Best Practice in L&D or Best Fit?

The phrase “Best Practice” has never sat well with me. To me, it is a little like suggesting everyone should shop at Selfridges for their clothes, when actually a little tailor down the road may be able to make something perfect for you. It may even be something shop bought, but then tweaked a little to be the perfect fit. When we started to discuss “Best Practice” in our second Friday L&D Mastermind natter on Clubhouse, Rob Moors in his inimitable style threw in “Best Fit” as an alternative.

Interestingly, the dictionary definition of Best Practice:

“Commercial or professional services that are accepted or offered as being correct or most effective”

So by very definition, what is most effective for one multinational organisation of 10,000 employees, in the IT Industry, may not be the best fit for an SME os 250 employees in the financial services industry.

In preparing for the natter, I found a great factsheet from the CIPD called “Learning and Development Evolving Practice”. This seems to have some of the elements of both best practice and best fit. In the factsheet were 10 “shifts” as they described them:

  1. Focus on business needs not just L&D priorities.
  2. L&D outputs informed by metrics not guesses.
  3. Learning underpinned by research and evidence.
  4. L&D shifting to a curator-concierge approach, not just creator.
  5. User choice and co-creation, not prescription learning.Measuring learning value, not volume
  6. Social learning,  not just formal.
  7. Just in-time learning and in-the-flow, not delayed.
  8. Bite-sized learning not just feasts.
  9. Digital, mobile learning not just face-to-face.
  10. Measuring learning value not volume.

These were useful discussion points, where we agreed with some and not others wholly. Here are some of my thoughts:

1.Focus on business needs not just L&D priorities.

Absolutely! This has been my battlecry for so long and why I wrote my book, “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training” and developed an online course by the same name. Bums on seats and no-shows may be important to us, but does it really help us to design solutions that will have impact? Does it help L&D to have a reputation of being problem solvers or prolong the label of being order-takers?

2. L&D outputs informed by metrics not guesses.

If we in L&D don’t seek out the important metrics for the business by consulting with the stakeholders, then why are we surprised that the business does not always value our contributions? If a stakeholder comes to us with a problem that has a ready made solution we should be asking them for evidence to support the fact that it is a problem!

3. Learning underpinned by research and evidence.

This ‘shift’, for me, has implications that the learning is done to the individuals and that journey of discovery and mind set shift has to be directed. In face-to-face training sessions, we can encourage and facilitate a mind set shift that steers a team or group to a new path, yet undiscovered. This 3rd shift seems to negate that fact that learning can be a valuable journey of discovery. Learning about outdated methodologies in management techniques is an obvious ‘no-no’, but collaboratively coming up with a new way for an organisation can reap benefits.

4. L&D shifting to a curator-concierge approach, not just creator.

Assuming that L&D are the sole creators of the new learning individuals need, has always been flawed. Allowing people some choice in where, how, what and when they learn gives more agency. It could also add to their confusion. My thoughts on this, are that there is a little of both. L&D should use their expertise in learning, to offer a good range of options. They facilitate the outcomes rather than impose them and partner with the stakeholders to achieve the performance improvements the business needs.

5.User choice and co-creation, not prescription learning.

This follows on from shift  number 4 above, where learners are given more agency through choice and partnering. Prescriptive learning does not always give people a choice to fully discuss the whys and wherefores of the solutions proposed and allowing a mind set shift.

6. Social learning, not just formal.

There is no reason why formal learning cannot also be social. When we think about what has happened through the pandemic, people have yearned for human contact and valued the time physically together. That said, the opportunity afforded us through the pandemic allowed us to explore how technology can keep us connected. This should be leveraged against any face to face meetings.

7. Just in-time learning and in-the-flow, not delayed.

Another one that I struggle with. There are some examples where I would not want training to be just in time or in the flow of work:

  1. Surgeons or anyone in critical patient care, though I would not mind my GP looking up the latest information aided by AI.
  2. Professions where lives may be in danger – the ability to practice and perfect is crucial.
  3. A financial advisor who was advising me on my long term investments, I would want them to know the full range of options BEFORE speaking to me.
  4. Solicitors, advocating on my behalf.
  5. Customer facing ‘experts’

To name a few… smart AI used to aid decision making  is something that can possibly be utilised more.

8. Bite-sized learning not just feasts.

I agree with not overwhelming learners with too much information, but if there is too much time between the ‘bites’, the connectedness of the learning may be compromised. Learners learn at different paces and in different ways. Some individuals will only ‘get it’ when they have had a chance to mull it over with others, test out options and talk through what may be an opposing view.

9. Digital, mobile learning not just face-to-face.

In an era where there are many ways we can learn, even on our mobile devices, it would be foolhardy not to take advantage of the range of these methods. The more new technology we explore the wider the range of methods that are available to us to learn from.

10. Measuring learning value not volume.

Not surprisingly, the ‘shift’ list from the CIPD factsheet ends where it began. ‘Measuring learning value not volume’ is closely linked to the first  one ‘Focus on business needs not learning priorities’. If we are clear about what the business need is, then once the learning is complete, the value of that learning should be measurable. If you are not sure how to even begin this then my online course and book ‘How Not To Waste Your Money On Training’, will help you immensely



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…..

Mining for Gold – making the most of your resources

Mining For Gold - 3A 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:

optimuslearning_logo_horizontalBlake Henegan

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.

Alternatively, learn more about how we’ve helped L&D at

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