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The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

5 Key Tactics for Managing Learning and Development as a Business

For years, University of Michigan’s learning and development function was floundering. Low staff morale, low program participation, continuing budget cuts and growing budget deficits made for some tough times for the organization. In 2012, UMich’s HR development team faced a decision – reduce professional development programming even further or rebuild the function entirely. In choosing to rebuild, the team employed five key tactics to operationalize its newly-created business strategy.

At this year’s CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo, Philip Smith and Kristen Storey of UMich’s learning and professional development team, shared these tactics and how they helped bring about much-needed change:

1) Relevance – obtain a deep knowledge and understanding of UMich challenges and needs. The learning and development team meets annually with UMich executives, senior managers and first-line supervisors and managers to discuss the key issues and challenges facing their units and UMich as a whole. The team then uses this information to build learning and development programs that address these issues and challenges.

2) Brand – build a brand identity across all program and product lines. Brand building began in earnest in June of this year when the unit changed its name from Human Resources Development to Learning and Professional Development (LPD). The name change was an opportunity to differentiate the unit from other departments within University Human Resources; create alignment between the department’s outward name and what it does in the eyes of its customers; provide a stronger brand identity to internal customers and visitors from outside the university; improve the department’s alignment to strategic priorities in UHR, business and finance and the university; and realize greater departmental visibility and an increased customer base.

3) Marketing – contemporize marketing communication and promotion. LPD’s marketing efforts have evolved to include responsive design, a blog, videos and social media, making getting the word out about offerings much easier.

4) Financial Practice – incorporate contemporary business practice into financial management. Financial transparency is key. Financials of the LPD unit are shared at department staff meetings through monthly analysis reports, visual reminders of revenue goals are on display in the staff meeting room, and financial goals are set at least six months in advance, all of which allow staff to have a better understanding of their role in the financial viability of the organization.

5) Measurement – implement a scorecard to integrate key metrics into business management practice. Use of the scorecard resulted in a “deep dive” in understanding of what levers drive LPD’s success.

By taking a deliberate, measured approach to rebuilding its business strategy, LPD is changing the way UMich does learning and professional development.

Related Resources:
Training and Development Toolkits in CUPA-HR’s Knowledge Center
CUPA-HR’s Learning Framework (must-have competencies for today’s higher ed HR pro)

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