Interview by Jan Rijken, Learning Director at Wiley-Crossknowledge / Visiting professor at IE business school / former CLO at KPMG, ABN-AMRO & Daimler.
Over the last few years Jan Rijken has published a series of articles looking at topics that are fundamental to any L&D department. As the first part of his follow up to these articles and their relevance within the Nordic markets, Jan recently spent some time with Joakim Slorstad Senior VP L&D at Telenor Group discussing the concept of As Global as Possible as Local as Necessary, and what this means for both Joakim and Telenor.
In today’s globalizing business environment it is a risk for the L&D function to hang-on to traditional structures and remain focused on the local business and workplace. There are opportunities in building and scaling-up on local best practices and leveraging these at global L&D level, linked directly to the core business strategy.
In order to achieve this, the L&D organization must find the best possible balance between Global and Local (can also to be read as central<>decentral). The challenge is getting the balance right between local autonomy and global scale and in recent years there has been a swing in balance from local to global L&D. Conversations with 20+ corporate Learning Directors have provided good insights into the pro’s and con’s of centralizing L&D (fig 1)
- Efficiency – cost saving at global level
- Scale and consistency
- Global control
- Clarity on decision making and investments
- Quality of technology and content
- Elevate best practices
- Vendor sourcing – preferred suppliers
- Increase of local costs (short-term)
- Reduced flexibility
- Loss of local commitment (L&D + sponsors)
- Loss of local autonomy
- Standard <> customized solutions
- Reduced time-to-market
- Flexibility of local vendors
The Global-Local balance at Telenor
Recognizing that globalizing L&D in a corporate environment is a long and painful journey that should be tuned to both the structure and culture of the business it became apparent that the only answer to where the optimal balance lies is covered by “As global as possible, as Local as necessary.”
This does justice to both the Pro’s and Con’s stated above and provides corporate L&D leaders the opportunity to define the gap between reality and ambition in their business environment.
Before going into the detail of how to manage the global-local L&D strategy, content & technology we’ve asked Telenor L&D SVP Joakim Slorstad to share his experience and views on global <> local L&D.
- Introduction: tell me about yourself
“I’m Joakim Slorstad and work as SVP Global Learning and Development at Telenor in Norway. I have background in consulting and organisational development and have had different HR and Learning roles at Telenor in the past 12 years. Telenor is a leading telecommunications company across the Nordics and Asia with 20.000 employees. Our business and industry are transforming rapidly, and we have consciously chosen to upskill our global workforce and close the capability gap instead of ‘hire & fire’. We are proud of the fact that on average our employees spent 40 hours on learning in 2019, that inspires our Learning team to support their continuous development in 2020.
- How would you describe the global -local L&D balance at Telenor ?
Telenor is very much globally structured and oriented; our L&D team is truly global and serves the cross-country teams and employees. We have a mandate to run L&D globally, meet every week with the global L&D team and discuss global and local capability needs. I believe we have a good global-local L&D balance, with an open eye for local need and professional design capacity in our global L&D team.
- What’s the biggest current challenge related to your global-local balance ?
Not sure we have 1 biggest challenge, but I can share 3 existing challenges: 1. How to deliver L&D solutions matching the speed of business change at local level: it is a continuous challenge to identify local business needs and act fast enough from our global L&D perspective – we have developed ourselves as a more agile L&D function. 2. The global Telenor challenge of improving the quality of staff development plans and ensuring optimal line management support for applying the learning in the workplace. 3. We need a common Telenor ‘language’ in terms of our company culture and this implies consistency in our learning approach with respect for diversity and local needs in order to engage individual employees in every country.
- Can you share existing best practices of learning initiative at global and local level ?
I have already shared that at Telenor we aim for our learning solutions to be effective, efficient and consistent, this implies we look for scalability and synergy where possible. Our onboarding approach is blended has a more local focus, with a global online module and local Face-to-Face delivery and performance support. Our leadership & talent programs are globally consistent in design and delivery, aiming to develop critical leadership skills for all Telenor leaders in a structured way aligned with our business strategy.”
Managing Global-Local strategy, content & technology
A topic that has not been addressed so far is how to find a global-local balance in the area of L&D content management. Based on research and corporate benchmarking meetings with CLO-peers this appears to be a huge challenge, not only in terms of cost-efficiency but also in relation to consistency, cultural flexibility and buy-in from the local L&D community. Let’s explore the (real) case of an organization with 8 different onboarding programs developed and rolled-out whilst there is 1 global business strategy!
A review showed that 80% of the onboarding content was similar but obviously needless time, energy and resources had been invested to design and deploy the 8 programs. The review recommendation was to pull together a global-expert design group from different locations to design a global onboarding solution, leveraging existing best practices. The result of this was an 80% blended onboarding solution which could be launched in every location with the opportunity for max 20% local adaption to realize a perfect culture fit, in terms of language and cases. This approach led to cost-saving, optimal consistency, higher impact and more buy-in from the local L&D staff, who felt recognized rather than neglected!
Based on research and case studies a global<>local matrix framework has been developed (fig 2). This framework enables corporate L&D functions to realize more L&D efficiency, impact and alignment in their organization, related to L&D content & technology. We have pre-populated the framework with examples and invite you to try this based on your specific L&D environment.
For each content area there’s an opportunity to consider where it makes most sense to plot design and delivery in your organization (3 examples):
- For learning technology it’s most efficient and effective to scope and deliver globally, in practice identify and contract the best technology provider with a relevant learning ecosystem available.
- For personal skills it’s most effective and efficient to design globally and deliver locally, in practice determine the core skills curriculum, design incorporating benchmark content with the option to locally tune or adapt.
- For a specific country-legal program its best designed and delivered locally AND share this local initiative as possible best practice with the global L&D community!
Global L&D strategy and local optimization are twin goals attainable through exploring the “as global as possible, as local as necessary” balance. Local flexibility drives agility, growth, and L&D community and business sponsor engagement. All these ingredients are necessary to develop an L&D organization that is globally “fit for purpose.”