An interview with Sommer Nisbet, Head of Training for Southeast Asia and Greater China, Robert Walters
1. Involve everyone early
Making sure your business divisions are united around your L&D strategy is an ongoing process of stakeholder engagement, according to Sommer Nisbet, head of training for Southeast Asia and Greater China, Robert Walters.
“The most effective way to ensure people are on board is to seek their input during the formative stages of the strategy,” she says.
This early involvement not only gives team members a sense of ownership in the company’s plans and makes them feel as though they are part of something, but also helps the L&D team and entire company understand organisational pain points and concerns.
2. Foster communication for the duration
To ensure ongoing alignment, it’s important to communicate constantly and solicit feedback, Nisbet points out.
“Just like the old saying goes, ‘you can’t keep all of the people happy all of the time’, a critical part of this communication is managing people’s expectations of the scope of the L&D strategy,” she says.
3. Make L&D part of the organisational culture
It’s necessary to establish L&D not just as an isolated function within the business, but as a critical component of everyday operations. “As an L&D professional, I would say this is essential,” says Nisbet.
She adds: “That said, I can also see that there are genuine barriers to embedding continuous development into the fabric of organisational culture. The way we work is constantly evolving.
“Technological advances are also changing the way that we learn. In some ways, it has never been easier for individuals to take ownership of their own development. However, in a world of information overload and post-truth, one of the key challenges that L&D faces is actually controlling learning outcomes.”
Nisbet admits that empowering organisations and individuals to drive the L&D agenda across all departments is a lofty goal. “In reality, I believe most firms are still grappling to keep up with changing business landscapes, and L&D is seen as a support function that reacts to changes in business strategy,” she says. But these reasons make it even more crucial to strive to integrate L&D into the company culture.
4. Use a coach approach
Nisbet shared that Robert Walters believes in the power of L&D to drive performance and motivation – particularly in changing economic times.
“This belief impacts the way the organisation behaves both in terms of the level of investment in structured L&D programmes, such as bespoke in-house training events, as well as in adopting a culture of coaching,” she says.
The company sees coaching as a management style that believes in empowering all members of the organisation to continuously develop new skills and capabilities.
Employees are encouraged to seek out coaches that can help them develop skills they need, as well as to assist others by acting as the coach when they have the opportunity. One of the most effective methods of strengthening a skill is to teach it to someone else.
5. Do not fear, persevere
Nisbet notes that when external factors prove to be adverse or unpredictable, it’s tempting for organisations to minimise the amount of time and effort they devote to L&D, with the view of riding out the tough times. However, it’s during these times that the richest learning opportunities can present themselves.
“Robert Walters continues to invest in the growth of its people regardless of external considerations,” Nisbet says.
“We can also see that this same approach to L&D is being adopted by a number of progressive organisations across Malaysia. When we consult with candidates on which firms to pursue, career development and access to L&D are two of the key drivers for most professionals. As such, a robust L&D programme not only protects current employees, but also directly links to attracting top talent for the future.”
Following this five-step framework will not only demonstrate your commitment to your L&D strategy, but also help ensure that everyone across your organisation will make that commitment too.