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See the Forest for the Trees
Where should learning leaders prioritize development efforts — the organization or its people? To do one, they have to do the other.
The highest aspirations of the learning profession prescribe organizational development — a direct effort to increase a company’s effectiveness. This means strategically deploying learning to further a company’s mission — the goal employees work to accomplish. But focusing on this too much may mean learning leaders lose their grip on what is essential to the success of their companies: people.The question is, what should learning and development professionals focus on, organizational or workforce development? Does it depend on a learning leader’s style or a company’s overall approach to learning? Is it necessary to focus on one or the other, or is it best to blend the two?
It depends on who you ask. According to Gary Mangiofico, workforce development feeds into organizational development.“Organization development, generally speaking, would be inclusive of workforce development and employee development because you’re constantly trying to build the capacity of the organization to respond to its context or current business situation,” said Mangiofico, director of the Master of Science in Organization Development Program at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University. “So in that sense, workforce development could be seen as a component of organizational development, as opposed to something separate or in opposition to.”Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations and co-chairman of VitalSmarts, a corporate training and organizational development consultancy, agrees. “I’m sure there’s value in exploring the question as a set of poles, but it’s a false and dangerous dichotomy,” he said. “It really needs to be workforce development within the context of organization development.”Despite prescribing workforce development as a consideration within organizational development, Mangiofico said there is a difference in their design, and focusing too much on the big picture may mean individual employee learning suffers.“When you’re concerned strictly with the managerial strategies, you may focus on doing things so correctly or precisely that the human element is overlooked. But [organization design] and the use of organizational development to support anything strategically would by its very definition automatically consider what are employee development needs in order to achieve what one wanted to achieve. So I don’t really see them as necessarily either/or.”
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