The QA and QC of Learning

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?

Using Robert Cialdinis 6 principles of Persuasion as an L&D professional

I often speak about L&D professionals becoming part of the business, getting nosey and aligning ourselves with the goals of the organisation. Sometimes though, it’s hard to do. There are barriers, sometimes from the very stakeholders you need to get on board. If only they would! Life would be easier. You would get the support, encouragement and resources you need, when you need them.

So practically, how do you get them on board? A while back, I looked at Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of persuasion and thought it might be useful to apply them specifically to our profession and getting stakeholders on board:

  1. Reciprocity–“I do something for you, you do something for me”

So, a stakeholder approaches you to deliver something for their team and being a ‘people’ person, you agree, after making sure that they are clear on performance outcomes of course! Consider this, before you agree, tell them about that other stakeholder you struggle with, the one who is always putting your team down. Ask if they could put in a good word for you, if you deliver on what they want (they can use principle number 6 to influence that stakeholder).

  1. Scarcity– “Not much of this” or a limited time offer

Agree to deliver something, but within a specific timescale to fit in with other commitments. Ask them to get back to you by a certain date otherwise you will be busy ……do not make it up but share what your busy schedule looks like and that you have to prioritise.

  1. Authority– “We are qualified to do this”

In a social space for your organisation, do a “Spotlight on Katie” (other names can of course be used), where you describe the achievements and qualifications of your individual L&D team members. Change this once per week/month. Have posters with their qualifications and achievements in the training rooms

  1. Commitment Having agreed to this, can you agree to that?”

If there is something you would like a stakeholder to agree to, then first of all get them to agree to something small before you go for the big ask.

  1. Liking –“I will do it just for you”

Build relationships and rapport with your stakeholders and do it in a genuine way. Be interested, curious and approachable. People will help people they like!

  1. Social proof –“Others have done this”

Maybe you are trying to get your stakeholders to try new things and new ways of working but are meeting with some resistance. Find a stakeholder who is a willing guinea-pig and then use the story of how you helped them to adopt those new ways and how it benefitted them to win over others.

If you would like know more about getting closer to your stakeholders and being able to deliver learning with demonstrable value then you can order Krys’s book: “How Not To Waste our Money On Training”

 

Getting beyond the orange juice….

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!

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…..

Where on earth do you begin with evaluation L&D?

Where do you begin with evaluation?IMG_0853
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.

Are L&D ready for change? Which deck are you on?

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”. 

TM blogs #4Looking 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….

double decker red bus clipartThe 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?

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