Would you wear a tiara to the gym?

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:

  1. Are you getting the L&D basics right?
  2. If not, what is stopping you?

My book “How not To Waste Your Money On Training” addresses these issues and more….. on how to gt it right when analysing needs and determining solutions.

We don’t do train-the–trainer (not in the traditional sense)

It’s not an intentional thing, more accidental, that we have called ourselves “Trainers of trainers”. It is something that people understand, but I feel now it is no longer appropriate due to:

The changing role of L&D and professionals
• The emerging “New Learning Organisation**” as defined by Jane Daly and Laura Overton from Towards Maturity
• We actually don’t just train trainers in how to train! (It is so much more!)

 

So what do we do? We help organisations, line managers, teams and individuals to:

Have a strategic outlook when considering how people will learn to improve performance
• Learn how to engage with stakeholders and leverage them when looking for support and resources
• Be curious and dig deeper to find out underlying issues to find out what is needed
• To choose a complimentary blend of opportunities to help people improve their performance (#100ways2learn)
• Use accelerated learning principles so that the learning is sticky
• Be agile and fast
• Use a facilitative approach when doing any learning interventions rather than traditional trainer-led methods
• Build a cohesive learning community that benefits the whole organisation
• Open up to new ways of doing things
• Be motivated and inspired enough to have a go

Our open and in-house workshops do much more than “train” in the skills and knowledge required to become a new learning leader, for the new learning organisation. Through unique and innovative practices we have seen teams:

  • Have a mind-set shift in their thinking about how they approach learning
  • Become more cohesive a team in their approach to improving performance
  • Be inspired to make a real and measurable difference to the organisation by helping people learn how to improve their performance

**To compliment the “New Learning Organisation” we have developed our first draft on the “New Learning Leader”:

The visual is above but the detail is below:

  1. Has clarity of purpose
    • Business focused but also learner centred
    • Strategically focused to deliver what the organisation needs
    • Curious and analytical
    • Able to engage stakeholders in order to leverage essential resources and achieve the ROI required
    • In tune with what the organisation needs
  2. Helps create a holistic people experience
    • Helps to nurture and encourage an environment where people are developed consistently and with heart
    • Clearly defined and easy to apply models and frameworks
  3. Supports and nurtures a thriving ecosystem
    • Knows how to encourage a learning culture
    • Inspires a culture of feedback and healthy challenge
    • Empowers people to learn for themselves
    • In learning interventions inspires others to learn more and share
    • Promotes accountability at all levels
  4. Agile, digitally enabled
    • Digitally courageous, not scared to experiment
    • Able to choose the appropriate method/media for the outcomes required
  5. Helps support continual engagement
    • Provides appropriate learning support when it is needed
    • Understands the way the brain works to help learning be engaging and focused
  6. Helps people make intelligent decisions
    • Makes decisions informed by the organisations’ purpose
    • Develops others capability in decision making by providing the appropriate tools
    • Applies the latest neuroscience to help make wise decisions
  7. Emotionally Intelligent self-starter
    • Has awareness of their own behaviours on others
    • In touch with their own emotions
    • Good networker
    • Loves to learn

What have we missed or what could we add and to which category?

Mutual Exchange

I really enjoyed the debate on Twitter this morning in the #ldinsight chat (runs every Friday 8am-9am), though the question did spark quite a lot of strong reactions from people. That is not a bad thing is it? The question was:

“What business skills are we missing in L&D and what can we do about this?”

Lots of great points made and you can follow them up in this storify, but I wanted to home in on just something that popped into my head as I was exchanging thoughts with Andrew Jacobs. He said “Feels like the business has the skills and L&D could learn from it.”

But is this enough? What about us in L&D? Don’t we need to understand the organisation? How do we do that?
So the phrase “mutual exchange” popped into my head. That’s what we need to be doing! A bit of “I will show you mine if you show me yours” but without the playground context! Maybe the exchanges could go a little like this (and I am working out loud here #WOL so please spare me!):
  • We share what tools we have to use, the business see how they might apply
  • The business tells us what the key issues are, we share with them others experience learnt from conferences, research etc
  • The business tells us their plans, we look to the most creative and cost effective ways of getting there
  • We share all the different ways we can improve performance through learning, they tell us what needs improving

My first ever #WOL, so I would love to hear what you are thinking about this…..

Imagine if …… #5

llapproach-copyThis is the approach that we take at How to Accelerate Learning. Many other people do too (without calling it that!). In this blog series we will be looking at each of the 6 parts of the Learning Loop approach. So imagine …. what if, YOU were to take this approach:

Number 5: There is an explicit and practical objective setting process

Lewis Carroll said in Alice though the looking glass “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will take you there”.  

