On the 27th of March 2019 we had the first online meeting for the L&D Revolution. What an exhilarating and inspiring hour that was! Anyone interested in watching how it went, I will share the links at the end of this post. This post is about sharing the outcomes of the discussions we had.
People have been asking me “What is the revolution about?” and I covered that in a previous blog. It is something which has percolating over years and has also led me to write a book “How not to Waste Your Money on Training***”. It now feels like this ‘movement’ is gaining some momentum, as I speak to more and more people who are keen to improve the reputation of L&D by helping it to focus on performance and analytics. Two of my favourite topics!
Back to the online meeting, there were two key things we discussed:
The link between learning and performance
Data driven decision making and demonstrating value
Let us look at both in turn and extract the main points from the discussions:
The link between learning and performance
It seemed to be widely agreed, that in order to have any sort of link between learning and performance, there has to be a strong connection between L&D and the business. It was also about a change in mind-set for L&D, shifting from being order takers to taking a consultative approach. Included in this link was also a desire to connect what was happening with data that was collected from numerous sources. Line managers have always been crucial to any lasting change in organisations and close links between L&D and line managers are essential if we are to observe improvements in performance as a result of learning.
Once L&D have made that shift closer to the organisation and its needs they can more easily distinguish between what stakeholders say they want (desires) and what they need in reality. This cannot be achieved without doing some sort of up-front analysis BEFORE and learning interventions are agreed. Part of that may well include really understanding the team strategies required to achieve the business goals.
It was agreed we are making a start but there are many things we can improve on:
Being more rigorous about digging into underlying performance problems before jumping into solutions
Defining clear outcomes and measures and challenging the business by using data to justify but also to persuade, where necessary
Helping individuals and line managers see the clear link between their job roles and performance (individual and company wide)
Become more creative in our approach by using other methodologies like AGILE
2. Data driven decision making and demonstrating value
There is so much happening out there, I am pleased to say. Some great applications of data readily available:
Net Promoter Scores (NPS)
Learner and/or customer voice(s)
Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)
Even Moodagrams (which I had never heard of before!)
With all this happening there is still room for improvement. By collecting data we will of course get better at providing that link between learning and performance improvements. Again a shift of mindset is required by L&D: to shift from trusted advisor to performance enabler and maybe even add a few business analyst skills for good measure.
If we thought this might be a bit much, then learning from other parts of the business might help, for instance marketing and finance are great examples. We are not alone in the business and need to become more integrated in our approach, starting those awkward conversations sooner rather than later and always asking why, why, why, why why? (5 why’s). If we do this up front along with a needs analysis, then evaluation will be a doddle, won’t it?
We then moved into a discussion on how do we drive this revolution forwards rather than watching the evolution happen slowly. In order to do this individually, there are lots of things we can be doing in our own organisations:
More promotion or publicity about what L&D do and their successes
Promote performance improvement rather than learning outcomes
Be more AGILE
Find out what the business does (ask daft questions)
Use data to our advantage and be selective in what we or others collect
We also have some collective ideas on how to drive the revolution forward. Let me know if you would like to take part in those.
Below is my summary from all the discussion points we had in the online meeting.
*** This is what Karen Grave, President PPMA (Public Service People Managers Association) says about the book:
“PPMA has been working with Krystyna for only a short time but we have already realised that she is an enormous asset to the field of learning. She has a natural passion and empathy for people, which she combines with creativity and an engineering background to help organisations focus on how best to deliver on training investment. Krystyna’s style is deeply engaging, laced with a lot of humour and a willingness to challenge the ridiculous. It’s a powerful combination. We love working with her and I have no doubt you will find this book a hugely interesting and impactful read.”
This title has been taken from the Towards Maturity report published in August of 2018. 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
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 “How not To Waste Your Money On Training” I show people simply how to “find the story in the data”. Using a simple example of a scoring grid, I 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:
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!
When a stakeholder asks you to do something, can you distinguish between what they want and what they need? Does it make any difference?
I think it does (otherwise “What’s the point of this blog?” you might ask)
Let us illustrate this with an example. Someone says they would like a glass of orange juice, but is it really what they need? Digging deeper and understanding their situation, you discover they need their thirst quenching. Once we understand that is the real need, it then opens up the possible solutions:
A cup of tea
A glass of water
A cool beer
An apple juice
So in a business context I am sure that you can see the parallels. If you drill down into peoples (and the organisations) needs then not only do you bring a solution that is fit for purpose, you also open up the number of solutions available. You also avoid expensive mistakes, whereby leaping into solution mode too quickly, you miss the real point of what is going on.
So how do you find out the needs rather than the desires to “wants”?
It really is not that complicated….. get curious, ask questions, don’t assume they actually know the answer, no matter how convincing they are.
