NZIM : Learning & training – Lessons on Learning : Are we up with the play?

When it comes to embracing the latest ideas in management training and learning, New Zealand’s smallness may be its “saving grace”. That is at least one interpretation NZIM Northern CEO, Kevin Gaunt, puts on his observations from the ASTD’s recent conference in San Diego.
“It was,” he says, “reassuring to attend conference of this scope and size and find that, when it comes to management training, NZIM and New Zealand are up there with the rest of the world.” In Gaunt’s opinion, developments at NZIM in recent years have ensured that it is aligned with world training and learning trends. “I couldn’t identify any real gaps,” he added.
In considering that reality, Gaunt thinks perhaps New Zealand’s smallness and isolation are strength rather than disadvantage when it comes to keeping up with world trends. “As soon as someone brings some new information back from overseas, it moves quickly through our internal infrastructure,” he offers. “Ideas are spread wide and fast and there is strong general uptake.”
Whatever the driving process, both Gaunt and NZIM Southern training manager, Glenda Hamilton, who also attended the conference along with the NZIM Foundation’s four 2008 Scholarship winners, felt similarly about the generally up-to-speed state of local learning and training offerings. “The themes coming out of the conference were very affirming of our approach,” said Hamilton. And the positive experience of attending the ASTD conference motivated her to “lift our (training and learning) game even further”, she said.
Did the conference tell them anything they didn’t already know about the future direction of management learning? Nothing radical or revolutionary, according to Gaunt. But the experience helped sharpen his perspective on what is happening in the learning and training development world.
There was, he said, focus on developing high performing teams and strong recog­nition of the barriers to team performance. This he attributed to the current popularity of Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of Team.
Gaunt rated Lencioni the outstanding speaker of the conference and found his message on the five dysfunctions of teams “revealing”. His five dysfunctions are:
• Absence of trust
• Fear of conflict
• Lack of commitment
• Avoidance of accountability
• Inattention to results.
From his own experiences in developing NZIM’s Management Competency Model, Gaunt says he realises that “a significant amount of high-level leadership competency and skill we identified is around how leaders are able to build trust within team which then opens the door to high performance,” he said.
For Hamilton, the ASTD experience emphasised the key certainty, apart from taxes and death, that change is with us forever. “It may not be possible to predict long-term direction but change is inevitable. Our ability to build flexibility into strategy; capability into teams; and responsiveness into the decision-making process will,” she said “go long way towards meeting organisational needs through learning and development in the future.”
Hamilton was also captivated by the ‘return on investment’ stream of thinking that pervaded the conference. “Organisations need to justify learning and development and their L&D team have professional obligation to measure and provide evidence [of an ROI],” she said. “The challenge is knowing what to measure, when to measure, at what level to measure and how frequently to measure. And fitting hand-in-glove with ROI is managing performance with clearly identified competencies,” she added.
Hamilton also failed to sight “anything revolutionary” on the learning and training horizon. “I had no personal L&D epiphany which,” she said, “is in one sense reassuring. I haven’t returned home thinking we are so far off the mark. Rather, I feel affirmed in our strategic direction and challenged to move more confidently in areas that we are currently exploring or proposing.”
So, do New Zealand organisations rank internationally in their understanding and acceptance of global trends in management training and learning? Gaunt believes we need to understand the three very separate groups of organisations in New Zealand.
The first, which makes up about 90 percent of the market, consists of organisations of less than 20 employees. The second is made up of mid-sized enterprises and then, there are the “very few” large organisations. “The large organisations, such as Fonterra, are right up there with top-level world-class training and development,” said Gaunt. “And they have an important role in seeding this expertise throughout the New Zealand economy.
“The rest range from being excellent to mediocre. This is no different to anywhere else in the world, it’s just that New Zealand has an imbalance of large number of small to large organisations. But overall, I think New Zealand is well served with high quality training providers. Particularly NZIM,” he adds.
Hamilton agrees New Zealand has large number of smaller companies and organisations which presents some problems. “The majority of New Zealand companies cannot afford the luxury of, say, staff member solely working in learning and development and this impacts the resources that can be allocated to the process,” she said.
“But I also think we have opportunities to add value to learning and development in New Zealand through better needs analysis; understanding and valuing more the role of L&D in business; utilising competencies in learning and development and performance management beyond compliance to gain qualification or unit standards and, utilising broader range of L&D options to address business needs – and the answer to this is not always training,” she said.
Gaunt’s overall impression of the state of management learning and development programmes offered in New Zealand compared with that offered and delivered in other countries is generally positive. “We are well informed and our offering is comparable with the rest of the world,” he said. “And in few areas we are, to some extent, thinking ahead of the pack.” Discovering that, he said, was “heartening and motivating”.
Hamilton is similarly enthusiastic. “This [learning and training] is about shaping New Zealand’s future leaders and managers,” she said. “Through our professionalism we can contribute to their lives and everyone’s future. NZIM has significant role to play in setting and communicating standards, providing forums for debate and discussion and in recognising professionalism.”

Kevin Gaunt is CEO of NZIM Northern.
Glenda Hamilton is training manager of NZIM Southern.

Visited 8 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window