“Setting goals is the first step to making the invisible visible” said Tony Robbins

These two quotations really resonate with me and my background in engineering. As an engineer, I would never have embarked on a project without first determining what the outcomes were going to be. Working for Esso one summer as a student, we investigated how pure the ethyl alcohol needed to be for different industries, so we knew which markets to head into. So why as L&D professionals are there at times no clear goals?

During a workshop a few years back, we were looking at how to set objectives and one participant asked if I have a process …. and if I did would I write it down for him. So for the benefit of Steve Patterson, here is that very process…..30 Templates To Sell - 43

 

 

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Measure at all costs?

IMG_2532Measuring stuff in L&D is good and I am an advocate of using data to inform your decision making as well as demonstrating your worth. So is it a case of just measuring everything and it’s bound to be useful? For anyone who knows us and our approach, you know the answer to that already!

Here is what measurement I know happens already, in many places:

  • Number of people completed training, either face to face or online
  • Test scores from online quizzes
  • Amount of time taken for elearning and “engagement” during learning
  • Number of “no-shows” on courses
  • Number of training hours per year company wide

My question is “Does any of this help to improve performance?” The answer may be that sometimes training is not a performance issue but a compliance issue. The training has to be done, so we need to know how many hours we complete per year and do it in the most efficient way. Fair enough! If you have to do the training, make sure it’s effective and done in the most efficient way to not waste money.

What about measuring all these things when it’s related to performance? I can see value in this only if a good analysis has been done beforehand to:

  • Rule out issues that cannot be solved by training (poor systems, processes or lack of resources etc)
  • Identify the right stakeholders to work with, who will support you and put measures in place to measure the effectiveness
  • Determine the organisational outcomes that need to be met, with the appropriate stakeholders providing resources and support
  • Define learning outcomes that are geared towards improving performance and are both observable and measurable
  • Put in place follow up by line managers before the learning starts and performers know what they are going to get out of the learning before they attend

This sort of “joined-up” L&D, makes learning everyone’s responsibility and it also means that measurement is not just L&D’s responsibility.  It means that “learners” are transformed into “performers”. It means that those measures listed at the top of the page could be used to inform which methods have had the most engagement (not that that is always an indicator for success!)It would be wrong, I believe to suggest that good engagement with one successful cohort will guarantee the same success in another cohort.

To my thinking, any suggestion that there could be some sort of permanent link between engagement and performance misses the point entirely. In a closed system like a chemical plant, where putting in the same chemicals at the same rate with the same process can produce expected, achievable results. Learning is not however a closed system: the variables are always changing as are the participants and the influences on their behaviour. The true measure, in my opinion has to be what measurable differences the learning has made to the performance of an individual. How have customer complaints reduced? Income increased? Sales boosted? A one time analysis is not the answer because things change. So analyse, plan, implement and measure, then round again to make sure you are capturing the “now” and not the “yesterday”.

So am I in L&D Narnia, expecting the impossible? Measuring the unmeasurable? Quite simply, I believe that before investing in learning and merely measuring “engagement” dig, dig and dig deeper to find out what is missing and what you will need to learn and do to make changes. Keep asking why? Until you have some sensible answer other than “why not?”

Imagine if ….. #4

llapproach-copyThis is the approach that we take at How to Accelerate Learning. Many other people do too (without calling it that!). In this blog series we will be looking at each of the 6 parts of the Learning Loop approach. So imagine …. what if, YOU were to take this approach:

Number 4: A good needs analysis leads to a solid evaluation and appropriate design:

My first degree is in Chemical Engineering and Fuel Technology and it is safe to say, that I would never have embarked on any project without finding out EXACTLY what was required. There would be detailed specifications and at any point, we would know if the project was falling short.

Symbols - 34So it has surprised me in L&D how many organisations  do not do a needs analysis before committing resources to a learning programme. So firstly let me explain what each part of this step means and then outline the benefits:

 

 

“A good needs analysis….”

This goes beyond just speaking to the sponsor and could include:

  • Multiple perspectives from other stakeholders (a triangulation approach even?)
  • Data gathering from different sources
  • Analysis and presentation of the information to the relevant stakeholders
  • Conclusions that give a fuller picture of how this relates to the organisation and any benefits that may be realised in solving the problem

The benefits this would bring are:

  • Stakeholders that know L&D will dig deeper, beyond any superficial problems, hence a better reputation
  • A more targeted solution, which may not include learning (if not needed)

“….a solid evaluation…”

This means an evaluation that is measurable and the measures are of interest to the stakeholders. Hence these measures ARE measured!!

The benefits of this are self-evident; L&D are then partners and consultants, not just the vendors of learning. They work with departments to design and deliver solutions that have impact and measurable results

“… appropriate design”

This means that the design of the solution takes into account:

  • Budget
  • Other resources
  • Availability
  • Timing
  • The people attending and their needs

The benefits of this would be, of course less money wasted and also an solutions given in a timely fashion.

Would you like to more about this approach? Then you have some choices:

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