Yes, this was an actual question during a conversation about how in L&D we need to get back to basics.
This is not the first conversation I have had recently on this topic. I have had the absolute pleasure of making new connections recently (Kevin Yates and Amrit Sandhar yes it’s you two!) and I believe it is not a coincidence. I believe there are lots of people thinking the same way…..The topic coming up time after time is how in L&D we seemed to have lost our way. Instead of focussing on the basics (we will look at what those are later) we seem distracted by the new and shiny. I am not averse to the new or shiny at all. I am a self-confessed geek but the new and shiny has to fit the problem not the other way around.
So today I was having a review with Marie Duncan, Head of L&D for Kibble Education. They are a fabulous organisation over 150 years old, dedicated to helping children at risk. At the beginning of November I ran the Learning Loop for a group of 12 trainers and subject matter experts. We were reviewing the impact of the programme and what it has done for them.
We caught up on what has been imbedded and future work. We spoke about conferences and their value, but also how they can lead to a feeling of overwhelm. What do we spend the hard fought budget on and are we really getting value out of what we have? These are key questions on many L&D managers lips.
Then we took a similar path to previous conversations. Is L&D losing its way? What is it about? My opinion on what L&D should be about is:
- Understanding the organisation and its’ purpose
- Aligning L&D activity with the main goals of the organisation
- Conducting a needs analysis when appropriate to inform us of what really needs to be done rather than what presents itself
- Designing something appropriate using the right tools (not just applying the training ‘sticking plaster’ or the new shiny glittery thing)
- Delivering something that meets the objectives and improves something in the organisation (not just a warm glow from the glitter)
- Finding out whether what we did had the impact we said it would and working with the organisation to prove it (with business metrics)
- Enabling line managers to help imbed the learning
Much of what we hear about are new advances in AI, VR, micro-learning, mobile learning, social learning, digitalisation, is all fabulous stuff, but how many in L&D are measuring the impact of what they do? How many have their finger on the pulse of the organisation, to know what is really going on? Are we swayed too much by what the big kids have in the playground?
Listening to all the new advances can we stay focussed? Is it all a distraction? Not-for-profits, voluntary and public sector organisations are strapped for cash and quite often need to know, in Marie’s words “how to imbed what we are doing well and doing it better”.
I love the Towards Maturity reports, giving us all a good idea of what we should be doing and benchmarking against others. Looking outwards can be helpful but so can looking inwards. Each organisation is unique and really understanding its purpose and how that can be fulfilled is crucial. Not all navel gazing is counterproductive! It is about balance.
So where did the tiara come in? When we were talking about all the latest fads, new and shiny things, one of our key concerns was how appropriate they are to the problem you are solving and just because you have one, “would you wear a tiara to the gym?”
I would love to hear your thoughts about ”getting back to basics” and ask two questions:
- Are you getting the L&D basics right?
- If not, what is stopping you?
By the way if this topic is of interest to you, Kevin and I will be recording a podcast in the new year on Trainer Tools going into more depth on this topic.
This title has been taken from the Towards Maturity report published in August of this year. I was immediately drawn to the title and anyone who knows what a maths geek I am will understand why.
I always loved numbers and even just playing with them, multiplying numbers by themselves repeatedly just for fun! Yes I know it’s not normal and I also appreciate that not everyone else has the same love of numbers, in fact quite the opposite. I have several friends who will admit that numbers are almost a phobia.
Reading this report ,it is quite evident that we, in L&D are not great at collecting and using data to its best advantage. Some of the figures that struck me were:
- Of those aspiring data to affect change only 2/5 were able to say that it helped the, demonstrate business impact (40%)
- Also only 3/5 were successful in using data to help solve business problems (60%)
Bear in mind that was from a sample size of 700+ and the two figures above were those people who were really trying to use data affectively. This means in reality that there will also be a number of people not even trying so the 40% and 60% are likely to be very optimistic figures.
