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.
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.
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.
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.
- When the shit hits the fan, which of your advisory board members would you turn to and why?
- If your advisory board was your executive team, what experiences or temperaments are missing?
- What skills would you like to see on your advisory board?
- 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? 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: how to make sure they deliver actionable insights.
Data is a powerful weapon for Learning & Development organizations. While a lot of attention has been spent on collecting and even understanding it, communicating it to those inside and outside the L&D organization is critical. Brent Dykes, the Sr. Director of Data Strategy at Domo, which is a cloud-based, self-service BI platform highlights the challenges many dashboards face. “Rather than giving us clear insights and direction, they can overwhelm us with too much noise, obscure what’s important (signal), create confusion and raise needless questions.” In the Forbes article he addresses 10 keys to dashboards that deliver “actionable insights.”
- Target a specific audience.
- Involve end users in the design process.
- Provide adequate context.
- Describe how to interpret the numbers.
- Choose the right data charts.
- Anticipate the flow of questions.
- Streamline for easier consumption.
- Highlight what’s important.
- Recommend prescriptive actions.
- Review content periodically.
In Running Training Like a Startup I propose several dashboards for L&D to consider. What dashboards are watching and sharing?
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?
Some thoughts on the value of taking a break.
I took the summer off. I did this for several reasons. First I took the break to focus on my health, both physical and mental. These are things that often find themselves on the back burner when a client challenge or passion project arrive on the scene. The second reason was that after taking 18 months to research and write Running Training Like a Startup I had lost my perspective on the practices it contains. Taking almost 90 days to work on myself initially felt like extravagant waste. As the days passed it became increasingly clear that it was overdue and that I had come dangerously close to a place I did not want to be.
When my self allotted time began to come to a close I found myself quieter and able to hear my passion for rekilling today’s workforce. I was growing increasingly confident in the path I had selected. A confidence that had wobbled and waned prior the summer. I gave myself time to reflect on the learnings from client engagements and feedback I had received on the book. All in all it was an extremely valuable pause that I hope will make my future contributions that much more valuable to my readers, clients, friends and family.
The summer was not entirely without work. I read and learned prolifically. Articles, books, videos and conversations have fed my mind with ideas for blogs, book additions and activities. You can look for the next version of the shareware book to be released in Q4 with expanded content on governance and minimal viable product design. I am excited to share and get the advice of other practitioners. You can see a curated selection of articles I have been reading here.
I recommend a pause to everyone. It feels selfish. It feels like a luxury that can’t be afforded. It feels amazing. Sometimes we forget our “why.” Why we do what we do. Applying the 5 Why’s exercise to our own actions can sometimes be a valuable check on the alignment that we have in our life and work.
Why I Do What I Do
I believe that learning is the silver bullet. I believe it solves social and economic issues. I believe it impacts terrorism and global issues. I believe that it is the single most important driver in ensuring our future is better than our present. I believe that Running Training Like a Startup is my contribution to improving the bullet.
The mission of a company’s L&D organization is to provide the business with a skilled workforce that enables it to achieve its business goals. In a tight job market, the ability to upskill the workforce takes on an even more critical role. The costs of new hires are high. Wage inflation, time to productivity, culture fit (or first-year attrition due to the lack of it) are only two components of this cost equation.
So in this environment think about this. As L&D continues to ask for a “seat at the table.”
“Layoffs hit their highest level for a first quarter in 10 years as 2019′s job market got off to a shaky start, according to a report Thursday from outplacement firm Challenger, Gary & Christmas.
Total announced cuts hit 190,410, a 10.3 percent increase from the fourth quarter, and a 35.6 percent jump from the same period a year ago. The level was the worst period overall since the third quarter of 2015 and the highest level for a first-quarter since 2009 as the economy was still mired in the financial crisis.”
-Jeff Cox, CNBC
And that is not to mention the lost revenue and growth opportunities due to the mountain open positions.
And yet when you Google “CLO’s fired” you get ZERO results. I understand that many factors play into layoffs and but with automation increasing and the digitization of the workplace sweeping overall business sectors shouldn’t we all be targeting the lowest layoff levels and job openings possible. With a seat at the table will come accountability. Are we ready for it?
Rapid and effective product development requires key roles. In the book I discuss the need for a product manager to oversee the raid iteration cycle required by minimal viable learning solutions. This article from techbeacon.com further explains the roles of product owner and product manager. In many cases the CLO fills the role of product owners while the solution architect acts as the product manager. In all cases keeping the voice of the customer (learner) close the product development team is essential.
You can see the article here
This article referencing data from McKinsey hits on an important point regarding the importance of governance. If we (as an industry) can figure out a solid model for the governance of L&D, I am all for it. But after two decades of hearing “we need a seat at table,” I am bored and a bit pissed. It is time to be bold and loud and get fired. I address governance in the book but more importantly this article highlights why we have to get it. Credibility, resources and respect flow from having EARNED the right with senior sponsors.
I proposed three levels of of governance ( strategic, tactical and specific) but I seriously don’t care. The goal is connecting to the business. The goal is understanding the business. I remember Ed Trolley calling this disconnect out by always asking learning leaders whether, “if the company goes out of business, are you (L&D) sill around?” The L&D organization is part of a larger whole and thinking any other way is dangerous.