Five ways to influence learning & development

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What is the importance of learning & development in the workplace and how can it contribute to the organisation?

What a great question to ask the learning and development community to answers. To not only justify our roles but to show the strong linkages between learning & development and the outcomes of a successful business. I still get asked this question and the many different variations from organisations locally, regionally and globally and I wanted to address some of the main launching points I use when showing the awesome value of learning & development.

I am going to make a couple of assumptions here. I am going to assume that you work in a learning & development role and that you have found this blog entry not by sheer accident, but from your own drive and passion to grow and develop yourself and the organisation you work for. You see, I believe we work in the most influencing role within any organisation, one that can work beside the executive leaders and the individuals performing on the ground. It is with this realisation of influence that we can better understand all aspects of the business, identify needs for development and ensure what growth is happening is moving in the same direction.

There is nothing more fear inducing for the competition than to see an organisation that is moving as one in the same direction!

During my time working with organisations in learning & development capacity I can summarise five jumping points for the argument that it serves a key role for a growing organisation. These include:

1.    A business can only grow so far without growing its people

Look back over the last 10 years, can you think of some companies that were successful then and are not here now? Chances are you could name a few of them, so what make the difference for to continue to grow and be sustainable? The answer is people and their ability to change rapidly on the world stage.

The market is very competitive thanks to globalization and world trade. The margins continue to decrease while the capability to expand increases. So what is going to be the competitive edge, people? Investing in the capability of people and ensuring that the development planning is aligned with company growth plans can result in increased focus. If done correctly this focus is like a laser beam – a hundred or a thousand individuals developing and growing in the same direction of the business is a forced to be feared.

2.    Goals and objectives can be set but learning & development is the vehicle

It’s one thing to for a board of directors and executives to set objectives and strategy, but if this is not followed through with personal growth plans the objectives are just goals without a plan. Put simply we determine that we need to grow from 19M to 22M over the next 12 months and detail with the different functions what strategies are should have in place to do this. An example of this could be; focus on the top 20 clients; branch into new sectors; implementation of an account management system. However, if learning & development is not involved throughout these planning session how can we be sure that we are planning to grown the people to deliver on these outcomes.

Determine current state, determine end state, and then bridge the gap with learning & development initiatives. This is how you can support the organisations people to grow just that, the organisation. It is a simple approach which secures sustainable, positive change and can work with the leadership teams to create authentic learning and development initiatives at a rapid pace.

3.    Retain talented people

Talented people have one trait in common, they are hungry for learning. If you are not providing learning and personal growing opportunities you cannot be expected to retain these people. I am sure that everyone reading this today is a one of those talented people, simply because you have a hunger for personal development. If the organisation doesn’t build a learning culture how can we cultivate and retain talent.

4.    Attract talented people

The focus that I was alluding to above, you know the one where the people and the organisation march as one towards a common goal. That is something that will not only attract the eye of the completion, but also the eye of talented individuals. Put simply, who wouldn’t want to work for an organisation that knows what it wants and wants to develop you to get there with them.

5.    Real learning is not just a bunch of scheduled classrooms

It still surprises me that organisations, especially those without learning & development functions, believe that scheduling classrooms sessions about goal setting, performance management and leadership development programs is creating a learning culture. We all know it is not that simple, I simplify this complicated topic by asking “how do you like to learn” and I almost always I receive a different answer each time.

There are many theories out there revolving around pedagogy (the way we teach) in the work place and I can summarise the best strategy as formal and informal learning. Yes, it is important to pay attention to the formal training (i.e. classrooms), however it is the programs implemented for the informal learning where you will get the greatest outcome. A good measure is 20% formal and 80% informal learning, how you do it is the unique part.

What did you think of the above five points? Are there any more you would add? Leave a comment below and contribute.

Happy Learning

Luke Campbell

Learning Strategy

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Are You a Learning Consultant or a PowerPoint Builder?

Over the last week I have been approached by a senior leader within our business and asked to give guidance on the structor and delivery of a particular training session for contracts and the rules that govern them. I asked one question of them, ‘what can I do for you?’

What I received in return was a lengthly powerpoint presentation and a request to alter it to create impact. The intentions were honest and I understand that there is a perception of internal learning and development functions to fulfil this role, and realistically I could make an impact on the training session by reviewing the content along. Remove any over-used slides, suggest subliminal colours for particular sections, use simpler language & images, I could do this with no problem and little effort. However, upon receiving this information I began to ponder… wouldn’t a better approach be if I simply knew the motivation for the request.

I found my self reflecting on the above statement ‘am I a learning consultant, or just a powerpoint builder’. Do I act as a business a business partner? Now this is not an attempt at doubting my ability, far from it. I am simply drawing attention to the fact that L&D falls into two categories, consultive in approach or reactive in delivery.

