Tony Anello, regional executive vice president at SHL, a talent measurement company, said though there is now a more common framework underneath the two functions, they still work too much in silos. The focus now must shift to establishing a universal set of competencies and an infrastructure that will link activities from pre-hire to post-hire, and building talent communities so leaders can determine how and when employees may be right for other positions throughout their career.
“The other thing that is really important is to have the organization understand — regardless of department — what are the highest impact roles within a company, and how can we work together to create talent strategies to help with those? You want to talk hard dollars and ROI, that’s really where you can show a return,” Anello said. “Also, L&D should be capable of supporting competencies. Recruitment looks for those behavioral competencies on the front end, but often just the skills are developed down the road. Competencies and the support of those competencies is important as well. There may be a modern day addition to this, and that’s the ability to be able to measure some nontraditional things such as learning agility or openness to change.”
He said learning leaders have to proactively address business issues and understand how talent solutions can address them. Otherwise an organization may suffer the cost, putting up hard dollars to implement stopgap succession measures or searching for talent when the company has to change strategies.
The CHRO also has a key role to play in positioning learning to achieve its greatest impact. Providing that individual has a seat at the proverbial strategy table, he or she can advocate for learning as an active business driver.
“If that chief HR officer has the credibility and has an understanding and appreciation of the value of what learning and organization development expertise can bring, it’s a beautiful partnership,” said Jane Dowd, director, learning and organizational development, College of American Pathologists. “I experienced it myself in my almost 14 years as chief learning officer at NorthShore University HealthSystem.”
But to enable the relationship to reach that partnership level requires awareness and interconnectedness, Dowd said. That’s not always easy; she said many CLOs feel that HR gets in the way and can be a derailer for speed and effectiveness.
Both the CHRO and the CLO essentially have the same goal: to drive change and help an organization meet its strategic objectives. Dowd said holistically, to change behavior one must consider all the different tools available, and that includes not just learning investments but incentives, hiring criteria, rewards and recognition, and performance management. Each tool may not apply to every situation, but that’s where the partnership comes in.
“When I think of the big change goals that I was charged to help drive in my years as a CLO at NorthShore, our partnership with HR was critical to getting it done and done right,” Dowd said. “You can move forward but if you aren’t connected, and you aren’t communicating and the different people strategies aren’t aligned, you will have discord and not necessarily meet your objectives either as easily or as smoothly or potentially not at all.
Avnet’s CHRO MaryAnn Miller said her CLO works closely with the company’s vice presidents of HR, who support the business directly. “Besides meeting with me and engaging with me on the higher-level organizational concerns, she understands their specific needs and does regular pulsing to understand whether or not our corporate learning organization is supporting what they need in the regions.”
The CLO also welcomes the opportunity to help those vice presidents of HR customize development solutions to meet their specific needs and travels to other regions to get to know the teams on the ground and view cultural differences within each business.
Tracy McCarthy, senior vice president, chief human resources officer for talent management software company SilkRoad Technology, said she too works closely with the company’s head of internal learning and development. They met in December at the learning leader’s request to ensure both HR and learning initiatives for 2013 were focused on the same things.
“I thought that was perfect,” McCarthy said. “That’s really how it should be. It’s not HR versus learning; it’s about working together. There has to be mutual appreciation and understanding of each role and some clear definition. Part of it is building that really good relationship so there aren’t the feelings of, oh, this person is stepping into my territory. Let’s get rid of the territory stuff and really collaborate. Be in contact so it’s natural to build that synergy between the two departments.”