Does L&D understand their customers?

TM blogs #2This is the second 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 right. What was interesting was the “1 in 3” statistic!

It is an often repeated myth that we have a learning preference and we only learn effectively if we are in our preferred mode. However, David Kolb, when he came up with his experiential learning model, said that to learn most effectively, we need to go through every stage! That means we need to:

  • Do something
  • Reflect on it
  • Make sense of it (with theories etc)
  • Apply it to our own situations

Learners are all different, have different interests and are at different stages of learning. People may have preferences but there is no evidence that matching materials or methods to learning style will improve retention. Could you learn how to plaster a wall by listening to an audio lesson if you are an “auditory” learner or if you are a “visual” learner, did you learn how to walk by your mum giving you a powerpoint presentation? I know these are absurd examples but, somehow it does show how absurd the notion of matching learning to a learners style is. It makes much more sense to match what you learn to the type of activity, so that:

  1. If you are learning a skill, you get to learn and practice that skill – make it appropriate. If you are learning customer service skills, you will need to apply them and so here are a few methods you could use: role play, peer observation, video recording, “stop and rewind” role play (get to correct mistakes as you go along)
  2. If you are learning knowledge, then you need to make sure you understand how to make it “stick”. A little knowledge on what makes the brain retain information and put it into long-term memory can help immensley. You can read some of my “5 tips”, in a  previous blog to help with this.

In short:

  • You should design learning with variety
  • Take the learners through the whole of Kolb’s cycle
  • Use some practical neuroscience to help make the learning stick (Recommended good book)

“The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing. If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” (Learning Styles Concepts and Evidence: PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST Vol 9, No. 3 2009)

The Secrets of LNA shared ….at Olympia #cipdldshow

screen-shot-2016-05-13-at-12-59-36Earlier this week we set off for London for the CIPD L&D show, to exhibit for the second time. This time seemed easier, I knew what it might be like. What I was blown away with was, the interest in my session on “The Secrets of LNA – evaluating business alignment”.

There were enough seats for 70 and standing room at least double that. As I spoke, eyes fixed on me, heads nodded and people identified with the content.

I began quoting from the CIPD L&D survey of 2015: “Of the organisations polled only 25% said that L&D are fully aligned to the organisation“. So this worries me – what is happening in the other 75%? Where does your organisation fall? In the 25% or the 75%? If you don’t know or if you are in the 75%, consider this. How would you like:

  • L&D to be the change agents for your organisation?
  • It to be easy to justify budgets for L&D interventions?
  • When there is a downturn, L&D is not cut, but people are invested in?

By analysing the needs of your organisation before delivering any learning or training, you may find the things above become a reality!

TNA? LNA? NA?

Is this all just semantics? Are they just all the same? So here is the thing, if I conduct a Training Needs Analysis, the solutions are always going to be training. It is a little like having only a hammer in your toolbox and so everything looks like a nail. Often organisations who conduct only TNA’s may be either very technical in the learning they deliver, or it could be that they do not know much about the organisation and how it operates.

So how does a TNA differ from an LNA you might ask? So an LNA will be broader in its outlook, the equivalent of having now a hammer and maybe a wrench and a screwdriver along with some allen keys in your toolbox.. The outcome will always be a learning solution whether it is a book to read, some coaching, a webinar or a full blown qualification. What I would love to happen and here is where over the last few years I have been trying to use my Jedi mind tricks (I do know I am not Yoda btw), is when you are conducting an LNA, you ask some questions:

  • Is there something happening behind the scenes that I need to know about?
  • Is there something missing?
  • Is something not happening?
  • Is there something besides learning that these people need (eg more resources, better processes, more support etc?)

Those are just a few to get you started. These are great questions to ask if you are trying to dig deeper and look beyond the traditional training or learning needs. For this to be successful though there are some things that you will need in your personal toolkit:

  • An air of curiosity
  • A willingness to find out more about the organisations and how it works
  • The ability to speak the language of the stakeholders and not just in L&D speak
  • Persistence and courage to challenge when people just tell you to “DO it” (the training that is)
  • An overview of what the culture is like and how the organisation is structured (this can be key in determining how easy it is to get people on board and change minds. For example a company with a hierarchical structure and a blame culture will resist change and pass the buck. Whereas a matrix structure and a culture of empowering, will welcome your curiosity and fresh eyes to see what might be going wrong.
  • Infiltrate the organisation so you have your finger on the pulse of what is happening, now, not 6 months ago

Sometimes we may not be able to foresee when we need to do an LNAplanned or un. Have a look at the picture below to see some of the instances when they can be planned and when not. Try as much as you can to plan in your LNA’s (always thinking about what might be going on under the surface). Once you start doing regular LNA’s and demonstrating the value your solutions bring, it will become easier and easier to get the resources you need to do a valuable LNA and any subsequent solutions.

