I have never kept it a secret that in a former life I was an engineer. It is something I am immensely proud of and it has formed my thinking as an L&D professional. Learning is a process and it does not begin with a training session nor does it end with a learning outcome.
Fruitful learning can only begin with the clear identification of the problem you are trying to solve. Impactful learning will not only have learning outcomes but also observable measures, that improve the performance of individuals as well as the organisation.
As an engineer, after graduation and working for a boiler manufacturer in Glasgow, I first came across two departments: QC (Quality Control) and QA (Quality Assurance). Quality control came at the end of a process and rubber stamped the finished boiler, pronouncing it fit for purpose and meeting the production criteria. QA on the other hand, punctuated the whole process and steered it to ensure that the boiler would be able to meet those stringent production criteria.
So how does this apply to L&D and how do we know if we are QA or QC led or both? In L&D a QC approach would be to have definitive outcomes (learning and performance) that can be measured at the end of the learning process, once the learning has embedded. Nothing wrong with this, but let us imagine taking 3000 people through this to find out that only 30% of them have achieved what you set out to achieve. Even if you have correctly identified the problem and have clear outcomes, this would not be a satisfactory result.
Adding the QA approach, once you have a definitive problem and clear outcomes, builds in checks and balances to ‘right the ship’ if at any time it goes off course. These measures might be about how engaged the participants are, what the completion rate is, benchmarks on their achievement, maybe even ‘bums on seats’ and many other so called ‘vanity’ metrics: something which we may feel we have been told to steer clear of. The key thing is not to use these metrics as a confirmation of success, but as a confirmation that:
- The participants are engaged on the journey
- They are completing the whole journey
- There is no point at which there is an exodus of participants or a drop in engagement
If at some point the participants become disengaged, using these metrics, you may be able to find out why and put things into place. If you notice that the number of attendees is dropping off even though there are many more who need to attend, it may alert you to checking in with their feedback. As a result, you may have to make changes or begin a new marketing campaign to encourage attendance.
So how do you do L&D. With a QA or QC approach or both and why?
Before you send an angry email to me, please be assured, what I want to say is that we are in revolution. We are a lovely bunch, not at all revolting!
I have to say I have been a little sick and tired recently. I am not getting any younger and it seems like forever we have been talking about really making a difference in L&D. Yes there have been changes, but as someone who works a lot with trainers, facilitator, L&D professionals and subject matter experts we still seem to be missing out on the basics:
- Getting close to the organisation and understanding it
- Getting curious
- Using data to drive performance improvements
- Using tech appropriately – driven by needs not the tech itself
- Focussing first on a needs analysis to drive a good evaluation
- Being agile enough to keep up with the demands of the market
If you are working for an organisation who is doing ALL of these things or even some of them or would like to do ALL of them, we would love to hear from you. If you would like to discuss how to do this, with a group of like-minded professionals then come and join us in the L&D Revolution group on LinkedIn.
It is not for the following individuals:
- Those happy with the rate of change in L&D (evolution not revolution)
- Those happy just to keep delivering the same courses without much impact
- Those happy with level 1 evaluations and moving no further
- Those more interested in applying the latest tech rather than improving performance
In January I had the absolute pleasure of recording another podcast with John Tomlinson of Trainer Tools. This time it was a little different as I was sharing the mic with Kevin M. Yates, my newly discovered partner in crime. Kevin and I met via social media and immediately clicked over our shared interest in wanting to revolutionise L&D. A podcast would be a great way to share our common interests and the thoughts we exchanged in our initial conversation. The recording is now available by clicking this link.
Let’s start at the beginning of the conversation. I began my training career back in the late 80’s as an IT trainer for IBM. My title was a ‘VM Instructor’ and my job was to teach customers how to use the front end of the VM software. If I delivered the training effectively then the participants should be able to use the system for at work, to do their jobs. Our measures though, were purely about how the training was received:
- Was the instructor knowledgeable? Approachable? Friendly?
- Were the notes useful?
- How was the lunch?
- Was the classroom comfortable?
To this day, I don’t know if anyone actually found out from the customers whether the training achieved what it had set out to do. The world of L&D is quite different now. For a start more and more training functions have changed their names to ‘Learning and Development’. This was in response to the fact that learning was recognised to happen in places other than the training room. Learning had a broader remit and with this came a change in the traditional trainer role.
Since then, L&D have been changing and morphing. Towards Maturity have outlined their thoughts on the ‘New Learning Organisation’ and I commented on this in my blog about the ‘We don’t do train-the-trainer’. In this blog I spoke about the new “Learning Leader’ required to support this new Learning Organisation. Below I have amended the original diagram to include explicit references to performance and using data to help drive intelligent decisions.
This blog is mostly concerned with the first and sixth of these qualities:
- Clarity of purpose – performance focussed
- Helps people make intelligent decisions – using data
The ‘Clarity of purpose’ is closely tied in with the identity crisis Kevin and I spoke about in the podcast:
Clarity of purpose – performance focussed ….. means that……
- L&D are business focused but also learner centred. Ensuring that they focus on the aspects of individual performance that will improve how the organisation works.
- L&D is strategically focussed to deliver what the organisation needs. Gathering data to understand where the organisation is, but speaking to the right stakeholders to find out the direction of travel required.
- L&D are curious and analytical. If we gather data to investigate what is true and what is happening, we will need to be less brave about asserting our identity. WE will not have to be as brave in suggesting different solutions, because we will have the evidence to back it up. Some people will still expect L&D just to dispense training……(groan)
- L&D are able to engage stakeholders in order to leverage essential resources and achieve the results required. This requires building up those relationships that make the biggest difference and saying no to those stakeholders who neither have impact nor support L&D.
Helps people make intelligent decisions – using data …… means that….
- L&D makes decisions informed by the organisations’ purpose and it can only do that if it has done a lot of the things outlined in the paragraph above.
- L&D develops others capability in decision making by providing the appropriate tools and skill in data collection and analysis. This also means that L&D as part of its new identity needs to learn how to do this too!
- L&D helps people use data to track performance and also the impact of learning on peoples performance. This then drives the organisation towards efforts that have impact and stops the organisation from putting energy into things which give no return.
During the podcast Kevin threw in 3 questions which are crucial for L&D to ask in order to become more data driven:
- What is happening in the organisation?
- What is the organisations goal?
- What performance requirements are needed to achieve your goal?
Once we have asked these questions we need to look at how else we can develop our skills in line with the new identity. Who is interested in discussing this further? We have a LinkedIn group called the L&D Revolution – take part in the conversation and join the group!
My book ‘How Not To Waste Your Money On Training’ digs further into how L&D can align themselves and find the story in the data they collect.
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?
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.
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Agile, digitally enabled
- Digitally courageous, not scared to experiment
- Able to choose the appropriate method/media for the outcomes required
- 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
- 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
- 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?