It was such an interesting chat today in the L&D Mastermind 2nd Friday natter on Clubhouse. We started off talking about the ‘ROI of Learning’ and we finished off discussing about how to find the higher purpose of compliance training.
If you have never attended anything on clubhouse, it’s an informal (non-video) way of having a great discussion. Our next L&D Mastermind natter is on December 10th at 9am on this link.We will be talking about ‘Reflection: its purpose and value to L&D’.
These are some of the memorable take-aways I have from the natter (prompted by Cat Nelson, who was on fire btw!):
1) Measuring ROI can be a great weapon to use when someone wants training without a purpose – get them to define what they will get out of it and ask lots of questions
2) If you have a clear purpose to be fulfilled by the training it is easier to deliver it
3) The WAY that we train can have a completely different impact even with the SAME purpose
4) The L&D role is evolving and rather than think about L&D strategy we need to be clear about the business strategy so that we help deliver on it
5) Even in compliance training, by digging deeper into the wider purpose you can broaden the impact and gain more buy-in.
6) For ‘cost-centres’ like customer service start to look at the value you bring rather than the cost you incur – this forces you to look at your purpose
You may already be using subject matter experts to deliver training and see the huge benefits that this model brings. You may have considered using them or used them already without success. Whichever camp you fall into, in this blog I am going to explore the pros and cons of using subject matter experts within your organisation. I am going to share a real live case study from Stockport Homes who have had great success with their ‘Facilitator Pathway’ programme, which was introduced in 2015 and has been reaping rewards ever since.
Liz Chadwick, Head of Organisational Development at Stockport Homes said about the (Learning Loop) Facilitator Pathway:
“The Facilitator Pathway is fundamental to SHG’s approach to personal growth and development. It has enabled us to provide development opportunities for our team members whilst addressing learning needs across the organisation. Having a tailored approach based on organisational priorities and policies allows us to get it right first time”
So why would you consider using subject matter experts and not external consultants? Here are just a few considerations:
Training budgets are limited or about to be cut
The specialist external consultants in the subject of interest do not always understand the intricacies of how it applies to your organisation and you want the training to be tailored
You have a lot of external consultants coming in as you need the training frequently as part of your compliance requirements.
Stockport Homes introduced the facilitator pathway alongside other career development pathways in 2015 to strengthen their personal growth offer and generate efficiencies. This pathway provided stretch and recognition of talent, whilst knowledge sharing with other colleagues. The pathway has been a fundamental part of SHG’s Learning and Development Plan, providing bespoke solutions internally across the group.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using subject matter experts:
They have knowledge not only relevant to your industry but the application in your organisation
Cost savings* see table below
Promotes a learning culture where learning is not ‘owned’ by L&D but can be seen to be done by anyone who is willing and with an aptitude
Person is a known and respected part of the organisation
Tailored to the organisation
Opportunities to build team cohesion when leaders and managers are involved
They are not trainers or facilitators, so may not be able to put their subject across in an engaging or impactful way
Their ‘day job’ pulls them away from delivering the learning
A consultant will know what trends are happening in the broader industry and be able to share those
Employees may not think out of the box
Lack of inclusion and diversity if hearing the same voices
Since 2015, I have been running the Learning Loop programme for the Facilitator Pathway for Stockport Homes. Part of the needs analysis identified that the main driver was to save the £1000 per day fee that external consultants were charging. There have been significant money savings since 2015, although it is difficult to be exact in the tracking of all the days the subject matter experts have trained.
Below is a very conservative estimate of how much money will have been saved by the July 2022. Most cohorts have had 12 participants and the cost of the training (mainly safeguarding) has not been adjusted for inflation over the last 6 years. Some of the people on the Facilitator Pathway have done maybe 10 days training whereas others have done none. Therefore, to give an idea of the sort of savings that could be had, we have assumed just 2 days training per year per person since 2015. You can see that will mean by this time next year they will have (conservatively) saved £380,000
Facilitators trained (cumulative total)
Days trained per person annually
Money saved that year (£1000 per day)
*2020 no training face to face due to COVID19
The impact of these figures speak for themselves. As a consultant, if the client knows annually, I am going to be saving them initially £20,000, my fee in comparison will seem insignificant.
Training subject matter experts is not the same as training trainers or facilitators. They do not have experience in how people learn or how to create engaging learning activities. The role of any programme to help them deliver training in an impactful and engaging way is to:
Role model great practice
Provide simple models to follow to make analysis, design, delivery and evaluation straightforward.
Give them confidence that they can facilitate (not just present)
Be pitched at a level where the SME’s may have no L&D knowledge
If you would like to know about the impact of the Learning Loop programme on the participants of the “Facilitator Pathway” look at some of the comments from past participants:
“Motivates me to think outside the box and make a different way of learning key to improving the organisation”
“Very interesting, not what I thought it was going to be. Have always had training but not like this. Was much better :)”
“Energising and inspiring. You get lots and lots of different tools and ideas to make training interesting.”
“Very informative. Brilliant teaching techniques and great activities”
“Really interesting training that helps to inspire you and bring out your creative side”
Liz Chadwick, Head of Organisational Development at Stockport Homes said about the Facilitator Pathway: “The Facilitator Pathway is fundamental to SHG’s approach to personal growth and development. It has enabled us to provide development opportunities for our team members whilst addressing learning needs across the organisation. Having a tailored approach based on organisational priorities and policies allows us to get it right first time”
Contact us to find out how we can help develop your subject matter experts to deliver training in-house to save you money year on year.
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?
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:
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).
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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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.”
As part of what we do and the way we approach L&D, we believe that everyone should understand the whole L&D cycle, so that line managers can prescribe the right cure for an issue not just dispense a “training pill”. So that the senior team are confident in the part L&D will play in change and making the organisation agile.
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…..