How to break down silos between learning, engagement and performance

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Learning, engagement and performance are inextricably linked – so why are they still treated as separate functions within HR teams? Lars Hyland looks at the benefits integrating these elements can bring.

In the vast majority of organisations, HR, learning, engagement and performance teams operate in isolation. There is often little communication between teams, leading to conflicting information, confusion, duplication of effort and missed opportunities.

This scenario may feel all too familiar. The learning team launches a training initiative, but it clashes with the upcoming performance review period. At the same time, the internal communications and HR team launches a new campaign focusing on employee wellbeing.

While all three initiatives are designed to help employees, they can interfere with one another, creating unintended consequences – perhaps raising stress levels rather than alleviating them. Breaking down this siloed thinking by integrating the learning, engagement and performance functions can be transformational. So how do we do this?

Going digital

Your organisation is going digital, no matter which sector you operate in. For HR teams to function effectively, meaningful collection and analysis of data is golden. Trying to make sense of conflicting data from three separate teams isn’t easy, and can even be misleading.

Uniting your learning, engagement and performance teams ensures managers and HR think holistically about supporting individuals – not just as a learner or an engaged employee or as someone to be managed, but as a rounded person where all three factors influence their overall productivity and potential. For instance, a dip in performance could be because of many different factors, including mismanagement, low engagement and alignment with company goals, or low competence levels through a lack of completed training. All three are intertwined.

Instead of duplicating efforts or working in isolation, bringing together these three key HR functions in a cross-functional team means everyone is working towards the same set of common goals, sharing and responding to a broader, more sophisticated data set and getting better results faster.

Integrated technology

An integrated learning, engagement and performance team is best supported by integrated technology that facilitates a more open and rounded data profile for your people. A talent experience platform combines the best of these three disciplines across a learning management system (LMS), learning experience platform (LXP) and performance management system, offering a friction-free user experience, aligned communication and a single source of data on which to draw more nuanced analysis.

Imagine the benefits. Instead of fielding questions from confused employees, HR can coordinate the flow of notifications so that they don’t clash or deliver inconsistent messages. You can advise managers proactively of potential drops in engagement, flagging the need for a check-in where immediate support can be scheduled in the form of coaching, mentoring, or training. You can spot talent and skills you never knew about and recognise these in the development and career paths of individuals. For your leadership team, you can offer better-quality metrics that track the performance and wellbeing of your people that will enable more suitable interventions or rewards to help drive the business forward.

Cross-team communication

Now, it’s important to recognise that HR teams comprise many different specialists, and everyone will have their own priorities and areas of focus. Holistic data sharing encourages broader thinking and innovation at the intersections between these areas.

Holistic data sharing encourages broader thinking and innovation at the intersections between these areas.”

It’s probably time to reassess how your HR function is structured, so that existing silos are dissolved and cross-functional teams take ownership of campaigns and programmes. For instance, a wellbeing initiative should include learning, engagement, performance and mentoring elements, which will require close collaboration between HR, learning and communications specialists.

Mandatory regulatory training should not just be the despised tick-box compliance exercise that purely passes responsibility. To drive real behavioural change, training alone will not work. There needs to be a considered and sustained campaign of learning, communication and collaborative opportunities to practice new behaviours openly. That way company culture integrates these new values and behaviours much more deeply.

Aligned performance objectives

Aligning performance objectives across the organisation is a powerful way to ensure everyone is working towards a common goal. This helps foster a sense of shared purpose, and means that everyone, from the CEO to entry-level employees, stays focused on the organisation’s mission.

Goal achievement should link with supported learning and development initiatives, whether that’s specific programmes, workshops or certifications, along with internal communication efforts that recognise and share the positive actions and results of individuals and teams across the organisation. If performance goals align with learning and engagement efforts, everyone should see better results.

But how does all this work in practice? Let’s look at a simple example.

Check Retail is a multinational retailer, selling electrical goods. The HR team comprises learning, engagement and performance specialists in a single, cross-functional team. A new range of televisions is about to be rolled out across the business, and the sales assistants need to be upskilled.

A new product training course is launched, including an e-learning module and performance support resources for use on the shop floor. They upload the course to the Check Retail LMS, ready to be taken.

If performance goals align with learning and engagement efforts, everyone should see better results.”

A dedicated playlist of learning and other resources is set up in the LXP, and creates a dedicated workspace where sales assistants can discuss and collaborate with their coworkers and ask questions for clarification.

The course is added to the sales assistants’ learning plans, and adds a new competency to reflect their understanding of the new range. Manager check-ins help embed the new knowledge, and establish a mentoring relationship leading to long-lasting performance success.

Based on the data collected from the integrated learning, engagement and performance management platform alongside sales performance over time, they can look for evidence of the impact these initiatives have on workplace performance. This will uncover opportunities for improvement, and so agile iteration of the content and processes can take place.

Bringing it to life

The world of work will be a place of rapid change and uncertainty. This requires new skills and resilience. That means it is essential to pay closer attention to their underlying motivators – the need to improve and develop, to feel part of something aligned with their own values and to be able to exercise their skills productively within an environment of mutual trust.

To do this effectively means bringing together your teams to work cross-functionally. It also means supporting them with flexible, integrated technology to create a friction-free workplace experience. This new alignment and integration will ultimately help your organisation and succeed in tumultuous times ahead.

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Lars Hyland

About Lars Hyland

Lars Hyland is Chief Learning Officer of HR and learning technology supplier Totara. He leads the drive for adoption of Totara’s open Talent Experience Platform, working in collaboration with a worldwide network of expert partners.
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