Once you know you are going to do an LNA, you then need to choose some suitable methods. Below is a table of many different LNA methods. You could start by trying to sort them according to whether they are high/low cost and whether they are suitable for individuals or groups.LNA Methhods This is one way to see which methods are going to be most suitable for your situation. You will also need to consider some other criteria, to be able to decide which methods are most suitable:

  • Your budget
  • Resources, such as people and tools
  • Time
  • Commitment from stakeholders – without this, it does make it harder*
  • Size and culture of your organisation

*Read this blog about stakeholder management

So finally …. here are some of the secrets of LNA (I am sure you knew these already!)

  • Know the difference between an LNA, TNA and NA (remember the Jedi mind tricks!)
  • Choose the most suitable methods (use triangulation – 3 methods to get a broader picture)
  • Plan the LNA when you can
  • Always keep the end in mind so that you are aligned to your business

Thanks to everyone who came to the session and participated. We were truly overwhelmed by the numbers who were there and also the numbers of people who spoke to us saying “We are in that 75% and we need help!”

This topic certainly seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people and my concern is that if you are in that 75%, you get the help you need to achieve alignment with your organisation. If you need help, then please phone for a chat to see what we could do. Phone Krys on 07952 416530 or email info@howtoacceleratelearning.co.uk

Walk this way…. part 4…beginning with the end in mind

walk this wayThis is the fourth in this new series of blogs called “Walk this way”, where I am inviting you, the reader, to follow my view on what a good approach to learning would look like.

 

 

 

Here is an overview of the whole approach, showing clearly the 6 steps.IMG_5170

This time we will look at the 4th step – “A good needs analysis leads to a solid evaluation and appropriate design“.

Some of you may be thinking “Why has she said ‘needs analysis‘ and not ‘training needs analysis‘ or ‘learning needs analysis‘?” So in a nutshell:

  • Training Needs Analysis – the solutions are always going to be training solutions
  • Learning Needs Analysis – though the solutions may be broader, they will always be about learning
  • Needs Analysis –  the solutions may be training, learning or the analysis may uncover an organisational need unrelated to learning (e.g. poor process)

A needs analysis goes much deeper. For it to go deeper, you need to ask questions that go beyond the normal “what do they need to know, or be able to do, by the end?“. Questions like:

  • What stops them doing a good job?
  • What resources do they still need?
  • Is there a system or process that could be improved?

If you do a good needs analysis, it leads to a good, or ‘meaningful’ evaluation. Which means that the business sees the value in what is delivered. You can only do a good needs analysis if you understand how the organisation works and have some understanding of both the structure and the culture. This goes beyond the traditional remit of what an L&D professional has traditionally needed to be. Curiously, the CIPD L&D Survey from 2015 reported that only 25% of organisations could say that L&D were extremely aligned to the needs of the business. Surely this should be higher?

If you can start with the end in mind, this does not mean ignoring short-term performance but rather using this to guide towards, and to reinforce, long-term objectives. This is what the “end in mind” means. To get to that end requires much more involvement, but by delivering real business results L&D will certainly get the attention of the business. Linking to hard business metrics, L&D can position itself as an important strategic business asset rather than just a training department. Aligning L&D to the business will have many benefits.

If you do a thorough needs analysis, focussed on the business, the design of any learning, will be more appropriate to the organisation taking into account:

  • Current levels of skill and knowledge
  • Budgets
  • Time and place for learning
  • How the learners will be supported back in the workplace to imbed the learning

If you would like to know more about The Learning Loop® please contact me. Or better still, consider booking onto one of the open Learning Loop courses or come to one of our Showcase events.

This is the fourth blog in a series of six.

“Walk this way” – the whole blog series.

©Krystyna Gadd 2016

Your training budget has been cut…again

There is a truism that training and R&D are the first places to get hit when companies want to cut costs.  But how do companies get to the point of cutting these areas that are vital to future success?

Untitled

When speaking to companies I often hear of the intense pressure on L&D to “deliver” and as a result, staff are under pressure to do more and more with less and less.  Let’s be clear, no organisation has an unlimited training budget (but if there is one, please contact me immediately!) but I don’t think it is necessary either.

