Author: Russell Evans
Should you roll out learning development programmes (L&D) locally or globally? This is one of the main questions facing learning & development and HR professionals within global organisations.
Fear over the scale of global rollout and the work involved has historically pushed people into a local approach but such schemes often struggle to get results. In order to make an informed decision, it's important to understand what the pros and cons are of global L&D.
Why are companies afraid of global L&D?
I hear about two principal concerns in many buyer's minds when it comes to a global L&D rollout:
- the perceived scale and complexity
- loss of control
A lack of exposure and experience in managing global L&D has created a perception within many organisations that the task is simply too complex to handle. Lots of trust has to be put into the provider, which is a big step to take. One of the biggest fears of organisations buying global L&D services is that they hand it over to the partner and the partner just takes over and the buyer does not get what they want.
An implicit fear may also be that if global providers are able to deliver more effectively the traditional regionalised model, some regional/local L&D roles may become redundant.
Pros of going global
While rolling out a global L&D programme can be an intimidating task, it comes with multiple benefits and helps to create a more cohesive organisation.
When L&D is done locally there is a risk of fragmentation; while a brief and specification for learning programmes may be the same, the standard and consistency with which it gets delivered in each region is different. What's more, the organisation as a whole has to deal with multiple providers or vendors, often running into the thousands depending on the size of the company. This dramatically harms business efficiency and in its own way creates complexity.
By taking a global approach to L&D it's possible to achieve global consistency, reduce the number of contracts on the books, create strong relationships with partners and thereby more tailored learning solutions, and increase the consistency of communication.
Global consistency with local sensitivity - If a company has five geographical regions and buys learning programmes locally, what will happen is that each country will receive their interpretation of the learning needs specification, which may not be aligned to the firm's overall objectives. However, by running a project globally, a standardised approach is taken. At Primeast we develop objectives and L&D specifications with an organisation then communicate this to our local facilitators. They then apply this to a local context without harming the integrity and purpose of the initial brief.
Reducing contract numbers- Global L&D programmes are a more efficient way of operating. For example, one of our clients over the last ten years has thinned down the number of learning suppliers from 450 working on local L&D programmes to 50 by adopting global L&D. When operating locally, several contracts are needed around the world for delivering the same thing, but with global L&D contract numbers are cut. This reduces the time needed to set up, administer, manage and review each project.
Supplier relationships - With a global L&D programme a level of intimacy with the delivery partner is created as organisations are dealing with the same supplier all of the time. At Primeast we get to know our client's business really well. Because we deliver all over the world for that client we can use our quality systems to take insights about how something plays out in China, for example, and then teach our facilitators these examples, which can then be deployed elsewhere. Businesses are more globalised than ever and understanding how the same learning works in a different part of the world is massive shift towards a more sophisticated type of culture.
Consistency of communication - Global L&D programmes run with all information going through the centre. The head office function can speak to a single group of providers and that message can easily cascade down to facilitators. This makes organisations much more responsive too.
Cons of going global
Of course there are challenges when implementing Global L&D programmes. One of the main barriers is often regulation and in certain countries laws governing competition can present problems. In the US, for example, the 'anti-trust' regulations govern the way corporations can get different providers to work together for fear of effectively creating cartels; which itself is a good thing. However it simply means providers and buyers need to invest time and effort to determine a way of operating that meets their specific needs but also remains lawful at all times.
Supply chain risk is also something to consider. If you have a global partner who delivers what five regional partners would deliver, if anything happens to that company you've got the whole world missing the service that the firm would provide. However, if organisations do their proper due diligence when sourcing suppliers, this risk can be mitigated
Nevertheless, companies have concerns about the amount of time and energy certain individuals have to invest to manage global L&D. The global learning and development manager, for example, will see at a very tactical level that they have people working all over the world asking questions about varying countries, which can be hard to answer. While the task may appear hard at a micro level, at a macro level less people are needed to do the job.
Should you take the plunge?
If you wish to ensure all persons within your organisation are aligned, operating at the same level and to the same purpose, global L&D solutions are the way to go. The consistency they offer is important to ensure learning programmes that get delivered meet the stated objectives and can generate consistent, positive outcomes across all parts of a business. While the change may appear like a daunting one, with the right partner it need not be a nightmare. It's important to invest time in cultivating relationships and laying the foundations for global L&D in order to maximise the benefits to organisational learning.
We invite you to take the plunge with Primeast...
Primeast have been working with organisations globally for over thirty years as learning and development partners, creating outstanding leaders who are equipped to lead organisations where people can thrive.
Start a conversation today, you can email Russell directly or call Primeast on +44 (0) 1423 531083.