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Forces Shaping the Corporate Learning Function

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This chapter presents the corporate learning function in the context of the rapidly changing learning landscape. It illustrates how several challenges are generating intense pressure on the corporate learning function to keep pace with a set of new norms for how organizations develop human resources. These challenges are changing the way people learn.
This chapter is from the book

What’s in this chapter:

  • The corporate learning function
  • Globalization: global workplace and a borderless workforce
  • Talent management: a surplus of workers and a shortage of required competencies
  • Workforce segmentation: various employee groups
  • Careers: hybrid careers and fluid jobs
  • Learning technologies: continue to evolve

The learning and development industry in the United States is a multibillion dollar industry.1 Successful organizations use the learning function to increase efficiency and improve their competitiveness. Organizations that focus on learning share certain characteristics, such as having a corporate culture of learning, a commitment to employee development, a strong belief that performance can be improved through learning and development, and a continued investment in training to ensure a supply of a fully qualified workforce for the future. Examples of such organizations include UPS, Verizon, and Hilton Worldwide.2

The Corporate Learning Function

Human resources management refers to a set of policies and practices that an organization uses to manage its workforce. The corporate learning function is part of the human resources management that is responsible for making sure that employees have the competencies that are required for successful job completion. Competencies refer to the combination of knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, and behaviors. More specifically, the corporate learning function is responsible for the instruction, maintenance, application, and transfer of competencies.

  • Instruction: This refers to providing employees with needed competencies to perform their jobs successfully while supporting the organization’s goals and strategy.
  • Maintenance: This refers to helping employees preserve learned competencies.
  • Application: This refers to helping employees continuously put to use learned competencies in the job environment.
  • Transfer: This refers to the transfer of competencies from one person to another, from one person to a group, from one group to another, and so on.

The mechanisms or tools that organizations use to instruct, maintain, apply, and transfer competencies are called training and development activities. Training activities focus more on solving short-term performance concerns; that is, training provides competencies employees need in their current jobs. Developmental activities, in contrast, focus on competencies necessary to fulfill a strategic need in the future. Table 1.1 provides examples of training and development activities.

Table 1.1 Examples of Training and Development Activities3

Examples of Training Activities

Examples of Developmental Activities

• Diversity training

• Rotational developmental programs

• Safety training

• Global teams

• Sexual harassment training

• Graduate or executive-level university coursework

• Computer training

• Mentoring and/or coaching

• Team training

• Workshops, seminars, and conferences

• Stretch assignments

The corporate learning industry is going through rapid change, growth, and development. Today, more than ever before, there are many forces affecting the corporate learning landscape. These forces are generating intense pressure on organizations to keep pace with a set of new norms for managing the learning function. Specific forces impacting the corporate learning landscape are discussed next.

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