A tale of two companies: HMT and Chrysler
Possibly a contemporary comparison of the two learning and development experiences is the case of Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) and Chrysler. The learning and development events at HMT and Chrysler are comparable despite having different industries and geographies due to their similar management labor approach that boosts management teams and trade unions endeavor to renew their learning and development policies. This is done to set-up multi learning taskforces, build flexibility, multi skilling, and job enrichment for both workers and supervisors. For example , setting up of workers and managers' forum to a) achieve a target 70% higher profit by using new equipment and flexible work rules including a 5 member management - worker team for implementing new learning skills and promoting development activities to upgrade managerial services and training standards. These initiatives are also meant to amalgamate government's moves to make Learning more flexible. The result, HMT is presently undergoing one of its most turbulent periods with the closure of its Hyderabad plant after nearly 60 years.
A differentiator of Chrysler's approach that continues its sustainability is that it follows a regular process of negotiation, consultation and consensus for building an industrial relations environment that encourages collective learning through an in house learning and development program prior to initiating any restructuring changes. So when faced with bankruptcy, Chrysler actively sought options to continue its brand and keep its plants operational in the US. Their efforts paid off as Fiat acquired its first 20% stake in 2009 and completed its acquisition by acquiring 100% stake in 2014. With this acquisition Chrysler successfully kept its brand and continued producing cars in the United States.
Developing a compliant and futuristically oriented learning across levels is never a sure shot recipe for success. No doubt compliant learning through standards has its place, but equally important is to facilitate future competitiveness along with technical education for workers to balance productivity, compensation, engagement and build long term trust and relationship. Rules versus laws can ensure 100% productivity and profitability for workers but contextual, strategic and tactical learning paradigms capitalize on its intended behaviors for building employee- management relationships with external stakeholder relevance.
Strategic learning paradigm (SLP)
SLP is an understanding of single loop or double loop learning and meta-level learning that help organizations to learn. Single loop learning is when organizations learn to reduce existing errors by improving on internal processes. Double loop is when organizations align their learning to the external context. Meta learning dynamically propels organizations to automatically recalibrate itself and link the external context to strategic and tactical considerations. SLP cannot change beliefs and values that cognition; skills and behaviors may bring but can successfully rethink new industrial processes and systems connecting specialized information and knowledge for current and future use. For employers rethinking business strategy and investing in new capabilities and for employees to learn new capabilities is a win-win situation for both as it will improve employability of workers and grow into a successful and sustainable company.
Tactical learning paradigm (TLP)xx
TLP comprises of operant, cognitive and social learning and is a fact finder for controlling newly learnt behaviors. Operant learning manipulates consequences like simple overtime agreements between superior and employees that can lead to behavior like employees engaging in overtime and consequence of getting the superior's praise. Cognitive learning includes decisions by employees to do things after examining the ways people get the rewards to eliminate felt inequities. Social learning includes reciprocal environmental interactions like demands to define rights and duties, giving advices, warnings and summons. This promotes self-efficacy and control over knowledgeable resources like collective learning, information technology, management education and industry culture and policies.
Contextual learning paradigm (CLP)
CLP recognizes continuous adaptation to technology and environment for assimilating information and makes decisions. An effective inspection policy by the Ministry of Labour and Employment integrates laws and unions to make the factory inspections legally viable and strong including implementation of a web portal for better employees' safety and health. Similar to a SWOT analysis, well planned learning process can become a solution finder for linking context to strategic and tactical levels, if the 3 proponents of learning - people, environment and behaviors are constantly monitored allowing interactions between 3 stakeholders - government, employers and employees . The government is explicitly linking reforms to ease of doing business by legislating business flexibility and competitiveness laws. Employers can identify employability skill gaps and come up with training plans for their workforce to scale up their skills and productivity by continuous implementation of skill development training and auditing its effectiveness. For employees, learning in lifetime will transform their basic education and experience into specialized knowledge, skills and employability.
Organizational learning needs to be a continuous collaborative effort of managers, employee and external stakeholders focused on the contextual movements and with programs that account the strategic and tactical paradigm aimed at organizational sustainability. Reliance Industries Limited, Nagothane manufacturing division, Infosys Technologies Limited, Wipro Limited and ICICI Bank Limited are prominent companies that have won Best Learning Organization awards but question is: are they learning organizations? This is an optimistic sign which clearly shows that Indian organizations are serious about learning and organizational sustainability. An effective learning approach for new learning paradigms and practices presented in this article when combined with economies of scale, business flexibility and competitiveness may be an opportunity for leadership to discuss past reforms for sustaining future successes.