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.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!
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.”
My first ever #WOL, so I would love to hear what you are thinking about this…..
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
- Stakeholders engaged at the beginning, providing you with not only the resources to identify needs, but resources and support for the evaluation. (*for more on stakeholder management click here)
- 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.
At How to Accelerate Learning, we can help organisations to dig deeper into evaluation. Contact us to find out how we could help you.
This is the fourth 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”.
Looking through report – “Preparing for The Future of Learning: A Changing Perspective for L&D Leaders” – it is great to see so much emphasis on L&D being business focussed. This is not a critique of the report, you should read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. The report makes some excellent points.
There are especially some really great points to in the “40 ways to build the skills of L&D” section of the report but, in my humble opinion, these cannot be done in isolation and require some sort of route map.
The report mentions in a few places about the “appropriate use of technology”, something I discussed in the last blog, “Are L&D thinking digitally?” . Also I mentioned in the past about the difference between efficiency and effectiveness...
More about the report….
The report compares the best practice performers (top deck) versus everyone else and judging by the statistics, that lower deck is pretty full! On this bus, do we assume that the that the driver is the business leader, or has the route been set by the business leadership. Are L&D actually helping to drive the bus, or somewhere at the back, hanging on for dear life?
Going beyond the analogy (before I stretch it too thin!) here are a few of the things I would think will help L&D become more ready for change:
- Move beyond the course and get closer to the business
- Expand the toolkit to include digital, but to be used appropriately
- Take on a consultancy approach
- Create learning communities by collaboration and the correct online tools
- Make learning part of everyones remit
- Get stakeholders on board and soak their language
- Infiltrate the organisation and be a part of key change initiatives
- Keep ahead of the game and know how your learners learn
….not much then! I love the fact that we are now (in L&D) starting to have these conversations about getting more business savvy, looking beyond just training and making a difference. Exciting times ahead, don’t you agree?
This is the third 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”. The third question, not the statistics in the graphic, caused me to do some deep thinking!
So, let me tell you a little bit about my thinking in term of learners, digital stuff and also what my experience has been. I am an ex-engineer (if you can ever really leave that?) and a former IT trainer for IBM, so digitally, I would say I am maybe more comfortable than the minority, as keen as the majority, but not as convinced as the digital evangelists.
I have run webinars, created short learning videos, taken part in Twitter chats (LnDConnect) and learn from my own professional learning network, I blog regularly, share updates on LinkedIn and engage in forums, created online polls, used online reflective apps like Brainscape, I have designed blended learning programmes and generally embraced new technology, where it can accelerate and enhance the learning experience. Let me make it quite clear, I am fluent and practised in digital and I use it as an ingredient to a rich blend of many other methods. It is not the first or only thing I think of when looking for a learning solution. So this question is what has caused me to think deeply. “Are L&D thinking digitally?”
If I am baking a cake, I use the right tools for the job and in L&D I think exactly the same. I consider carefully*:
- Budget and resources
- Location(s) of the learners
- The topic
- Depth of the learning required (so I may layer different methods)
- Commitment of the stakeholders
- Size an culture of the organisation
*See also blog on LNA
The question“Are L&D thinking digitally?” implies that this is how we should be thinking. Digital is not the answer to every L&D problem, it is part of a toolkit available to L&D professionals to create a great blend of learning that will maximise the effectiveness of any planned learning interventions. It is very easy, with the latest, shiniest digital tools, to be thinking “Oh golly where can I use this?” (in my giddiness – I have been there!), whereas we should be thinking about:
“What will work best in this situation, with these learners and to achieve the best organisational outcomes?”
So with this in mind, I would change this question to: “Are L&D thinking digitally, in an appropriate way?“. Maybe its semantics…. what do you think?
This is the first 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 left. What fascinated me were some of the statistics in this segment.
In the report, the survey showed that 17% of those polled, measure business metrics to improve business performance, but 86% would like to improve business performance. That is a huge mismatch and it got me thinking “Why then, if the will is there, people do not measure L&D’s performance against business metrics?”
So I have a theory and it all stems from “Begin with the end in mind”. It is all very well to have a great intention of “improving business performance” and a whopping 86% of the respondents wanted this, but you have to start off on the right foot. At the beginning you have to do the right kind of analysis to determine the needs and the outputs, making sure that there is in fact a strong link between them. Then you need to:
- Identify those people who have a stake in improving the business
- Of those stakeholders, identify where they are on the stakeholder analysis grid, that way you know where to focus your efforts
- Be part of the business and have your finger on the pulse, so you always get the bigger picture
- Ask questions about organisational benefits and impact, not just learning outcomes
- Do a thorough needs analysis (not just an LNA or TNA) to uncover what individuals, teams and the organisation needs
- Set objectives with the stakeholders and have targets that THEY can measure success against
- Agree post learning activities and follow up
- Keep them up to date with what is going on and get them to support the learners
- Check in at various points and update them on progress
- Ask the stakeholders how the measures put in place are stacking up
I’ve written before about “Needs Analysis” and spoken about it at the CIPD L&D exhibition in May 2016 – what surprised me was the number of people that are REALLY interested in this topic! The last point in the list, is a crucial one, because another reason I believe only 17% measure business metrics in evaluation is that the best people to do the measuring are those who are most interested in those metrics and have EASY access to them!!! Is that a little too obvious?
Now L&D does not sit in some sort of vacuum or at least it shouldn’t. L&D is an important and necessary part of any successful businesses strategy – and if it isn’t we should be asking ourselves “why?” and “what can we do to become essential and not just a cost?” If you are not conducting a needs analysis that involves the correct stakeholders and using or developing metrics then what are you doing?
This is what David Hayden, L&D Professional at the CIPD said about the statistics:
“The challenge of 17% only measuring demonstrates it can be a massive challenge and rethink on what we measure. My advice is to start small and build up – pick one or two projects or interventions and work on the business metric links for those – and make it explicit in any pre intervention communication, during the intervention at regular points and in any post intervention communication. Become known for knowing the business goals!! Be that role model!”
“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
― H. James Harrington
If you would like to discuss further with a group of L&D professionals, then come along to our next free Showcase event : “Taking the fear out of ROI”