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Balance leadership and corporate development resources during transformation

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At Curio, we’re proud to partner with clients in education, health and financial services as they re-think how to deliver learning and training to students, staff, leaders and stakeholders.

The sectors we focus on – education, health and financial services – are each undergoing profound changes in how supply and demand come together. That necessitates hard-thinking and big decisions about what the organisation does, how it creates value and how it performs relative to direct and indirect competitors.

We understand that this process isn’t easy. Implementing those big decisions and bringing about impactful change is even more difficult.

There’s a bevy of literature on organisational transformation. I don’t propose to add to it here.

Instead, I want to draw attention to a mismatch between learning and development resources allocated to leadership and corporate functions.

We’ve advised clients on bespoke programs for leaders before, during and after intense change.  However, we’re asked far less often to prepare the same for leaders within corporate functions, like finance and human resources.

We think that’s a serious omission.

Giving leaders adequate support to establish and guide top-down is just one side of the transformation equation.

Equally important is broad-based, bottom-up performance improvement that equips staff with fresh approaches to collaborating, implementing key initiatives, solving problems and improving performance.

This goes beyond functional teams responsible for policy, product or delivery. “Humble” corporate functions shouldn’t be left out.

In fact, we’d happily argue that leaders, managers and practitioners within finance and human resources are instrumental in identifying and implementing new ways of working.

Think about it.  

HR functions are responsible for identifying and building capabilities and team structures for the future.

Finance functions, particularly their design and interpretation of internal policies and standards, are critical to empowering new ways of work and change initiatives.

Not involving these functions in change management, or not investing adequate resources in their training during transformation, are equally detrimental.

Without recourse to dreaded buzzwords and consultant-speak, designing meaningful training and development programs for corporate functions gives real momentum to change initiatives.

Indeed, McKinsey research shows that the success rate of digital transformations improves by 1.5 times when a generously-resourced, whole-of-organisation workforce and talent development program is in place.

But what does a meaningful training and development program involve in reality?

It varies greatly between organisations but there are a few key principles. Learning and development initiatives need to first and foremost start from a clear set of goals, which match up with an organisation’s wider strategy and vision.

Whilst leaders guiding top-down is one side of the transformation equation, to ensure corporate functions are adequately involved in the process, it’s vital that change management and development programs have leadership, and ownership, from the top. This influence can then be leveraged this influence to foster relationships, build networks and create advocates across the organisation, including corporate functions in particular, making it more likely a whole-of-organisation program will be sustainable and widely adopted.

When designing new ways of working and associated training, there’s also tremendous opportunity to develop a deep understanding of staff learning preferences through engaging and fully utilising the knowledge within HR and finance teams, ultimately enabling the right resources, tools and technology to be deployed.

Thoroughly understanding the workforce also makes it easier to tailor training to their specific needs and goals, and creating engaging development programs that match up to each individual’s day-to-day activities; providing them with a thorough understanding of what change entails.

It’s only through engaging with all departments, including HR and finance, that an organisation can become fully aware of the desired and necessary change might be amongst corporate functions, meaning that learning and development initiatives can be planned accordingly, with a thorough understanding of capability and skills gaps, alongside business priorities. This understanding can only be gained through involving these corporate functions at the outset.

Don’t fall for a mismatch in learning and development resources allocated to leadership and corporate functions.

If you’re taking organisation transformation seriously and would like to reach out to talk about what meaningful learning and development looks like in times of change, you can get in touch here.

about the writer

David Bowser


David has over 20 years’ experience in education, R&D and financial services both as a neuroscientist (Melbourne and Cambridge Universities for 14 years) and leading strategy consultant where he was retained by CEOs, government departments and their executive teams to advise on their most complex strategic issues (Nous Group, Principal and Education sector leader for six years). In 2016 he created Curio, a collective of advisors, educators and product developers focused on working directly with education and training organisations to improve human learning. Over the last five years he has led Curio from Melbourne on its amazing growth journey – annually doubling in size to now over 230 people in offices across Australia and United Kingdom. Learn more about David
Talk to David about:
  • Data, analytics and learning
  • Digital strategy and architecture
  • Facilitation and consultation
  • Marketing and sales
  • People and capability
  • Strategy
Contact David on:

P: +61 488042818


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