The most likely reasons cited were:
- Data and it’s analysis is complicated
- Lack of L&D skills in this area
If I look at the second point first. Why are we not addressing this lack of skills? Is it this phobia of numbers? A fear of what to do once you start collecting? An expectation that things have to change once you start collecting data effectively? Maybe it’s a combination of all three? Or maybe a misconception around what it means to collect and analyse data?
For me it is quite simple (and this may address the first point). In L&D we need to get nosey. When someone asks us to deliver a leadership programme, we need to ask why and how will you know it has been successful? If the first person who asks you doesn’t know, then ask someone else. Is it a real need or a perceived need?
The perceived need may be something like employee engagement scores being low. What we really need to determine is what effect that is having on the performance of the business:
- High recruitment costs?
- Lack of agility in the marketplace because there is a high attrition rate, staff not as familiar as they should be about products?
- Poor customer service because the tools they use have had little investment?
So when you look at these examples, you can start to see it really is not about data analysis, but curiosity, perseverance and a healthy dose of skepticism. If you can pinpoint what the problem is and it is a real business need, then what you need to measure will be very obvious:
- Reduction in recruitment costs
- Reduction in time to market with new products
- Range of new products and uptake
- Attrition rate
- Customer satisfaction scores
These are not L&D statistics these are business measures and having highlighted the purpose of your L&D focus, the business will also want to measure it. That is not to say that at times you are not needed to do some data analysis and collection but I think we are over complicating it and not getting to the nub of the problem.
In my book (currently in first draft) “How not to Waste your Money on Training’ I will show people simply how to “find the story in the data”. Using a simple example of a scoring grid, I will show how you can, using a spreadsheet and playing with different graph types, discover little parts of the truth about what is going on. It takes a click and a small amount of curiosity. If you want to try it out then just use this example, using Excel to play around with different types of charts:
- Bar chart
- Pie chart
- Stacked bar
- Spider diagram
For each format ask yourself “what do I see now?”. Using this approach of curiosity and play I discovered:
- A bar chart gives a good comparison one person against another for each part of their role
- A spider diagram shows how well-rounded each team member is in their own right. Some are not rounded at all! Tracy seems the most well rounded.
- Stacked column shows the teams strengths and weaknesses:
- Who is the strongest in sales skills?
- Who is the weakest in product knowledge and working independently (why might this be? Manager poor at delegating?)
So I would urge you L&D, before spending a lot of money on data analytics experts, get nosey and do some detective work yourselves. Keep it simple and dig into what is going on beneath the surface. Don’t just take one persons viewpoint or use just one method, mix it up and start finding the story in the data!
My conclusions from the report and my own anecdotal research suggests that:
- L&D does not have the skills required for data analysis (I had better get that book finished!)
- It is not as complicated as you think
- It is about asking the right questions and finding the story in the data
- We don’t always need data analytics experts to do this!
Yesterday I had the honour and privilege to stand amongst giants in our industry. The place was Olympia, the CIPD L&D Show and it was the final session of the day – the IGNITE LAB. For those not familiar with this format, each person presents 20 slides in 5 minutes, with the slides automatically advancing every 15 seconds.
Having settled on a topic, “How to be Agile in L&D”, I created some hand drawn slides and I pretty much thought it was going to be a doddle. The nearer it got to the day and the more I practised, the more I realised how hard it was. Give me a day or half a day to facilitate some learning and that’s not a problem, but 5 minutes to just present! It felt very unnatural and forced and the nerves were starting to kick in.
As the line up for the IGNITE LAB was revealed, we engaged in an exchange on Twitter where we shared similar feelings and the nerves were apparent. Some suggested they were going to use prompt cards, which I had ‘discarded’ as an idea, but when Julie Dryborough assured me I could “distill” the essentials in this way (I was waffling quite a bit in my practice runs), it convinced me to to do the “practice, tweak, repeat” advice offered by Niall Gavin.
