Originally posted here.
Most of the time when leaders ask for an ROI what they actually mean is tangible business impact, which may or may not be a financial metric, affirms Alexandre Paitre, managing director, BTS. Below, Paitre sits down to discuss training, development, and the business impact of leadership development learning initiatives.
Q. You seem passionate about Asia – having moved here 10 years ago to work in change management. What inspired this move?
Coming from France 10 years ago to open a new business division of a previous company, I knew very soon after moving to Asia that I would be here for a long time. I first relocated to Singapore in 2006 and then soon after that to Taiwan, where I met my wife, where I have lived ever since.
I genuinely consider Taipei to be among the most interesting cities in the world. It’s not a place that reveals itself easily, and you really need an insider to unlock the best of it. Even after so many years Taipei still holds a sense of adventure for me.
In my role I travel most of the time, working with different clients and colleagues. I am incredibly fortunate to still be learning and gaining inspiration from the vibrancy of this region and the diversity of its people.
Q. Having co-founded BTS Asia and setting up eight offices for the team, what has been your most memorable moment?
Late last year we held the annual BTS Asia conference in Hanoi, where we gathered all of our consultants and staff from around the region. Announcing the promotions of some exceptionally talented team members and celebrating their success was incredibly rewarding for me. My most memorable moments are always about our people and their achievements.
We now have eight offices, with many local and regional clients as well as multinationals. This success has enabled us to attract top talent and many of our projects have been held up as BTS global best practices in creativity and quality. I’m proud of what we are doing and excited to see what comes next.
Q. In your current role, leading large-scale organisational change projects, what do you typically identify as the biggest issue firms are facing in Asia?
Asia is such a diverse region that it is not easy to make generalisations. The challenges vary greatly depending on whether it is a Western multinational investing and growing in Asia, or a regional firm expanding globally.
What I find fascinating about Asia is that it amplifies – because of its size, diversity, and pace of development – the very same tensions that large companies experience all over the world. Some of these include managing rapid change, generational shifts and the struggle to engage millennials, outdated leadership models.
This said, there are two main areas where we see firms facing greater challenges in Asia than they do or would in other regions.
The first is the exacerbation of siloed mentality and over-specialisation of careers resulting in reduced cross-functional fluidity and a lack of business acumen. The second relates to cultural and leadership barriers that inhibit creativity, critical thinking and productivity at the front line level.
Q. With your experience in business simulation and delivering learning content, what importance do you find accorded to the L&D function in this region?
Over the past five years, it has been interesting to watch a number of new learning centres and corporate university campuses spring up across the region. This tells us that companies are investing in building leadership and execution capability in Asia, and understand the role that human capital plays in driving growth.
That is not to say that L&D functions in the region have fully transformed into a ‘strategic business advisor’ role. Many of our L&D clients are still on this journey – with a ‘seat at the table’ for some initiatives, and on the periphery for others.
In these times of accelerated change and ongoing uncertainty, L&D can play an even greater role in enabling the business to implement initiatives more quickly, navigate disruptions, and execute strategies.
Getting a ‘seat at the table’ requires complete alignment between L&D objectives and business outcomes. This is why our focus is on context and how to deliver visible business results.
Q. Measuring ROI on learning is a hard call for many HR and L&D practitioners – what is your take on it, and your tip to approaching this issue?
Perhaps surprisingly, we have very few discussions with our clients about ROI. Our conversations focus on how we are going to achieve a specific business outcome.
I believe that most of the time when leaders ask for an ROI what they actually mean is tangible business impact, which may or may not be a financial metric. Leaders press L&D for hard numbers on ROI when they cannot see how investments are linked to business objectives.
The problem of measuring L&D effectiveness has been incorrectly laid down and needs a fundamental change of perspective.
As a strategic partner to the lines of business, L&D’s role is to deliver substantial improvements in human capital performance and accelerate business execution. Each initiative should be directly designed to move the dial on specific business metrics.
This is the heart of the keynote speech I will give at Training & Development Asia 2016, Singapore.
Q. Taking a view as a futurist, what are top 2-3 L&D trends that you expect to take shape in the next five years?
With L&D under pressure to deliver business results, leading companies are already putting increased importance onto the implementation of learning. We expect this trend to accelerate. This includes role-specific interventions (as opposed to competency-based), a greater level of customisation to provide specific context, and increased rigour around practicing and embedding new behaviours.
Increasingly, the line of business will be deeply involved, or even driving the initiative themselves with the support of L&D.