L&D is a Master of VR

When Ed and David released Running Training Like a Business (RTLAB) it was clear to many that the industry needed a new way of looking at not just how and what we were training employees but why.  The book aspired to take the industry discussion up a level.  Away from the micro of courses, design methodologies and technology to the macro and meta.  The book encouraged a turn inward away from the course and curricula towards the creator, the L&D organizations itself.  What the factory was designed for, pre-determined what the output was.  Transforming the organization would transform the output and the value it produced.

In 2010 when I started writing the Learning Hacks blog as a way to capture my musings on L&D I began with a blog entitled “The Spark That Started It All”, the working title for this post can still be seen in the URL for the post.  It expressed my disappointment that many of the challenges described in RTLAB, over a decade prior, remained unaddressed.  In my book Running Training Like a Startup I cite one of my favorite Ed Trolley quotes.  A quote that was validated in many of the assessments we did for clients around the world.

“Business leaders have low expectations of training. And they are being met.”

-Ed Trolley

Yesterday, Harvard Business Review released an article entitled. “Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development” that put things in clear perspective. In it Steve Glaveski highlights recent studies that show:

  • 75% of 1,500 managers surveyed from across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company’s Learning & Development (L&D) function;
  • 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs;
  • Only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs; and
  • Only 25% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved performance.

Glaveski nets it out this way, “Not only is the majority of training in today’s companies ineffective, but the purpose, timing, and content of training is flawed.”  I don’t disagree.

While the L&D community hold conferences dominated by sessions on how to create compelling Powerpoint title slides, the use of chatbots, and incorporating podcasting into a curriculum, the businesses they support keep moving and changing desperate for employees that can perform.  In the late 90’s I was tasked to lead a project for Microsoft.  At the time they were under intense scrutiny for monopolistic practices.  It was also a time when Fred Reicheld (who would later create the Net Promoter Score) released the “Loyalty Effect” debunking the marketer “top-box” approach to assessing satisfaction.  I won’t go into it here but when retention does not show a drop off as satisfaction goes down there are other market forces at play. High switching costs, tie-ups and lack of alternatives can be some of those drivers. The retention results don’t reflect the satisfaction of customers (it may make it worse because they feel trapped) but it does give the provider an extremely distorted view of how it is performing.

Over 20 years post the release of RTLAB the data on L&D’s customer satisfaction continue to come in.  While the L&D industry focuses on budget amounts, spend per employee and other “vanity metrics”, the HBR article clearly shows it is long overdue for the learning organizations that are delivering leadership training to take a leadership role.  For the L&D groups supporting innovation initiatives to innovate.  For the industry, as a whole, to take off the goggles and stop living in its virtual reality world.

Revisiting the Learning Stack

A framework to help identify amplifiers and limiters of learning

I find frameworks extremely helpful.  I also find blogging useful for memorializing ideas and belief at a given time.  So going back and revisiting  a blog post about a conceptual framework is really enjoyable for me.  Before I started the Running Training Like a Startup project and blog I had been capturing my L&D musing on a blog I titled Learning Hacks.

In 2013 I authored a post  on the Learning Stack.  A framework for thinking about the amplifiers and limiters of learning. My focus has always been the macro and meta of corporate L&D.  I found the framework a useful way for me to organize the huge volumes of new research and experience being released.  It also provided useful context for more discrete elements of learning. In today’s environment, as L&D pros look widely for levers to enhance impact I felt it was time to take another look.  You can see the original post here.

Six years later, with so much more known and accepted in areas like neuroscience, learner personas and game dynamics, I am curious how the framework holds up.  Take a look.  Tell me what you think.   I look forward to your feedback.

Gatorade® or Broccoli: L&D Marketing

Why L&D needs to build its marketing capability.

Last week a few tweets caught my eye. ATD released an bit of research on “Top 10 Skills to Get You Ahead in L&D” .  Number 8 on the list was marketing.  I was glad to see this.  While the Learning & Performance Institute identified Marketing and Communications in its L&D capability map, there is no mention of it in SHRM’s L&D Body of Competency and Knowledge. Sardek Love, I feel, correctly identified this skill as one of the gaps that can offer significant competitive advantage. Drawing this response form ATD.

ATD Marketing

Sardek Marketing

I touched on the need for this capability in 2018 in this blog post. I expanded my thoughts on this dimension in Running Training Like a Startup as an important driver of speed, Speed to Learner.

“In order to impact this dimension, we believe the mind-set of L&D needs to change from manufacturer to marketer. One look at attendance data will show you that the most attended trainings are frequently mandated, not sold, to their audience. Assuming that learning is solving a real problem, getting users to recognize and “buy” the solution quickly is critical. Running Training Like a Business means L&D must become marketers and packagers of a truly performance-inducing product. Like Gatorade® for employee performance.”