Having tweaked, distilled, honed and transferred my notes to prompt cards , I was set. It felt much more comfortable knowing I would have the right words to fit the 15 second maximum for each slide.
So here is how it the event unfolded for me (in order) for me:
Niall Gavin – opened beautifully, with a heart-felt (see what I did there?) story relating to redundancy. No cards just him some slides and a great story.
Sukhvinder Pabial – followed. Confident, articulate and ever the professional, spoke about marginal gains and how we in L&D could take the lead front eh British Cycling team to improve L&D’s performance.
Krystyna Gadd – once I was up there and looking into the whites of their eyes (there were so many lovely people that I knew there!) I couldn’t look at my prompt cards. The slides progressed and it all came flooding back to me. Note to self next time – ditch the cards and fly solo!
Andrew Jacobs – popped his IGNITE cherry and did a sterling job beginning with learning not being built on firm foundations
Marco Faccini – amazed us all that he had rewritten his presentation that afternoon, making it real and showing us the money!
Amanda Arrowsmith – was unfairly plagued by the PowerPoint gremlins and Julie Dryborough volunteered to advance them but not before “ghosting it”. My hat goes off to Amanda who was neither shaken nor stirred by all that seemed to happen (or not) – a veteran deliverer presenting an engaging and memorable session!
Blake Henegan – rocked his first IGNITE, challenging us to be kinder to ourselves by reflecting and connecting more and thus reducing overwhelm
Julie Drybrough– wowed us on creating a thriving culture by lighting up the shadows and understanding our git self. Sounds like good advice!
Phil Wilcox – what an amazing ending to the session with a poem about “Who am I?”- you are officially awesome Phil, be you!!
What was lovely, was being amongst these L&D giants, sharing our vulnerabilities, cheering each other on and applauding the achievement of “just” speaking for 5 minutes though 20 slides… easy eh….. we did good!
And we are all available for future speaking engagements at a very modest fee…..lol
Storify of the tweetage care of Donna Hewitson
A while ago I wrote a series of blogs with a tag of “Being Brave” but after an LPI meeting this week for Learning Provider Connect, I have had a chance to rethink this “bravery”.
It occurred to me that the minute you start speaking about being brave, to some people it may have the effect of making them fearful. That this very encouragement, could have the opposite effect and instigate that “paralysis” we sometimes experience when we are afraid.
What I have encouraged in the past, is for L&D to be brave and to:
- Ask more questions
- Dig deeper and find out more about the organisation
- Don’t take at face value what the stakeholders see as “facts” – question it all!
So what I am proposing, is not in fact bravery, but curiosity! A real nosiness about what is happening, not happening, on the horizon etc.
So what would that look like?
Here is a scenario, that happens all too often:
Stakeholder to trainer: Hi, we need some training fast and lets put everyone though it!
Trainer to Stakeholder: Sure I can help, just tell me what you want
Following this might ensue some conversations about the who, what, when and where, but what I am suggesting is an alternative.
“Adopt an air of curiosity”
Stakeholder to trainer: Hi, we need some training fast and lets put everyone though it!
Trainer to Stakeholder: That’s interesting, I wonder if I could just have 10 minutes of your time to dig deeper to help you solve your problem and to come up with a solution that has measurable impact?
Stakeholder to trainer: That sounds interesting…. yes of course I can do it now…
Trainer to Stakeholder: So tell me more about what has been happening, I am really interested to know what has prompted this request?
To me the second scenario does not take bravery, but curiosity. So go on L&D get nosey! Find out more about what is going on behind the scenes. Ask questions… then ask more questions until you really find out what is at the bottom of it. Who knows what you will uncover?
This is the first in a series of blogs inspired by David Hayden, at the CIPD NAP(Northern Area Partnerships) conference June 2016, in a short workshop. The title of his workshop was “Is L&D prepared for the Future of Learning?” and the basis of the discussion was around key statistics uncovered in the “Towards Maturity” report of April 2016 “Preparing for the Future of Learning”. David presented around an infographic, part of which is displayed to the left. What fascinated me were some of the statistics in this segment.
