Yes, 91% say L&D should own knowledge sharing. Yes, there is a strong case for it since knowledge is known as the linchpin in a company’s success. Given the market consolidation trends across technology and many other industries and the stinging failure rate for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) (Harvard Business Review reported failures as high as 70% to 90%), it would seem like a foregone conclusion for L&D ownership. But how does L&D broach the daunting task of ownership?

“Consolidation through mergers and acquisitions is a major trend in many industries. A central goal of most mergers has been to improve investment returns through cost cutting, productivity gains, and economies of scale.” – Thomas Mulligan

Naturally, companies should implement the most suitable strategies to effectively drive economies of scale. However, more often than not knowledge sharing governance is missing from the consolidation process. While the driving forces behind consolidation may be to expand offerings and realize new earnings growth, there are many factors to consider in unifying organizations to successfully navigate consolidation. History has shown us, chief among them are knowledge sharing and forging a strong learning culture.

Bob Clary, Director of Marketing at DevelopIntelligence, sits down with Sydney Savion, Chief of Education Strategy, Dell EMC Education Services, and Kelby Zorgdrager, CEO at DevelopIntelligence, to explore and discuss ways in which “if” L&D did own knowledge sharing how it could be a driving force to successfully navigate consolidation and ultimately fuel a competitive advantage.

BOB CLARY (BC): Sydney, what do you think of the data?

SYDNEY SAVION (SS): This data (Figure 1 and 1a), is a glimpse into the shifting mindset of people about the job and expectations of L&D. What I found most intriguing about this data is given all the media hype and purported chasms between generational cohorts, for similar reasons Millennials, Gen-X, and Baby Boomers alike felt that L&D should own knowledge sharing. Having the opportunity to use the data from our readers to inform this piece is exciting.

Why? Because it parallels the mindset we as L&D practitioners should embrace and that is to capitalize on data to explicitly improve the learner experience and advance business strategy. Interestingly enough, according to the 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, “people analytics” is among the top 10 issues most important to executives. This data from our readers provides insights beyond topical coverage of knowledge sharing, it sheds light on their view of accountability and why. Nowadays actionable data about the workforce, the workplace, work and the marketplace are no longer just a nice thing to have for L&D, it’s a necessity!  

Figure 1: Survey Results from Knowledge Sharing: Case For and Against L&D Ownership: Percentage of Those For L&D Ownership.

91%

Figure 1a: Survey Results from Knowledge Sharing: Case For and Against L&D Ownership: Percentage Breakdown of Respondents by Generation.

Baby Boomers… 17%
Millennials… 39%
Generation-X… 44%

(BC): Kelby, what do you think of the data?

(KZ): I see this struggle playing out first hand in the companies we help support. Rightly so, L&D wants to own the knowledge sharing as they are responsible for the development of the employees within the organization, have invested in the tools, infrastructure to enable knowledge sharing, and have backgrounds in making information easy to digest and understand.

On the flip side, R&D organizations also want to own knowledge sharing for their engineering organizations. In many cases, R&D wants to own it because if they are responsible for building the products, the APIs, the libraries, and platforms used within the organization are for the technical efforts. In many mature R&D organizations, there are ‘shadow’ L&D organizations, focused just on serving the R&D organization. When these shadow organizations exist, the struggle between L&D and R&D around knowledge sharing starts to diminish.

Unfortunately, having a shadow L&D organization creates inefficiencies across the entire L&D  and HR function and increases OpEx.

(BC): Sydney, why do you think more people think L&D should own?

(SS): Let’s see, two points here:

1) Just recently I attended a Deloitte University Greenhouse Lab. The notion that people think L&D should own knowledge sharing coincides with data from the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report that suggests the rules are being re-written for the digital age. L&D is facing a radically shifting context for the workforce, workplace, and work. This means as L&D practitioners, we must embrace new ways of thinking about content, knowledge sharing, technology, consumption and above all the learner experience. If it’s not already institutionalized in the organizational culture, harnessing knowledge sharing will be no easy task, but a shift in mindset and behavior is imperative if L&D wants to continue to bring value and deliver on business results.