Senior executives have to see a correlation between the value that L&D brings to an organisation and business results.  If they can’t see one, then that is an uncomfortable place to have to be because it may mean a skill gap in both L&D and senior management.

You might think the way to show a link is through measurement?  Not necessarily. Certainly it is much easier for large organisations to measure lots of things these days using IT, yet it does not mean that you are measuring the right things.  You can only measure the right things when you have a comprehensive understanding of your business and the business environment in which you operate.  Once you have found the areas, which make your business successful, doing a good analysis at the start, you can then decide how best to measure performance in those areas.

When you have made those links you will need to identify the stakeholders and agree objectives.  That may sound simplistic but this is a great truth for many organisational activities – well beyond L&D!  Identifying stakeholders is important and gets much more difficult with large and complicated organisations.  This can also become problematical in large organisations when people who were not considered in the initial consultations undermine the L&D initiatives. There are ways of minimising this but, again, it’s for further discussion.

So, L&D can deliver! And L&D can be very effective if it delivers to objectives that are linked to real business success.

You can read more about our approach to learning through “The Learning Loop approach“.

#DitchtheTNA

hammerOk, so this may seem like a radical statement and it goes along nicely with the analogy ,”If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. So when looking for training gaps, all the solutions are likely to be training solutions.

It’s all very well me getting bolshy and saying #DitchtheTNA, but for all those organisations who religiously complete their TNA’s what is the alternative? Here is my starter list:

  • Begin with consultative conversations with the right people(this one was Gina Chapman’s @ChayneDaisy)
  • Keep asking “why?”, until you get to the root cause
  • Ask “So if we do this what will it give us?”
  • Ask “If we don’t do this what will it give us?”
  • Look at the last two and ask “Is it worth it?”
  • In the back of your mind, think “What is really going on here? A dodgy process? A bad manager? Lack of resources? Something else?”
  • If you have asked one person, consider asking someone else and maybe using some other methods to uncover the needs: survey, literature search, observations, MI, customer feedback etc etc
  • Looking at the evidence ask yourself “What is the big picture here?”
  • If any evidence conflicts, dig deeper to find out why
  • Ask yourself “Does this look reasonable?”
  • List all the possible solutions and look at your budget
  • Agree some organisational outcomes with the right stakeholders
  • Write some great objectives
  • Choose solutions that will give you a great return on investment

These are my quick thoughts spurred on by #DitchtheLNA on twitter, would love to hear your views.

Sliding doors

IMG_1126Did you ever watch the film “Sliding Doors”? If you didn’t.. a London woman’s love life and career both hinge, unbeknown to her, on whether or not she catches a particular tube train. We get to see it both ways, in parallel.

In one version the doors shut in front of her and she misses the tube and the other she gets on the tube and…well you need to watch the film. Whether you are into rom-coms or not; there are some profound ideas in this film.

In essence the idea is that one small action or inaction can change your life and “Sliding Doors” demonstrates this beautifully.

IMG_0160In one version of your life, Learning & Development is peripheral to any organisational needs and is subject to the whims of budget holders.

 

IMG_0847In the other reality, Learning & Development are central to your organisations strategy and all your learning will be delivered in a timely fashion to learners who will inhabit an environment that supports life-long-learning.

 

These realities may be extreme but is the former closer to reality than you may imagine? If it is, then, like “Sliding Doors”, which subtle change could alter your L&D experience? “If only we had done this, then our whole experience of L&D would be different.” Interesting isn’t it?

Let’s imagine a scenario: we pass a senior manager in the corridor, she turns around and says “Oh…. by the way….we need some customer service training in the next few weeks. Customer satisfaction is down 5 points and we need to get it back up again.”

IMG_0160Scenario 1:

“Yes of course, I have some great ideas for exercises and we can do it in double-quick time. I know it is going to make a real difference”

 

IMG_0847Scenario 2:

“I would love to help of course. Could I have just 10 minutes of your time to really understand what you think we need, so that I can deliver it in the best way to achieve your outcomes?”

A subtle difference, but one of these can have a huge impact. It’s nothing new because it’s the same old drum I have been banging on for a while… be brave L&D…..#Daretodream. Dare to ask stakeholder to identify their needs, correctly, not just taking their word for what is going wrong.

Which scenario is most like the way in which you operate? Would you like things to be different? Then join us on one of  The Learning Loop®   courses or attend one of our Showcase events. Otherwise, contact us directly.

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