Inspiring Corporate Learning

Martin Moehrle and Steven Smith introduce the new EFMD CLIP framework.

Learning is a key factor of success for organisations in today’s dynamic business and societal environments. But how to ensure that your learning function is fully aligned with your organisation’s strategy and business priorities? And what is excellence in corporate learning actually all about? How do you get a fair outside-in view of your learning and development function that is not a check-the-box process but one that takes your business context into account, engages your stakeholders, and fuels your function’s strategic development?

These were the kinds of questions addressed by EFMD’s launch of its Corporate Learning Improvement Process (CLIP) in the early 2000s, under the leadership of Gordon Shenton, its first Director. CLIP has since become the premier quality management tool for corporate learning. It combines assessment and development of a learning function and rests upon a framework of quality standards. And its tested process of self-assessment and peer review allows the learning function to engage its stakeholders in a constructive dialogue on its current state and its future ambition.

Since CLIP’s inception, corporate learning has evolved remarkably. Continuous transformation has become the new normal within organisations, requiring ongoing reskilling and upskilling of the workforce. This has pushed learning from being a formal activity to become increasingly embedded into the work itself. Digitalisation has also moved to the forefront, bringing with it the power of data analytics. This allows for greater focus on learner experience and the personalisation of learning. In addition, the combination of continuous transformation and digitalisation requires the learning function to synchronise its learning strategy to the business in real-time through agile work practices, often drawing on an eco-system of internal and external partners to co-create solutions.

In 2017, a survey among the EFMD corporate network identified six challenges for corporate learning and six obstacles that need to be overcome to adequately cope with them (cf. figure 1).

The transformation of corporate learning

Figure 1: The transformation of corporate learning: from learning provider to learning enabler (EFMD Global Focus, 12(1), pp. 46–49)

To better reflect this new environment, EFMD decided last year to carry out a comprehensive refresh of the CLIP model of excellence in corporate learning, valid from 2021 onward. The now modernised and simplified CLIP framework is structured in five chapters, each with three standards composed of four criteria. The chapter flow follows a clear value chain logic and covers all relevant aspects of a world-class learning organisation.

The first chapter covers the strategy of the learning function, its positioning, governance, and value creation logic. Chapter 2 deals with the target markets served and their segmentation, the connections with learners and their managers, as well as the integration of businesses along the learning value chain. The learning function’s offer for its various market segments is the subject of chapter 3, including its cohesiveness, design, and deployment. Chapter 4 looks at the resources that the learning function orchestrates, beginning with its own team and continuing with how it builds and leverages an internal and external learning ecosystem. Finally, chapter 5 addresses the impact of the learning function on individuals, businesses, the enterprise, and society, and the respective measurement and feedback loop into strategy (cf. figure 2).

CLIP quality framework: corporate learning

Figure 2: the new CLIP quality framework: 5 chapters, 15 standards, 60 criteria

Three transversal themes cut through all five chapters: digital, agile, and international. The digital transformation pervades all aspects of corporate learning. Agile comprises responsiveness, flexibility, personalisation, among other topics. And the international mindset and connectivity of the learning function allow organisations to learn from and with the world, even if they have a limited geographic footprint.

The CLIP framework takes a broad view of Corporate Learning & Development and covers both the professionalism applied in all learning and development processes and practices, as well as their grounding in business and organisational reality and their link to the company’s strategic and transformation agenda. The CLIP process continues to rest on the two main pillars of self-assessment and peer review. Four peers from the CLIP community interview all relevant stakeholders of a learning function to then identify and give feedback on points of excellence, strengths, areas for development and considerations for the future.

The benefits of pursuing a CLIP accreditation remain unchanged. These include

  • internal recognition within the organisation, getting awareness and buy-in for the cause learning, and the role and plans of the learning function among all stakeholders
  • contribution to the employer brand, especially as learning has become a prominent aspect of the employer value proposition
  • acceleration of the function’s strategic development by validating and enriching the strategic roadmap of the corporate learning function
  • access to the CLIP community of forward-looking learning and talent development leaders.

The redesign task force was led by Steven Smith, co-author of this article and former EVP at Capgemini and CLO at Nordea Bank. Our heartfelt thanks go to him and all other members of the global CLIP community who so generously contributed time and expertise to this project. We are proud of the outcome and can already witness how the refreshed CLIP framework continues to inspire learning and development functions around the world to join the club of those who have already gone through accreditation.

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