SumTotal Blog

Learning at the core of organizational success

A learning strategy is an investment in a future of growth and organizational performance in order to both enable and optimize the workforce.” – Jay Cross

It’s no secret that organizations are constantly looking for new ways to differentiate, increase their competitive advantage and improve their business performance.  What may be surprising is the role learning and talent development play in an organization’s ability to achieve its business goals.  A strong learning and talent strategy is unarguably the biggest driver of organizational success.


The Conference Board recently listed Human Capital as the #1 challenge for CEOs this year. In order to succeed, it’s critical for organizations to invest in finding, engaging and developing its people. But, I wonder if organizations are really doing everything they can to achieve success and thrive in their industry.

We work in an era of constant, rapid change, and we need to learn and evolve at that same speedy pace.  Unfortunately, most organizations do not take their fast-paced culture into consideration when planning their learning and talent strategies — which begs the question: are organizations being bold, ambitious and creative with their talent strategy?

An effective talent strategy requires organizations to establish a new, modern day vision of their organizational structure where learning is CORE to business success.

My perspective and potential to make smart recommendations, offer value to my team, drive innovation and transform how we do business is shaped by the world around me and viewed primarily through two lenses:

  1. The committed professional. I love to work. My work, responsibilities and contributions give me a great sense of accomplishment (and sometimes stress and frustration).
  2. The mom. My kids are my ultimate joy, source of pride and laughter (and also stress and frustration). They inspire and challenge me to look at the world in a different light.

I often find myself comparing events in my two worlds and have noticed major differences in how learning is approached.

Learning from the “professional” point of view:
The biggest challenge in organizational learning and development is that it is often still run as a business silo. Little has evolved over the years in how corporate learning is approached and applied across the organization. Learning leaders push out courses, engage subject matter experts  for informal content, make sure people complete required learning activities, offer access to other content that might be of interest (if they can find it!) and link content to skills to give guidance on ways they can continuously develop their skills.

We have newer technologies (e.g. mobile, social and updated user experience), more standardized processes and tracking requirements, readily available content and massive open online courses (MOOCs) to help us be better at what we do. However, few organizations take advantage of what is available.

A recent Bersin by Deloitte report articulates this challenge perfectly:  “At a time when employees should be able to access training as easily as a YouTube video, most training and development organizations have not kept pace with advances in technology or the evolution toward employee centered learning.” 

Learning from the mom point of view:
When I put on my mom glasses, I am bombarded by evolution, innovation, and, dare I say, bold change in the learning space. My kids are learning and doing things in school I never would have dreamt possible. The programs are designed to foster interactivity, engagement, collaboration and technology usage — including gamification. On top of this, these programs are highly personalized to meet the individual learning needs of each child.

A great example of innovation in learning is the What I Need (WIN) program in which kids work in small gro

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