Every month our loyal subscribers get a free resource and in the past they have received:
A stakeholder analysis informational video
A stakeholder analysis question sheet
Both of which would help greatly in determining the real needs. If you would like to receive resources like this every month then please subscribe. Depending on whether you are an L&D professional (includes consultants) or manager, you will get different and appropriate resources.
A while back I shared how I had been inspired by a model for developing people called “Mining for Gold”. It was developed by Tom Comacho in North Carolina and used in a church setting. It is an amazingly simple, yet inspiring model that can be applied universally.
The approach is simple – rather than seeing what people cannot do or squeezing them in a role that does not quite fit, you look for the ‘gold’ in them. The gold is that sweet spot where the three circles intersect:
What they have a passion for
What they are gifted in
What has been successful in the past
Imagine if everyone you employed operated in that sweet spot. How transformational would it be for the individuals, their teams and the organisations they work for? Imagine if you operated in that sweet spot? How much drive and enthusiasm would you have and what results could you expect in your organisation?
So lets imagine you were using this approach to developing you and your staff, one draw back, you may notice, may be that there are tasks/roles for which you find it difficult to get the right person. So what do you do? You could leave the task or role unfilled until the right person comes along or you could contract out those services.
We, at How to Accelerate Learning have partnered with Optimus Learning Services, a company that could manage L&D services that you do not have the time or right people for. Read what Blake Henegan, Director of Optimus Learning Services has to say about what they do:
Helping L&D to add more value
Here at Optimus Learning Services, we believe in the power of L&D and providing managed learning services that help you drive your L&D strategy forward.
We listen to the same message from L&D professionals the world over; from multi-national companies to single site companies, the administration and management of L&D solutions prevents L&D from driving the real strategy forward.
Combining a real passion for people and learning our managed learning services are designed to set you free from this struggle; to reduce your time spent on L&D administration and help improve your working processes.
Our services are fully flexible, designed around your requirements to ensure you can demonstrate your true value to your organisation.
Flexible, clear support packages
Whether you need big thinking or ‘on the ground’ doing, are short for time or planning ahead; we have three L&D support packages to choose from:
Manage – our full managed learning service. Management of all learning activity, helping L&D teams to focus on L&D strategy and improve learning efficiency.
Support– helping companies with the sourcing & booking of external training, allowing you to service the learning needs of your organisation.
Consult – L&D consultancy and support, providing additional expertise and helping L&D departments transform organisational learning.
You’ll receive a unique service, delivering excellent customer service for your people, lowering the cost of your learning whilst never compromising on quality.
Free consultations available
Let’s have a chat about your L&D challenges. Are you looking to free yourself and your department from the shackles of learning administration and management? Focus more on learning governance than management?
For a free 30 minute consultation to discuss ways of increasing your L&D productivity please email Blake Henegan to arrange a time.
I am always thinking about how we can collaborate, but am mindful of those people who are not on social media, not having a voice at times. So we had a discussion on “Tricider” with a group of people from different places on:
“If L&D could do the analysis piece well, evaluation would be easy?”
Where do you begin with evaluation?
A few weeks ago, we ran a Learning Loop showcase event called “Taking the Fear out of ROI”. There was a great mix of people from many different organisations and to say the discussions were lively, would be an understatement!
Steven Covey, a man of many wise words said “Begin with the end in mind”. So the answer to the question in the title, would of course echo Stephen Covey’s sentiments. If evaluation has been an afterthought to the process of delivering learning, then, quite frankly it will be a waste of time. It would be a little like starting to knit a jumper, without a pattern or any thought to shape, size or colour and then expecting it to fit your needs.
Here is the essence, for a good evaluation, you need:
A solid needs analysis, which identifies the impact you would like the learning to have on the organisation
Clear organisational outcomes, which the stakeholders will monitor and measure
Learning outcomes that support the organisational ones
Time before the next new project to complete the evaluation analysis and reporting
Realistic expectations from the stakeholders about the expected outcomes
There are of course other factors, but this is brief run through of the key components. The last one is an interesting one, especially when there are multiple factors which may influence the outcomes. Let us take a simple example:
At the same time as the a customer service learning programme being rolled out, a new customer management system is also installed.
In this instance the relevant stakeholders may either:
Join forces and measure the overall impact of both
Agree percentages of the impact of the two separately
Whichever approach is used, there needs to be realistic expectations from the stakeholders as to some of the other factors which may prevent the objectives being achieved:
Lack of line manager support for the learners (one of the biggest reasons for learning not imbedding)
A long enough lead time, between the learning and the measurement, to allow the learning to imbed and for results to be observed
Time and space in the learners roles for the learning to be put into action
Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but some of the key areas that may be investigated, if the learning does not meet expectations.