HRD practitioners continue to ensure that the major learning programs throughout the organization follow a standardized instructional systems development process and are linked to organizational goals and outcomes.
The HRD profession has changed because the whole notion of learning has shifted, technology has advanced, and jobs have evolved. It is not surprising that people in the HRD field are highly concerned about developing new competencies of their own and obtaining more training to increase their expertise. They must be proficient in new instructional technologies, team learning strategies, cost benefit analysis, and organizational performance outcome measures, to name but a few of the requisite competencies in the field. In sum, then, the HRD office provides support in:
learning at every level of the organization.
Outsourcing and Collaborating
Successful outsourcing depends on close attention to contract requirements, good communication with vendors, and careful oversight of contract performance. When determining whether to perform work in-house or outsource it, follow a solid business model. Cost should not always be the determining factor. At a minimum, consider the following:
Many organizations have arrangements with colleges and universities to deliver courses on- site, either with local faculty or through satellite networks. These arrangements have enhanced learning value because faculty gain knowledge about the agency, and employees build networks and alliances that endure back on the job.
Explore the possibility of partnering with one or more organizations that have the same need. This approach is particularly useful when training is needed but there are not enough employees to justify holding a class. Various types of partnerships exist. some are very formalized and involve complex arrangements; others can be quite simple.
Ideas of Others
The time and resources to develop responses are limited, but managers rise to the challenge every day. Often, the successes of others can be adopted or adapted to your needs, saving time, effort, and money. The objective is accessing what other agencies have accomplished in terms of policies, programs, products, and experience. Networking is the key. The media for this networking range from quick phone conversations to surfing the Web for the right home page to attending a professional society's monthly meeting.
The HRD office in your organization should maintain contacts with sister HRD offices in other agencies. In addition, encouraging your own staff to participate in professional activities—and doing so yourself—to meet colleagues in government and the private sector is an investment likely to pay substantial returns.
Sample Policies, Programs, and Products
The resources within the government community are vast. And, best of all, excellent advice, ideas, and resources are free. Following are examples of policies, programs, and products developed by various federal agencies that could be useful to you and your organization. Bear in mind that this is only a sampling, and there are many more examples out there. Also, various bulletin boards and on- line services can get you and your staff quick access to new, useful information and networks.
Technology can increase the power and efficiency of learning many times over. Satellite networks can broadcast across great distances, bringing top experts into the workplace for just-in-time training. Computer-based instruction sits resident at employee workstations until it is needed. While technology requires a large upfront investment, the payoffs to management are well-documented. Many federal organizations have made major investments in technology and have created centers of excellence. You will find them very willing to share their lessons learned and—very often—their resources as well. Here are some examples of agencies' technology-based delivery systems.
|Central Intelligence Agency||
|Environmental Protection Agency||
|General Accounting Office||
|Health and Human Services||
|Housing and Urban Development||
|National Aeronautics and Space Administration||
|Small Business Administration||
|Social Security Administration||
Eye on the Future|
Coping with today often seems an overwhelming challenge. But looking out at the horizon, anticipating needs, and projecting solutions are what it takes to get a bigger share of available resources and to keep your employees from being swamped by new workload demands. Taking time to scan the horizon and identify future trends that will affect your organization may appear to be an impossible luxury. But much of this work has already been done for you. Let others identify the trends and tools of tomorrow while you dedicate your time and energy in applying them to your situation.
BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, The Government Executive, and Harvard Business Review are among the many magazines that run articles on trends and ideas for the workplace of the future. Newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post also have good articles on these topics. These are tailored for busy managers, and take little time to read and digest. You can access some of these resources on-line, or from your agency or public library. You could also ask your HRD office to collect articles and bring them to your attention. Then you will both be learning the same information on improving workplace performance.
Here are some key trends business and work experts are saying will have an impact in the near future. How do you think they will reshape your world and that of your organization?
1. As government becomes customer focused, it will become extremely important to learn ways to get feedback directly from customers served, not only on past performance but for future needs.25
2. Learning how to learn will affect what people learn, how they will learn it, and how they will apply it. Challenging assumptions, values, and how work gets done results in very different learning approaches than "information dump" and passive learning methods.26
3. Career paths are focused outward rather than upward. Employees take responsibility for their own learning in order to leverage themselves in an environment when downsizing and flattening restrict upward mobility.27
4. The training trend that is expected to have the biggest effect on the organization is just-in-time training, or training accessible to the employee at the very moment it is needed to do the job.28
"Learning and performing will become one and
|Getting Better Results Notes and Quotes Table of Contents|