In the report, the survey showed that 17% of those polled, measure business metrics to improve business performance, but 86% would like to improve business performance. That is a huge mismatch and it got me thinking “Why then, if the will is there, people do not measure L&D’s performance against business metrics?”
So I have a theory and it all stems from “Begin with the end in mind”. It is all very well to have a great intention of “improving business performance” and a whopping 86% of the respondents wanted this, but you have to start off on the right foot. At the beginning you have to do the right kind of analysis to determine the needs and the outputs, making sure that there is in fact a strong link between them. Then you need to:
- Identify those people who have a stake in improving the business
- Of those stakeholders, identify where they are on the stakeholder analysis grid, that way you know where to focus your efforts
- Be part of the business and have your finger on the pulse, so you always get the bigger picture
- Ask questions about organisational benefits and impact, not just learning outcomes
- Do a thorough needs analysis (not just an LNA or TNA) to uncover what individuals, teams and the organisation needs
- Set objectives with the stakeholders and have targets that THEY can measure success against
- Agree post learning activities and follow up
- Keep them up to date with what is going on and get them to support the learners
- Check in at various points and update them on progress
- Ask the stakeholders how the measures put in place are stacking up
I’ve written before about “Needs Analysis” and spoken about it at the CIPD L&D exhibition in May 2016 – what surprised me was the number of people that are REALLY interested in this topic! The last point in the list, is a crucial one, because another reason I believe only 17% measure business metrics in evaluation is that the best people to do the measuring are those who are most interested in those metrics and have EASY access to them!!! Is that a little too obvious?
Now L&D does not sit in some sort of vacuum or at least it shouldn’t. L&D is an important and necessary part of any successful businesses strategy – and if it isn’t we should be asking ourselves “why?” and “what can we do to become essential and not just a cost?” If you are not conducting a needs analysis that involves the correct stakeholders and using or developing metrics then what are you doing?
This is what David Hayden, L&D Professional at the CIPD said about the statistics:
“The challenge of 17% only measuring demonstrates it can be a massive challenge and rethink on what we measure. My advice is to start small and build up – pick one or two projects or interventions and work on the business metric links for those – and make it explicit in any pre intervention communication, during the intervention at regular points and in any post intervention communication. Become known for knowing the business goals!! Be that role model!”
“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
― H. James Harrington
If you would like to discuss further with a group of L&D professionals, then come along to our next free Showcase event : “Taking the fear out of ROI”
From talking to many L&D professionals I hear so many stories of teams, budgets and classroom time being cut…..it’s sad but, hey L&D, what are we? Have you ever considered why L&D is under so much pressure to deliver with fewer resources? Now you can almost see the tumbleweed blowing through a once thriving department. Seriously, why are we taking this lying down?
I truly believe that we don’t need a budget … What we really need is a bit of gumption and the ability to put together a business case. Easy for you to say Krys….I can hear some of you say.
Your L&D job description will most likely contain words about responsibity for the identification and design, development and delivery of business-focused courses for your organisation. Regardless of whether you report into H&R, L&D, a functional department or even the MD; L&D must understand the business’ goals and be able to integrate them into a learning programme that supports their implementation. You’d also expect that the rest of the organisation would support you in that common goal. Makes sense doesn’t it?
No doubt you already have a passion for L&D, and you will have the skills required, but for you to succeed and to help the business to succeed you need the support of the business. You are most likely to gain support from the business if you have identified (or are addressing) a real need and understand the impact on the organisation. If you can do that, then L&D should appear to be very good value for money! (You know this!) So, instead of arguing about your L&D budget, maybe you should be discussing the value of the impact of your L&D and how to make it even better. L&D, in that light, is not a cost but an agent for change.