Driving Corporate Growth with Rapid Performance Improvement


I recently spoke with Arupa Tesolin, an expert in management and learning who is the Managing Executive at Learning Paths International Canada.  An original thinker, she is also the author of two internationally published innovation books, Ting! And Spark. We discussed how to drive corporate growth and rapid performance improvement.

What will make the biggest difference for a company’s successful growth over the next five years?

Rapid performance improvement.  Increasing the speed, quality and delivery of your performance.  A lean fast integrated HR, training and management approach works best.  This means more than merely running faster.  It’s about becoming a performance brand.

What do you think of the way performance and training have changed over the last few years?

The performance field has changed a lot.  Some of it has been good.  Other aspects have been questionable. Relying solely on HR resources and practitioners to deliver performance management is not optimal.  Managers are the ones who really get things done.  So, it makes sense that managers are the real drivers and evaluators of performance.  HR and trainer roles need to adapt to support business performance improvement.

The training environment has gotten more complex through adapting technology-mediated learning approaches, like e-learning and technology systems that host, track and manage training.  While these have brought advantages for compliance recording and distributing training for large employee pools and remote workforces, these same technologies have increased the complexity, cost, and development time of training.  Simple questions about what’s the direct relationship between training and performance are still valid.

How does a company become a performance brand?

Align everything to support real performance.  Traditionally HR and training have focused on how they do business, not how you do it. There needs to be a direct relationship between training and performance.  In the high change environments we face today, learning and performance extend far beyond training and trainer expertise.  The fundamental business relationship is a relationship with performance and revenues, productivity, quality and staffing.

What gets in the way of that?

When performance is measured as the business that is going out the door, it’s redundant to stop and measure the effectiveness of training.  Trainers and managers often see themselves on opposite sides of the fence.  The trainer’s goal is to create high value learning environments that keep learners engaged.

But they measure effectiveness as hoped-for performance down the road using attitude, skills and knowledge models that were developed for static academic settings and then adapted to business.  Managers, by contrast, only want to measure actual job performance. The solution is to realign training so that it actually supports performance, not trainers. Most organizations still house training alongside HR, and away from operations management.  This is a mistake.

These resources should belong to operations management.

What are the trends in training? 

40 to 70 per cent of job-related learning now occurs through informal learning.  Classroom training has declined and been replace by on-the-job training, peer learning, and e-learning.  The problem with informal learning is that it’s typically undocumented, and not tracked or standardized, so it varies from person to person.  If an employee learns from a high performer, it’s good.  If not, they learn mistakes and bad habits that unwittingly contribute to increased business costs.

E-learning is often boring and it’s time consuming to develop.  Trainers and technology vendors talk about addressing this by creating more engaged e-learning, which consumes more time and cost, without the guarantee of a fix.

80 million North American boomers (8 million Canadians – 1000/day) will retire this decade. This is a huge skills and knowledge transfer that cannot be met by a technology solution.  We need a way to rapidly ramp up new staff to perform.

One bright light is the Learning Paths methodology, developed by Steven Rosenbaum in 1992. This uses a rapid business performance improvement approach to ramping up new staff or increasing performance of existing ones.  Here, learning is viewed as a continuous process like quality or continuous improvement.

A Learning Path is the entire learning and performance experience, tracked and measured consistently from Day One to a defined proficiency level.  One Learning Path can be developed for an entire job for thousands in less time than it now takes a typical trainer to design a one-hour e-course.  Delivered at the speed of business while getting real work done, A Learning Path gets employees up to speed 30 to 50 per cent faster with business, not training metrics. 

St. Gobain is one of the world’s largest construction supply manufacturers. After implementing Learning Paths in their manufacturing operations during the US construction recession, that division gained a 10 per cent increase in market share. 

Canadian companies can stand to gain an additional 75-150 B of Canadian GDP growth in terms of productivity, performance, staffing by closing the performance skills gap.

Mark Borkowski is president of Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corp. Mercantile is an M&A brokerage firm. You can contact Mark at www.mercantilemergersacquisitions.com

Arupa Tesolin is an author and expert in innovation, management and learning and the managing executive of Learning Paths International Canada.