So, I stripped the request back, way back to determine the real need and motivators that would drive a request like this, a request to review a PowerPoint. First, a couple of questions of the requester of the training.

  1. What is the problem you wish to address with this training solution you’re suggesting?
  2. Where have we been tracking in relation to this problem?
  3. Where would we be tracking if the problem was address… correctly?
  4. Why would this training bridge this defined gap?

Understand the problem, how it was identified, and the expectation once a solution was in place. With this information you have you can digress down the path of understanding what training events could take place, or if the problem can really be addressed with training alone.

Once you have an understanding of the motivators and the environment that drives a request for training, then you can enter into a genuine training needs analysis and start to assertion the following:

  1. Who is the target audience, what business unit, how many, different roles they play?
  2. What is their motivation for being at the training? why do they need to know, why do they want to know?
  3. What is the training commitment, how long do you have the audience for?
  4. What are the three key points you want the target audience achieve from the training?
  5. What is the outcome you would like to receive from the training? how could this be measured?
  6. When are you intending to run these sessions?
  7. What would happen if you didn’t do this training? What would happen if you did this training as is?

To derive the most valuable link between the learning and development teams and the business you must act as a consultive agent. This approach is time demanding, however is the most beneficial to the business and to your professional judgement. Historically L&D doesn’t engage with the business problems at the very front-end, and we tend to receive enquires for training events or offer a solution before we fully understand the problem

A failure to engage, question and challenge the status quo can lead to a culture of training events, a problem that can be fatal to you and the company.

Happy learning,
Luke

Problem – Opportunity

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One module left to teach then the system fails – this an opportunity!

Delivering SAP (software program for warehouse inventory) training to a group of warehouse employees has been progressing well during this three week training program. The pre go-live training is coming to a close after three weeks, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel – there is only one more module to teach.

Today seemed to be the day for it all. Many challenges were faced during this particular session, however the one challenge that takes the cake would be the fact that the system failed to load the last module at all. The trainees could simply not access the required areas of the program. Now, Im not one to complain, in fact I am far from it. This has happened before during training and I simply pushed it off to the side and diverted training onto another module that needed to be covered. Not this time though, there were no new module to teach.

I could tell that the trainees were starting to get frustrated, and rightly so, they would be the ones using this system once it was launched. So I decided to tackle the issue head one, there was a problem and it needed to get resolved. I decided to have them solve the issue during the training. What an opportunity for learning I proclaimed!

Problems are everywhere during training, do you take advantage of them for a learning opportunity?

The group, now divided into two, started dissecting the issue and discussing the problem in detail. They digressed into testing, exploring, and presenting possible solutions to each other until eventually both groups came to some conclusions. They not only found what the problem was, but they explored until they discovered two separate work arounds.

This is a success story, an opportunity in training when we were all faced with an issue and resolved it together. The solutions found were all different, yet all correct. Ultimately the  this came from being agile and responsive in the face of adversity. Grappling with a problem presented during a session and using it to our advantage.

A problem faced is an opportunity discovered, use it to enable effective learning.

My key takeaways from today:
1. In training you can be prepared, but nothing will go as you expected it to
2. When a student asks ‘why did that happen?’ don’t shy away from an opportunity to explore it together

Happy learning,
Luke

Training Delivery

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Date: 31/05/2013

What an amazing opportunity!

Lately I have been conducting training for warehouse employees about to embark on the use of SAP (Inventory management system) for their day-to-day use to record the goods coming in and goods going out. The changes this team have to undertake would be considered extreme to put it kindly. Systems, process, environment – you name it they are having it changed.

My reflection today is based on the awareness I have to advanced facilitation and the tools and techniques I am adopting into my facilitation. In particular the approach to delivery, pedagogy, for these adult learners.

This opportunity I wish to reflect on it the delivery of training over the three weeks before the change is ‘live’ and they must engage in it every day. The intention, as always, is to have the students competent enough to use the program so that they can still manage their key performance indexes (KPI) for stock coming in and stock going out.

I am determined to use my learning from the studies I am undertaking from RMIT to make this the best learning exercise for the staff involved. As you can see from the video I have aimed to incorporate problem based learning and behavioural exercises inside and out of the system to achieve the greatest impact. The determination of my chosen pedagogy from selected from a detailed training needs analysis and learning strategy.

Reflection on my facilitation would warrant to term ‘demanding’ as it takes allot of effort and input from myself as facilitator. However the excitement and results that this approach to facilitation achieves from the trainees demonstrates to me that I am approaching this learning correctly.

Happy learning,
Luke