May 10

The Importance Of An Effective Learning And Development Approach

Heinz Landau
Heinz Landau is a seasoned business leader who has gained valuable working and leadership experience on three different continents.

Sadly, a few weeks ago, Dr. Hermann-Peter Weicht, a very good friend and former colleague of mine, passed away. He has had a major impact on my life, since he was a great source of inspiration for me.

Professionally, he had more impact on me than anybody else. He took a deep interest in areas like learning and development, leadership, management, entrepreneurial thinking, strategy and marketing, and so do I. Dr. Weicht was a true “people person”. And one more thing that brought us closely together is the love for our favourite football club, Borussia Dortmund.

Dr. Weicht had been in charge of learning and development at the German based pharmaceutical and chemical company Merck KGaA for more than 25 years. He was considered as one of the leading professionals in his field in Germany. His masterpiece was the establishment of the “Merck University”, one of the very first corporate universities in Germany. It is a program for senior executives of Merck from countries all over the world that offered them the opportunity to attend 4 two week – modules in renowned universities like Kellogg (USA), University of Science & Technology (Hongkong), WHU (Germany) and INSEAD (France).

Apart from the resulting increased knowledge of the executives, the Merck University had a major impact on the company culture (=the glue that holds the organization together) due to the development of strong informal networks of the executives attending.

Dr. Weicht (and so am I) was a strong believer in the fact that it is people who are the No. 1 success factor for an enterprise. It is people who are developing a business plan and a strategy. It is people who execute the plan and the strategy and who are delivering the business results.

Dr. Weicht (and so am I) was a strong believer in the fact that it is people who are the No. 1 success factor for an enterprise. It is people who are developing a business plan and a strategy. It is people who execute the plan and the strategy and who are delivering the business results.

Dr. Weicht realized that personal effectiveness and organizational effectiveness are crucial to the attainment of corporate objectives. He emphasized on the company’s responsibility to develop people in line with business needs in order to be able to achieve organizational goals. And he equally stressed the responsibility of employees for self development. Dr. Weicht, a strong advocate of lifelong learning, made this point particularly to managers, since some of them, as soon as they have reached a certain hierarchical level, tempt to think that they do not need to develop themselves any more.

During my time as managing director at Merck Thailand, we had over the years more than 100 management interns from top universities, mainly from Germany. I am still in contact with many of them. On one side, I am surprised how many of them complain about a lack of development opportunities provided by their companies. On the other side, I am disappointed to hear that quite a lot of them are so busy with their daily operational work that it hardly occurs to them that they still have to actively seek for development opportunities.

The learning and development programs that Dr. Weicht and his team had developed for the Merck Group had various characteristics:

-          Alignment with the business goals of the organization

-          Practical (e.g. working on projects dealing with real challenges that the organization is facing)

-          A certain emphasis on young people, since they still have huge development needs and represent the future of the company

-          International

-          Holistic (across all levels of the organization)

In this context, I can share with you a mistake that I made during my time at Merck Thailand. Initially, we focused the majority of our learning and development efforts on about 20% of our employees, the top performers. Although this group of employees was very happy with our development efforts for them, the remaining 80% were dissatisfied as clearly expressed in our employee satisfaction survey. When we realized that, we re-distributed our learning and development budget in a way that it benefited people across the company while still having one or the other program specifically serving our top performers.

Continuously developing their employees enables companies to succeed in today’s ever faster changing business environment and to create a competitive advantage. At the same time, it helps employees to master the ever increasing challenges and to succeed in their jobs.

I am forever grateful for the learning and development opportunities and programs that Dr. Weicht had established at Merck. They enabled me to climb all the way from an entry level employee (I started as an apprentice at Merck) to the position of a high ranked employee (managing director, chairman, country manager). It is proof for the many opportunities that the learning and development approach of Dr. Weicht had offered. May his soul rest in peace!

And I wish that you as a manager are providing opportunities for your people while still seeking learning opportunities for yourself.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 at 03:17 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Print This Post
Email This Post
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Technorati
  • MisterWong

Leave a comment

Comments are closed.