2) Learners want curated content. It’s evidenced in the compelling reason Degreed, Pathfinder, Pluralsight, EdCast and others, in many ways are eclipsing the traditional LMS. Learners want to pull targeted information, when and where they need it rather than wasting time having to mine disparate sources of content to get it. This approach is not the mystery that people make it out to be, it’s scientific. Think about it, we are living in a “content-rich” universe, powered by a digital revolution. The fact of the matter is our brains have limitations on the amount of content hence knowledge it can focus on at one time. So the long-held conventions of L&D are being pressed upon to keep up with technological advancements and stay ahead of the demands of an ever-changing workforce, workplace, work and marketplace.

(BC): Kelby, why do you think more people think L&D should own?

(KZ): Sydney’s second point really hits the nail on the head, whether we are talking about knowledge sharing for R&D, Sales/Marketing, Ops, etc., corporations used to have libraries and corporate librarians to help them organize, curate, and make recommendations to employees on information. Those days are long gone in today’s world. And with the disappearance of corporate libraries went the disappearance of the curator.

In today’s ‘content-rich’ age, it is increasingly harder and harder to quickly find content that will make an impact on the employee. If L&D owns knowledge sharing, and the L&D team has a background in Adult Education, Instructional Design, etc. it’s natural for them to function as the curators.

That said, L&D members aren’t going to be experts in all of the different functions within the organization. They’ll need help from their internal stakeholders to identify, define, and evaluate the appropriate content.

(BC): Sydney, so what are you pushing for during Dell EMC integration?

(SS): As many of your readers know, last fall Dell acquired EMC–the largest tech deal ever! Honestly, anyone that has experienced an M&A knows the road to combining and integrating organizations, especially L&D functions is not a straight line rather it’s full of curves and bumps. Among many other things, there are three things that immediately come to mind that we are “pushing for”:

1) Being very intentional about keeping learners, customers, and stakeholders at the center of our education services universe;

2) Staying focused on why we exist and that is to deliver capabilities to the business and equip people with skills that are required, when and where they required to move the business ahead and;

3) Developing an actionable strategy to assess and capitalize on our combined knowledge, digital transformation and fortifying our learning culture.

Having been through a number of successful M&As in years past, we’ve been here before, so we can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel as we navigate this integration process.

Cultivating our knowledge sharing capabilities is a big part of the process.  In his vast body of research, Josh Bersin reminds us that strong learning cultures significantly outperform their peers in some of the most popular benchmarks business use to measure their performance:

  • Innovation,
  • Productivity,
  • Time to market,
  • Quality,
  • Skills for the future,
  • Profitability.

So, for us, this is added fuel to lean forward in the saddle and adapt to the radically shifting workforce, workplace, work, and marketplace.

(BC): Kelby, related, what best practices have you seen in various client environments?

(KZ): We’ve been involved in a number of knowledge sharing initiatives over the past few years. One of the more successful initiatives was the co-creation of a ‘portal’ specifically targeted at helping developers learn the best practices, tools, and technologies relating to the development of web services and service-based architectures.

At the time, the R&D team had their own ‘wiki’ and the HR organization had their platform of choice. Neither worked well for either respective organization.

Coming together, L&D and R&D teams created a portal that had the look, feel, and interaction that modern software developers would expect with the content and learning paths L&D would expect. After a few months of work, the portal was released and accepted (and utilized) by both organizations. It’s still in play today within this organization.

BC: Kelby, Syndey, your closing thoughts?

(KZ): I realize not every organization has the ability (nor the resources) to greenfield a knowledge sharing platform for the future.

At the end of the day, in my humble opinion, it doesn’t matter who owns the internal knowledge sharing strategy and infrastructure – as long as the strategy and infrastructure work for all stakeholders.

(SS): Kelby is right on!  Now add to that the reality of the digital revolution. It’s driving profound changes in the workforce, workplace, work and marketplace. So, since the rules for L&D are being re-written anyway, why not rewrite the rules for knowledge sharing?

Thanks, Bob and Kelby! Connecting on this topic with you has been thought provoking and great fun… certainly, ideas worth spreading.

(BC): Thanks to Sydney and Kelby for their constructive feedback to an interesting question in the L&D space. A question that will continue to come up as company structures continue to evolve. Stay tuned for some perspectives in the L&D space shortly!

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