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Using a Learning Council:Case Study-Part II

Case Study: Using a Learning Council to Ease the Move from a Decentralized to a Centralized Learning and Development Group – Part II

Part I of this post covered the case study background and up to the one year mark. We continue Part II with one year later and ongoing use of a Learning Council.

One Year Later

At the one year mark the L&D groups have been centralized into one L&D group, supporting the entire organization.  In addition to developing and implementing training programs for each of the business functions, the L&D group is also responsible for programs related to succession planning – such as mentoring and coaching programs, developing high potentials and sourcing and working with external resources as needed to develop and implement programs.

The three managers of the L&D group met with each functional manager in order to understand their needs around training and education, and develop a strategic plan to ensure that those needs are met over the course of the next two years.

Additionally, at the one year mark, the CEO met with the organization in “all staff” meetings to talk about the transition, the challenges and how they were met, introduce the new centralized L&D group, and explain the responsibilities of L&D staff.

The New Learning Council

The Learning Council was quite successful in their efforts to consolidate from 5 L&D groups to 1 central group.  When issues arose, they were addressed quickly and professionally.  The group was inclusive, frequently reaching out to get feedback and take the pulse of the organization as a whole as to progress.

Given the success of the Learning Council, it was decided that moving forward a Learning Council would still exist within the organization, made up of the following individuals:

  • SVP of L&D
  • SVPs of each business function

These individuals were already on the previous Learning Council.

  • L&D Senior Manager
  • L&D Training Manager
  • L&D Development Manager
  • Mid-level management from each of the business functions
  • Staff level individuals from each of the business functions

The purpose of the Learning Council was now:

  • To share information
  • Discuss needs/objectives and look for commonalities
  • Problem solve issues
  • Work as a group to develop strategic learning plans
  • Make decisions as a group on L&D programs to run during the year to meet business functions’ needs

The Learning Council would meet once a quarter and report back to the executive team on a bi-annual basis.  Other members would be added to the Council as it made sense.  For example, when discussions arose on high potential programs or succession planning programs, it was likely that the Council would include only high-level executives and senior management, and mid-level management and staff level individuals would not participate in those meetings.

The Council, when it kicked off after the launch of a centralized L&D group, did so as a brand new group – holding an initial 2 hour team building and objective setting session.  This initial meeting was attended by the executive team – including the CEO.

Six Months after a Centralized L&D Group in Place

The new centralized L&D group has been running smoothly.  After development of a strategic L&D plan, it was decided that the L&D group will likely have to grow to a staff of about 25 – 30 within another year to year and a half to accommodate the needs of the organization.

A survey done at the six month mark of both L&D employees, and managers and select others within the business functions, showed the following:

The business functions were pleased with the direction the organization had taken: moving to a centralized L&D group:

  • Better support for initiatives – business function managers felt like their needs were understood and that the L&D team members brought some interesting and unique ideas to the table.
  • Improved sharing of information across functions – L&D helped in the sharing of information between business functions – bringing the functions together when there were issues or concerns that could be addressed through education to develop programs that could work for more than one group – thereby reducing costs overall and improving how the functions worked together.
  • Quicker “time-to-market” for new programs – new programs were released at least 2 – 4 weeks earlier than they would have been in the past.

Additionally, a plan has been put in place by the L&D group, with the support of the business functions and the executive leadership team, to ensure that all high impact programs – such as the leadership programs, coaching, etc. – are evaluated for business impact and ROI.  In fact, it is expected that within 2 – 3 years a team will be brought in the L&D group who will be solely responsible for business impact and ROI studies of select L&D programs.

Another Year Later

At the one year mark after consolidation of the L&D group, another survey of the same individuals continued to show success of the centralized L&D group.

Additionally, a strategic plan was completed that included:

  • Succession planning programs
  • High potential programs
  • Onboarding programs for new hires and those moving to management roles
  • A business impact and ROI plan for all strategic initiatives
  • An online surveying tool for all programs to gather feedback through to level 3: application of new skills and knowledge
  • Regularly scheduled breakfast meetings and “lunch and learns” for all staff to promote continuous learning within the organization

Additionally, three of the individuals who had left the organization early on in the process were rehired within the L&D group.

At this point, the L&D group had 22 employees, with expectations of 8 more hires within another 6 months.


Harper Energy Services made good use of a Learning Council to make a difficult transition from decentralized L&D groups to one centralized group.  While there were some bumps along the way, the Learning Council held to the mission, frequently communicating with the organization to keep everyone apprised of the direction they were heading and how they were getting there.  When issues arose, the organization worked quickly to correct them and continue to move forward.

The continued use of the Learning Council was part of the strategic plan to ensure that L&D continued to play a key role within the organization, working closely with the business functions to support the business and growth needs of the organization.

Of most importance in the process was the communication strategy across the organization.  This was a major change within the organization.  It was important that plenty of time was allocated to prepare the organization for the change and ensure a smooth transition to minimize the impact on the organization.  Overall, the organization was pleased with the direction taken and saw the benefits of having a centralized L&D group fairly immediately after it’s rollout.  Additionally, L&D really stepped up to the plate and became a strategic component of the organization – laying the foundation for a continuous learning environment and working in partnership with the business functions to ensure their needs are met and that each business function was actively involved in all program development and follow up for their staff.

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