Branding Learning & Development

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Does your learning and development department have an identity issue?

Explore the concepts of personal branding and what it can teach us about the learning and development function.

The essence of branding is interpretation – we are all very complicated creatures with complicated minds and I firmly have a belief that if you work with people you are already perfectly aware of this. Many have tried to simplify the complicated topic of human interpretation and the greatest attempt is stimulus & response. If I give you a message the mind is immediately stimulated, and how it responds is made up from your uniqueness. What we must remember from this idea of stimulus & response is the stimulus is a message received, and a message is received in many ways. The message could be this written blog, a conversation in the hall way, a video you have seen, or the advertisement on the radio.

Based on this theory, you have already formed an idea of what this blog will contain and if you will continue reading it. In fact, just based on what you may already know about me, my photo in the corner, or the layout of my web site you have already been stimulated and responding in your own way. The trick, the deception to personal branding consequently is consistency. Without consistency in the message how can you make a connection?

“I cannot dictate how you respond to the messages I want to leave you with, however I can determine the messages I give you.”

In researching this topic about incorporating personal branding principles into the branding of learning and development I reached out to my personal network. Their interpretations on Personal Branding provided many different views. The key theme, the one recurring factor that was determined was that to create a brand it must be genuine.

Join me as I explore the concept of personal branding, relate it to the learning and development function, and share my unique perspective with you.

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I summarise personal branding into three main areas:

  1. What is the brand
  2. Who is the audience
  3. Consistency of the message

1. What is the brand

To effectively brand yourself to your network, peers, areas of influence (be it community, industry, or friends) you must first understand yourself. If you could simply state what you stand for it will come easier to contribute as it is something that you are already passionate about.

If you do not understand your own brand how can you expect others to? Be clear in who you are, your values, and what drives you so you can demonstrate this to your audience and you will see that sharing becomes so much easier.

I have been warned about the dark side of personal branding too. That is that the term indicates that you are cornered, branded in one light, pigeon holed. However, humans demonstrate time and time again that we are creatures of habit, and it is that habit that brands us. Be it a good habit or not, it is the habit that becomes us. I am simply saying draw attention to your strengths as they tend to be what your passion is!

Relate this to the learning and development function and I would be taking a quick stock take. Conduct a personal reflection for what you believe the strengths and weaknesses are of the function and how you determine it to be represented by the business. With this information you are looking from within out, and the results could be very biased. Next, you should look from outside. How is the business seeing the department and does something need to change. Simply understand the brand.

More often than not with the first area of personal branding, ‘what is your brand’, many people (and in turn your department) is giving off mixed messages in what it represents. Not only can this confuse you, it can confuse the business too.

2. Who is the audience

You understand what your brand is, what you are known for and what you are passionate about. With this information you can start to create a presence and become known for you vision and insight. After all if you truly believe in something it flows so much easier and attractive. That being said, I am going to label some of us a extraverts and introverts. And No! personal branding is not just for the communicators, the ones who stand out because of the noise they make. Personal branding can be simply knowing your strengths and sharing them with the network.

This brings me to my next area, who is your audience. To put it bluntly, if you trying to brand yourself as a passionate global pro surfer why is your target audience the local swimming school?

Knowing your audience means you speak to their language, you use common grounds to share your unique perspective and you understand what they are going through. Relating this to the learning and development function, you understand what the department represents and stands for, however have you clearly articulated this to the target audience in their common language, their business outcomes.

The realisation here is the medium of communication. A recent example was using the intranet as the vehicle for all information and communication in the business. If I had done my research on the audience I would have found that they get their business updates from their managers and I simply needed to cascade information down to get the message up!

3. Consistency of the message

Clearly one of the most important areas, however without the other two it would be useless and unsatisfying. Maintaining consistency in the message being giving will result in returning traffic. Simply if the audience has an opportunity to create a recognition to a colour, image, or tonality they have a higher chance of returning or making a connection with it.

One measure I have taken with my personal branding of late is to re-focus on the consistency of the message. Ensuring I am using the same image found on my blog for all my communication avenues means my network can make a connection.

Making this relatable for the learning & development function, how often do you ensure you have consistency in approach to learning interventions, or request to support the business? I am not only talking about consistency in approach from the template lesson plans, handouts, emails, etc. But the approach you and you fellow human resources team use when working with the business. How consistent are you? Is it time to re-configure?

“Measure yourself not as a brand, but as a strength. Measure your success not in followers or likes, but in the impact you can cause. Measure yourself not by the work output, but in the input you contribute.”

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

Training Needs Analysis

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Tonight I reflect on my current approach to conducting a training needs analysis within my organisation. The process I have used such as surveys, one on one interviews, and course evaluations have been extremely helpful to identify where training is effective and where training can be invested to give the greatest return. It is this process that has always given me visibility of training across all the departments.

What I believe to be an area that I can improve is the creation of a standardised departmental training needs questionnaire. As mentioned above this is conducted through many different streams including surveys, and one on one interviews. However, standardising some of the questions to use could assist in a speedier and accurate training needs analysis.

When there is a need for a training needs analysis to be conducted, whether identified through a manager or employee, this questionnaire should be used to collect relevant information.

Training Needs Analysis Questionnaire:

The learning and development team is currently reviewing all training events to ensure they are meeting the objectives of the individual, department and the organisation. Your input will not only be of considerable assistance in collecting this information, but it will also assist in identifying additional training requirements. Please answer the following questions and return to the Learning & Development Manager.

1. List below the courses that are currently being conducted for you and/or your department, then indicate how satisfied you are with the results of each course. (1 = Not Satisfied, 2= Satisfied, 3 = Very Satisfied).
Training Course: Satisfaction:
…Induction…. 2
…Negotiation Skills… 1

2. List below any of your departments and/or specific training needs to improve current job performance.

3. List below any additional training that you or your employees require. Please rank in order of need.

4. List below any training requirements you believe will develop within the next year.

5. List below any other areas in which you believe training can be of assistance to you and your department/employees.

The five questions are likely to generate allot of interest and can be used to assist in one on one interviews. It is intended for managers within departments, however can be used for anyone within a small team. After all, it is the students that determine the need for training.

If the questionnaire is used effectively it will generate information on:
– How well the current training courses are meeting the business requirements
– How employees feel about the training and their own individual training needs
– Identification of additional training required
– Training requirements that maybe required in the future
– and, other areas where training can build competence.

Happy training,
Luke