From course descriptions that ” sell benefits not features” to launches that capture and engage target audiences (think something than than cafeteria tables), L&D is fighting for mindshare.  Marketing can help us connect learners to learning and produce business impact in a world where learner attention is a rare commodity.

 

Rotting Boards

L&D Advisory boards need a fresh look.

The current geo-political landscape aside, the topic of governance, with its advice, consent and oversight functions, remains at the forefront of discussions for L&D.  In the book Running Training Like a Startup I cite a report done by NIIT and CorpU to find out how learning organizations have adopted the core principles of van Adelsberg’s and Trolley’s book. Two findings from the report which jumped out at me were in the area of governance.  The study found that:

  • The use of governing boards with C-level executives to ensure strategic alignment is fine in theory but has little effectiveness in practice. Sixty percent (60%) of the companies have them to some degree, but only 10% deemed them highly effective.
  • The use of more tactical advisory boards, while slightly less prevalent (59%), are more useful in that 17% of the respondents deem them highly effective. 

While this study is now aged, my recent discussions with clients have confirmed  that this remains a sub-optimized tool for learning organizations.  While many have a documented governance structure much fewer are gaining the benefit.  Most of L&D seems to acknowledge the generally accepted three-tier model for governance. Executives form the strategic executive level with business heads and line managers operating in increasingly tactical functions in the lower levels.

Earlier this year, Training Industry Magazine published  a “Learning Governance Framework Cheat Sheet” that had been developed by Kaplan.  While fairly common sense, lots of “uh-huh and not a lot of “ohhh”, one pithy item on the checklist stuck with me as much for the pithiness as the “how?” questions that remained unaddressed.

“Construct a governance structure that is inclusive, agile, and commercially pragmatic with senior leader advocacy.”

I am currently working to expand the governance section of the book based on recent experience and research.  But, for those that are currently operating advisory boards at any level here are a few questions worth considering.  These are taken and adapted from a set that Jerry Colonna, executive coach to founders and author of Reboot, uses to assess the boards of startups.

  1. When the shit hits the fan, which of your advisory board members would you turn to and why?
  2. If your advisory board was your executive team, what experiences or temperaments are missing?
  3. What skills would you like to see on your advisory board?
  4. How do non-advisory board executives and managers view your current advisory board?

In today’s fast moving business environment L&D cannot fail to get the most out of this critical element of driving unmistakable value for the companies they serve. How are you using advisory boards and what challenges are you facing in getting the most out of them?

 

Why Not Re-skill?

Why Not Re-skill? Recruitment vs. Re-Skilling

A survey from the Consumer Technology Association, the trade association representing the $398 billion U.S. consumer technology industry, which supports more than 15 million U.S. jobs and more than 2,200 companies stated the following:

  • 37% of those surveyed will displace workers due to technology advancements in the next five years.
  • Of those with displacements, only 52% of the displaced population will be re-skilled and retained!

My question is simple. Why will only half of the companies surveyed re-skill workers and choose instead to take the long, expensive, and risky path of recruitment?  Existing workers have already proven to be a culture fit.  They have cleared the hurdle of basic orientation to the way the company works.  They have already demonstrated the ability and desire to add their value to the company.  The tangible costs of new employees along with the intangible cost of layoffs to brand and public perception seem to far outweigh any costs associated with re-skilling.  So why the decision to jettison half of the displaced? How do executives view this trade off? What does this say about how L&D delivers re-skilling and the perceived value of it?

I look forward to your thoughts.

Your Learning Dashboards

Your Learning Dashboards: how to make sure they deliver actionable insights.

  1. Target a specific audience.
  2. Involve end users in the design process.
  3. Provide adequate context.
  4. Describe how to interpret the numbers.
  5. Choose the right data charts.
  6. Anticipate the flow of questions.
  7. Streamline for easier consumption.
  8. Highlight what’s important.
  9. Recommend prescriptive actions.
  10. Review content periodically.

In Running Training Like a Startup I propose several dashboards for L&D to consider. What dashboards are watching and sharing?

An Upvote for an Update

Keeping your stakeholders engaged .

Pat Riley, CEO of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN) wrote a great post last week about how to best keep stakeholders updated.  In the book I discuss and provide some ideas on how L&D pros can keep their stakeholders “in the loop”.  Pat had been waiting for a, “truly exceptional update to arrive in my inbox that I could showcase to the world.” I would agree with him.  Having seen my share of both startup and L&D updates most would benefit from this article.

While our world may be learning, our program sponsors and executives have other things at the center of their worlds.  Keeping them engaged is critical and updates, like the one dissected by Riley.

You can view the article here.

What are your best practices for keeping your stakeholders engaged?