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
Last week 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 title of this blog is also the title of the podcast and it will be coming out in March.
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!
There is more and more pressure on L&D to do more with less. So do you struggle to keep up with the demands of the business? Do you wonder how to prioritise all the things you have been tasked to do and wonder how you will actually design things that are more than just fit for purpose?
If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions you will probably be feeling pressured right now, so here are a few things you can do to help:
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?
A while ago I wrote a series of blogs with a tag of “Being Brave” but after an LPI meeting this week for Learning Provider Connect, I have had a chance to rethink this “bravery”.
It occurred to me that the minute you start speaking about being brave, to some people it may have the effect of making them fearful. That this very encouragement, could have the opposite effect and instigate that “paralysis” we sometimes experience when we are afraid.
What I have encouraged in the past, is for L&D to be brave and to:
- Ask more questions
- Dig deeper and find out more about the organisation
- Don’t take at face value what the stakeholders see as “facts” – question it all!
So what I am proposing, is not in fact bravery, but curiosity! A real nosiness about what is happening, not happening, on the horizon etc.
So what would that look like?
Here is a scenario, that happens all too often:
Stakeholder to trainer: Hi, we need some training fast and lets put everyone though it!
Trainer to Stakeholder: Sure I can help, just tell me what you want
Following this might ensue some conversations about the who, what, when and where, but what I am suggesting is an alternative.
“Adopt an air of curiosity”
Stakeholder to trainer: Hi, we need some training fast and lets put everyone though it!
Trainer to Stakeholder: That’s interesting, I wonder if I could just have 10 minutes of your time to dig deeper to help you solve your problem and to come up with a solution that has measurable impact?
Stakeholder to trainer: That sounds interesting…. yes of course I can do it now…
Trainer to Stakeholder: So tell me more about what has been happening, I am really interested to know what has prompted this request?
To me the second scenario does not take bravery, but curiosity. So go on L&D get nosey! Find out more about what is going on behind the scenes. Ask questions… then ask more questions until you really find out what is at the bottom of it. Who knows what you will uncover?
I took part in a very interesting #ldinsight discussion on Twitter (@LnDConnect) last Friday and it made me think deeply. David D’Souza* was the one promoting this proposition and it really got me on the defensive. In defense of L&D that is.
*what David actually said was “Help them to learn how to learn & help others learn. Then disappear like mist.”
So in theory, if in L&D we did our jobs really well, we could help people to learn how to:
- Recruit the best people
- Learn on the job as well as other channels
- Pass on knowledge and skills where needed and when
- Adjust attitudinal misalignment through coaching
……just as a starter for 10
So in this Utopian world I could completely buy this, believing that 100% sustainable learning is achievable across the board, but these are the realities:
- People start to drift back into their silos, looking out for themselves and not the greater good
- Egos start to drive competition and not collaboration
- “Stuff” starts to happen in one area that others don’t notice
- We believe that how we have learned in the past is the absolute best way to learn in the future
……just a few little things…but that is why we need L&D to:
- Challenge when the drift starts to happen
- Remind people of common goals
- Infiltrate the organisation, so we have an overview of what is happening
- Keep abreast of new and better ways to learn in an ever changing world
Going back to David’s original tweet, I do agree somewhat… L&D should “disappear like the mist”, but not permanently, just waiting in the wings, to help, coach, support where necessary. My defensiveness around David’s statement was because his approach, is a philosophy and I am very much a pragmatist. Back to the original question though….. “Should L&D aim for obsolescence?”. If we take this on board as a philosophy, will that change our approach? I believe it might do….
My own approach to L&D is strongly in favour of everyone in an organisation being empowered to learn and I have blogged about this approach previously if you are interested in reading about it.
I mainly train trainers, facilitators and SME’s but just recently, in an exciting new project I worked with a team of team leaders, helping them to understand the whole of the learning cycle so they could develop their teams more effectively. This was a pilot and we are waiting to measure the outcomes to see the impact. One objective was to give these non L&D people enough knowledge of L&D so that they stop prescribing training as the only solution. L&D will be at hand though to help them in the trickier tasks of doing more detailed needs analysis, when they need it. Would David approve of this in theory I wonder?