‘ByteDance, the owners of Tik-Tok, has made a strong statement about the ineffectiveness of its talent development team. In an internal memo, the company noted talent development had “limited practical value” and represented a “disconnect” from the company’s needs.’1
Can you, in L&D, be sure that you are connected to your organisation’s needs?
It is thought that close to 100 people for talent development were laid off, in spite of the company’s insistence that “Talent development is still very much a priority for us and for our employees.” That indeed may be true, as they are looking at different ways in which they can still develop their people without the burden of a large and inflexible Talent Development team.
How can you ensure your L&D team are relevant and in tune with the organisation?
“Because the team has already grown quite large, we have decided to no longer retain the Talent Development Center as many of its roles and functions are not in tune with our current development strategies” continued the statement.
So is your L&D team running out of time?
What do you do to demonstrate value? Is your learning strategy aligned with the organisational strategy? Do you engage with the right stakeholders in the right way to maximise impact?
This is from the CIPD L&D at work survey of 2021:
The desire to demonstrate impact is hampered by barriers to evaluation
The majority of respondents do not use evidence to inform programme design
Both of these would be enough to be of concern in any organisation and both are easily remedied.
When people speak about the “barriers to evaluation” I believe this is more about having the data measures in place BEFORE beginning any design. This is echoed in the second point from the CIPD, about using evidence to inform programme design.
It seems straightforward to me with my engineering brain and my love of data to:
Assess where you are now
Determine where you (the organisation and the participants) want to be, with clear measurable outcomes
Look at your resources and constraints
Design something within the constraints you have that will achieve those outcomes
Another recent set of opinions from Donald Taylors Global Sentiment Survey 2022:
If you aggregate 1, 5, 9, 10 and 11, it adds up to a whopping 36.3%. I chose these because again they are indicative of L&D not aligning with the organisation and not using evidence to inform good decision making.
So what happens then in the world of L&D when we want to get closer to the organisation?Just the other day, I saw a social media post asking if anyone had a copy of a learning strategy they could use as an example, to copy. Here is what they should do instead of copying a strategy from someone else:
Look at the organisations mission, vision and goals for the next few years
Speak to each of these stakeholders and ask them these questions:
What is the biggest challenge the organisation is facing?
What is the biggest challenge your team/division/section is facing?
How could L&D help you overcome these challenges? Can they be quantified in some way?
What should L&D start doing?
What should L&D stop doing?
What should L&D continue doing?
What should L&D do differently?
If all of this seems sensible but you and your colleagues need a hand in some of the details you may be interested in a new online course that launched recently called “How Not To Waste Your Money On Training”.
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?
June the 11th 2019 was the date of the Learning Technologies Summer Forum in ExCel London. I was honoured to run a session on “Finding the Story in the Data” and here are some of my notes and thoughts about the session.
This session was a practical nitty gritty sort of event. I think people did forgive me if I was teaching my grandmother to suck eggs but I do hear from a lot of L&D people who just don’t know where to start. Data is all over the place and you can easily get swamped. So the purpose of this session was to get people started and get some confidence in looking at data in a practical way.
I started by asking a question: “Why bother collecting or analysing data?”.
The chart was put together by Laura Overton and reproduced with her permission.
The two main reasons as you can see are to improve the user experience and also understand the effects or benefits. Not surprising really and in a report by Towards Maturity from 2018 they speak about 91% of the top deck saying that their learning interventions were aligned to the business goals. In order to do that, you need to be measuring what you are doing.
Other reasons may be:
To check if things are going to plan
Demonstrate the value brought by L&D
Transition from learning provide to performance enhancer
Avoid the sheep dip approach
It is expected
My engineering brain….. in a former life I was a chemical engineer and fuel technologist and if you think that it is all about data and analysis with no room for intuition, then let me share a little story:
As an engineer, gathering data to site wind turbines, I became very skilled at finding appropriate sites just by looking at a map. This helped me to narrow down where to look from a myriad of places, that might be suitable. I would look at the maps, gather data from a mast and correlate it to the nearest met station. It is no different in L&D. You can use your intuition to see where things might be going wrong, from the data that you are already collecting and from your stakeholders. This means you can collect limited and focussed data to confirm your suspicions, to begin to find the story in the data.
Understanding the link between data and performance is crucial, as per the diagram below.
Knowing when to collect quantitative or qualitative data is also important.
Working through a case study helped participants decide when it was appropriate to gather quantitative data and then qualitative. A crucial part of this thinking was to think broader than the case study which is a great piece of advice to anyone doing their own analysis. Look and see what is happening in your industry just in case the sudden drop in sales is industry wide and not just a blip in your own organisation. It could save you a lot of time!
I then challenged the participants to say what they saw in a number of different graphs , encouraging them to be playful to find the story in the data. Sometimes the graphs raised more questions than they answered but it certainly gave everyone an insight into how easy it is to use Excel and simple charts to uncover that story.
I just had to share this picture from LTSF19 – Rachael Orchard, my fabulous host for the session, kindly brought her stormtrooper so we could endlessly make Star Wars puns and then playful Don Taylor agreed to pose with us both!