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Companies turn to “personal learning clouds” to develop executive talent. For instance, Sankaranarayanan “Paddy” Padmanabhan, executive chairman at Tata Business Excellence Group, says, “Tata runs a leadership culturalization program.” He explains, “It’s very important that people be exposed to various companies within Tata, so we send executives to spend two or three days in different parts of the group. They immerse themselves, meet people and create informal networks. We also do a lot through webinars. Development has gone far beyond the classroom: Today it’s more of a conversation, with a lot of emphasis on building a knowledge network.” Learning at companies has moved from instructor-led classrooms to virtual and other options, and companies are no longer just global, but also more virtual with more people working from home, says Samantha Hammock, chief learning officer at American Express. As careers become less linear, human resources (HR) needs to have dynamic learning strategies in place to address a variety of needs. Padmanabhan says the basis of any learning program is to outline and define the competency framework that addresses the skills and attributes required for every leadership role. Nick van Dam, former global chief learning officer at McKinsey & Company, adds, “Leadership development is an ecosystem. There’s learning on the job; there’s client experience; there’s staffing, apprenticeship and mentoring. Each is a building block. So is our performance culture. We have very clear expectations of people at different points in their careers, and we give extensive feedback that provides ongoing development goals. That lets people personalize their development.” One thing HR must remember is that hard skills can quickly become obsolete, especially in technical roles, and he adds that in many cases employees want HR to direct the right development courses their way. Personalization is not only about what courses and skills they are interested in to develop their careers, but how they want to learn (i.e., classroom vs. virtual) and how much time they want to allocate to learning programs. Hammock adds, “Cohorts are critical. Even with virtual work, a top success factor is a well-rounded, diverse cohort that helps people feel engaged. We put a lot of care into assembling these groups so that our employees have a positive experience.”

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