Understanding the critical role that the department of Human Resources plays in an organization is becoming increasingly important for those of us in the learning business. And who better to explain this than Nick Schacht, Senior Vice President for Professional Development and Global Operations at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest HR professional society. Prior to joining SHRM, Nick held CEO and other C-level positions at a range of learning and development companies – including one he founded – so he has valuable perspectives to offer on the business of learning.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff talks with Nick about the evolving role of HR , how they influence education and training decisions, and the concept and implications of competency frameworks – both for individuals and organizations.
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[00:18] – Jeff highlights a new initiative they’ve launched – a new ReviewMyLMS site they’ve worked on with the folks at 100 Reviews. The site is now ready to go and the first stage of making it as valuable as possible is to collect reviews. If you contribute a review to the site, you get access to all of the other reviews on the site at no charge. Just go to ReviewmyLMS.com, click “Give a Review,” and follow the instructions for completing the brief questionnaire. You will get the satisfaction of helping out peers at other organizations and you will also have continuing access to reviews of other systems as they come in.
[01:19] – We also want to thank the Founding Sponsors of the ReviewMyLMS site. We feel like the ability to get high quality, dependable reviews from peer organizations has been a gap in the association and broader learning business market for a long time, so we are really excited to know that it will soon be filled with support from the following companies:
[02:11] – Highlighted Resource of the Week – The Learning Business Maturity Model™ – gives a framework for assessing the maturity of your learning business and taking action to reach higher levels of maturity and performance.
[02:49] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Jeff talks with Nick Schacht, Senior Vice President for Professional Development and Global Operations at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
[04:52] – Introduction to Nick and how he wound up on his career path.
[06:45] – Nick talks about what he does in his role at SHRM and how they support HR professionals.
[08:29] – It seems that the role of HR has evolved quite a lot over the past decade or so and that it’s viewed as a much more strategic role within organizations. What’s your perspective on that and then, specifically how that relates into the role that HR plays in training and development as it happens these days within organizations? Nick discusses how HR has evolved – and continues to evolve – from simply “personnel” to a wide range of functions and competencies that really enable, not only a service economy, but a knowledge economy. HR isn’t just about finding people and getting them on board, it’s about making sure an organization is looking for the right kind of talent, attracting that talent, and then developing that talent through a structured process that not only closes skills gaps today but identifies the skills required for success tomorrow and provides development opportunities to close those skills gaps almost before they emerge. So it’s a much more strategic function in part because the role of people in organizations today is much broader and much larger than in the old “process and equipment” oriented economy that you might have seen a half century ago.
[12:45] – For those with learning and education offerings they want to take into an organization/company/enterprise, how do they need to interface with the HR professional? And how can they convey they have the right solution and that they understand the role the HR professional plays in the enterprise? Nick says if you were to go back 30 years (when he started in this business) it was pretty clearly a 50/50 split in terms of what percentage of training in organizations was bought by HR versus what percentage was bought by everybody else. At that time HR was much more likely to be the organization to buy all of your commoditized training (ex: compliance training, generic leadership development programs, basic communication skills, etc.). However, in the functional organizations you got training purchased that was in support of specific projects or programs. Nick explains how this was a division of competencies—basic competencies that everyone has to have to the more strategic competencies.
[15:24] – Nick talks about where we are going in terms of the role of HR professionals explaining they are business leaders. In the context of buying training or learning development, he says it will be much more set around the application of consistently, constantly changing competency models across a wide range of organizational functions and skill sets—so HR can be a key strategic player in helping with what the organization needs to be successful for today and more importantly, tomorrow. He recommends that if you’re a provider of learning and development, not to think of yourself as a provider of a static set of products or courses, rather look at yourself in the context of what competencies are you enabling individuals to develop and how are those competencies are developing over time. You can then help to position your clients to meet the evolving needs for competencies in their organizations.
[18:22] – A further discussion about the importance of learning providers developing an understanding of the competency models with which an organization is working. This means there will be a need for more consultative type sales rather than just transactional sales. Nick suggests that learning and development professionals, as providers, be competent in the concept of competency models and in the vocabulary related to them. They need to be able to understand how to use a competency-based framework as a lens to identify, view, and direct training and development. While they may not be specifically knowledgeable in the competency models used by a specific customer organization, they need to be prepared to go in and have the conversation around them—so being prepared to engaged at a peer level or as a leader will inevitably position people for greater success.
[20:28] – Can you talk a little about the distinction between the individual competency model and the organizational competency framework and how that plays out within organizations? Nick explains that an individual competency model is a set of competencies that can be deconstructed into specific activities or behaviors that evolve with different levels of maturity for an individual in a specific role. When you combine them and configure them into job profiles, you can go out and measure an individual’s actual competency against the desired competency to identify gaps—so they tell you what an individual must be able to do to perform a role in an organization. On the other hand an organizational competency model defines the practices in which an organization needs to be competent to succeed both strategically and tactically.
[23:19] – How has all of this (role of the HR professional, the idea of individual and organizational competency frameworks) informed what SHRM itself is doing as a learning provider? How has it impacted your own strategy and tactics in that area? Nick shares that a number of years ago SHRM developed their own body of competency and knowledge which is their individual competency framework. This has formed a basis for the SHRM CP and SHRMP SCP, certifications which they now offer for HR professionals. These define the behavioral and functional competencies for HR professionals across a wide range of interpersonal behaviors and technical competencies. Nick says they are just in the beginning stages of looking at what the organizational framework in which those individual competencies are applied and how organizations themselves determine the level of their HR performance overall. Once these are established, they should provide an umbrella within which HR practitioners can function with a very clear strategic direction and mandate.
[25:41] – How much has technology made possible around managing competencies that maybe wasn’t possible 30 years ago? Nick acknowledges that it could’ve been done but it would’ve required a lot to track everything and the automated tools we now have make it much easier, not only to perform those tasks, but for individuals to get meaningful information.
[28:47] – What are some other trends you’re seeing out there and, in general, what really has you excited right now when you think about what’s possible in the field of learning and development? Nick shares he’s excited about our ability to increasingly simulate the environments within which people work – and not just on the technical side. He says some of this has to do with the application of artificial intelligence. If you combine this with adaptive learning you then create learning and development systems that get really smart at figuring out how competent an individual is in a specific area—and then providing them the level of learning and development they need to develop the desired competency as efficiently as possible. It is also discussed that AI will likely fundamentally change the competency map in a lot of organizations.
[33:15] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education? Nick reveals that it was actually when he did drivers ed with his daughter and he explains what made the experience so powerful.
[37:13] – How to learn more about SHRM and/or connect with Nick:
[38:03] – Wrap Up
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[40:02] – Sign off