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      Learning and development - the modernisation agenda

      by Eoin McDonnell

      Learning and development strategies

      Much has changed in L&D (or training departments as many people still know them as), in the last 5 to 10 years. Not least that budgets have been slashed. This is a common pattern – when times are hard, training departments seem to be the first hit.

      The need to modernise L&D service provision


      Generally, this is because the people at the top don’t directly see the value L&D bring to the business. It is also because expectations of training and learning & development professionals haven't changed that much since most of us went to school. When we enter the world of work, many of us still expect a 'class' or a 'course' to tell us what to do.  Some of our participants commented that while senior leadership often talk about 'people being important', they don't always appear to follow that through with action.

      Donald Taylor from the Learning and Performance Institute spoke at one of our recent events. These seminars support learning and training professionals in modernising their strategies through the use of new learning technology.

      Don, a frequent speaker at the CIPD L&D show and the Chair of Learning Technologies, spoke about how learning & development teams need to radically change their strategies to deliver real value to the business they serve. Read more about the moment of opportunity for L&D.

      Essentially - “what your CEO really wants from L&D and how to deliver it”.

      Donald's presentation discussed these questions:

      • What do CEOs want?
      • How do CEOs interact with L&D?
      • What has changed in the last 5-10 years?
      • Where do you think your department is on the grid?
      • What does the term 'Performance Consulting' mean to you?
      • What can we do about moving towards learning leadership?

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      Where are you on the grid?

      Question 4: ‘being on the grid' , Donald was referring to this:


      Don describes two measures - a range from slow to fast changing organisations and the same, fast to slow, for L&D.

      So, for example, if you worked for an organisation who were slow to respond to market challenges, and your team just did typical training events, then as an organisation you likely face a comfortable extinction. Most likely, you are busy doing the wrong things.

      Don used the examples of Kodak and Instagram. Kodak, the organisation who invented modern digital photography, went out of business recently - so they have already faced extinction. Instagram, likely to be Learning leaders, took a fresh, modern and social approach to how people use photography today. They were sold to Facebook for $1 billion.

      Most of our participants identified themselves as either Unacknowledged prophets or Learning leaders. The consensus was that they knew the role of modern learning strategy and learning systems but sometimes faced barriers from others who didn't get it. 

      Use performance consulting to help modernise L&D

      The final section of Donald’s presentation spoke about Performance Consulting. This looked at the great work of Nigel Harris, a UK-based pioneer in Performance Consulting. You can read more about Nigel here.

      Performance Consulting does, to a degree, ask what is l & d. It takes a more holistic approach to resolving workplace performance problems than instructional design traditionally has.

      Instructional design and learning solutions help workers acquire knowledge and skills but may not account for other environmental factors that impede their growth.

      By using a systems-thinking approach to identify and analyze the other factors that affect the performance of individuals and teams, performance consulting looks at the bigger picture.

      This will help L&D professionals overcome some of the barriers they face. By understanding the wider business context, for example the synergies between HR and L&D, learning professionals can show business leaders how they could help to solve the real business problems

      Donald finished with a useful summary:

      • Start to think like a marketer
      • Move beyond expectations (e.g. I want a course to teach ‘x’) to focus on real business outcomes
      • Adopt a performance consulting approach to understand your business
      • Focus on delivering small wins for business leaders

      What do our learning leaders think?

      We had some great contributions from our participants. A key skill identified for working today is the ability to negotiate and influence. If learning leaders are not happy that their voices are being heard at a senior level, then better negotiating and influencing skills are key to this.

      Selling the right engagement ring

      One participant gave a great example of influencing. He told of how he watched a London jeweller sell the best engagement ring to suit his fianceé. After his fianceé picked out an initial choice but she wasn't completely sure about that particular one, the conversation went like this:

      Jeweller: What do you like about this ring?
      Fianceé: I like the way it sparkles
      Jeweller: Oh, so you like the way it sparkles?
      Fianceé: Yes I do.
      Jeweller: Great, that’s because of the particular cut. Is there anything else you like about it?
      Fianceé: Yes, I like the band. It's not too thick.
      Jeweller: Yes, that one is nice and delicate....and this other ring is similar, it has just got a slightly better...


      The jeweller listened and identified what she really wanted. Then guided her toward the perfect choice.

      Listening for the right information

      By using simple a selling technique and reflective listening, we can help people towards decisions that they may not have thought of. When the lady went into the shop, she didn’t know what she wanted - or at best, she had a vague idea of her likes and dislikes. In workplace learning, you can 'sell' better solutions by working hard with the people they serve to uncover their needs.

      Imagine having this conversation with someone who comes to you saying “I want a course on X…”. Trying to uncover the challenges they are facing and how they hope the course will resolve them is key. Then, armed with a full understanding, you can work to create better learning solutions for your business.

      Listening to people and showing that you really care about their needs helps to build trust, rapport and credibility.  I’ll finish on a useful metaphor that one of our participants gave us:

       "If I were CEO, I’d look at L&D as if it was an oil light going off in my car. If the car is working well, I keep on driving. I only deal with it when I need to. Only when the light goes off, I pull into the garage, dip the oil, add oil as necessary - but I get it over with as quickly as possible and be on my merry way. 
      I'm not minded to keep dipping the oil or find out how it works. I just assume all is ok, until something tells me different – maybe next time it’s a rattle in the engine." 

      We are here to help learning and development teams 

      If you are interested in taking a new approach, check out how we help learning and development teams.

      As your first step, why not download our infographic on the key skills for digital transformation in your workplace?

      One of the learning technologies in our portfolio, Percipio, can boost your learning provision very quickly.  We are always on hand too if you want high quality digital learning content without the headaches of old-style eLearning projects!


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