Blank canvas for learning and development

Blank canvasIf I had a blank canvas to equip a forward thinking global organisation in terms of learning and development here is what I would ensure we put in place. My first starting point always when working on learning and development for an organisation is understanding the culture as well as the strategy and direction going forward. A strong culture is what makes organisations great and helps retain employees once they feel a fit and congruence with both culture, themselves and corporate strategy. I believe learning and development and continuous improvement ought to be part of this culture, because this day and age we are continuously learning new skills, new technologies and our environment keeps changing more and more rapidly.

Once I have an understanding of strategy and culture, I would ask management teams to perform a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) on their teams and organisations, this in my view is a powerful way of identifying gaps in behaviour, skills or other. Based on the responses, then a priority list to resolve threats and ways to reinforce strengths should form the basis of goals towards a relevant and business supportive learning and development plan. The role of the learning and development manager is to listen and facilitate the process, only once there are clear goals planning for interventions makes sense.

Each organisation has a few core elements it should include in terms of setting the learning agenda and in my view these are:

  • Induction or on-boarding training where strategy, culture and very practical day-to-day and role related things are discussed
  • Social learning through thought leadership sharing from management as well as peer-to-peer, best practice sharing and also failure or big miss sharing so the organisation keeps learning. Technology for social interaction should be seen as the enabler, but really people sharing and encouraging to learn from each other is what drives this strategy, which is how we already do it on Facebook or LinkedIn with groups and comments as well as articles etc.
  • Leadership development for all levels of leaders. The key to employee engagement and retention lies most often with their immediate leaders, so to have the best for everyone have a great support program for newly promoted leaders, one for middle managers to keep up-skilling them and a stretch your thinking style program for senior management, where possible I recommend to include coaching so leaders have the chance to explore new skills in a confidential and personalised setting.

All of the above in my view is best implemented through a facilitator success framework I designed called STER which is short for strategic, timely, engaging and relevant (Coppens, 2013).

STER facilitator success framework (Coppens, 2013)

In order for successful training work to take place all 4 elements of the framework need to be included otherwise you lose effectiveness and miss out on the exponential behavioural transformation required as a result of your training investment.

Training content needs to have strategic value and when you followed the SWOT analysis approach, you will have a clear understanding between the corporate strategy and operational reality, so I would encourage all HR and L&D professionals to steer clear of course menu’s but rather to only accept training requests when priorities beyond learning have been identified.

In business time equals money and often skills gaps need to be resolved instantly as opposed to when possible, which is not the same as when the trainer is available or when we can afford to invest in it. I believe that when the student is ready, the teacher will come and this is where a well stocked social learning and e-learning may create a great foundation or even where the L&D can be the filter for adequate resources even though this role could just as well be carried out by an up-to-date manager or peer. When we encounter a problem, most of us have become accustomed to search for a solution straight away and to a large extent through online searches, books, video etc solutions to common problems can be found. When the problem is company specific the facilitator adds value with their knowledge.

In instructional design and adult learning research tells us we retain more when the learner is actively engaged and as adults we are consistently encouraged to do this, so lecture style training is totally outdated and ineffective. Engagement is created through discussion, skills practice, scenario’s, games and simulations as well as questions, quizzes, etc. Engaging and entertaining in my view are radically different, engagement is an active process where entertainment does not always require the active brain or behavioural side of the audience like with television for example, we can totally zone out but be entertained. Creating a respectful and safe environment where difference of opinion are tolerated and stimulated that is a key skill for an engagement focused facilitator.

Training needs to be relevant to what the participant is doing even if it standard and compliance related information, to create knowledge retention and behavioural change you need to make the information relevant to the individual or at a minimum the team. With learning trends evolving more and more to personalised learning this is an important factor and can be the reasons why some people will choose to opt out, because they do not see the relevance to their role or position.

When it comes to learning and development return on investment measuring, the above model can provide qualitative scores on whether your training team is hitting the mark to help drive your business forward. The added bonus when you tie the STER framework together with the priorities set in the SWOT analysis exercise, you can then start quantifying the strategic value of learning and development, which is where this should be positioned. The days of counting course hours, course participants and the happy sheets is well and truly over, quality in my view should always prevail over quantity.

Learning Technologies day 2 reflections

Day 2 was a lot more enjoyable at Learning Technologies, which probably had to do with having a plan and more defined number of people to and organisation to check out. One thing that fascinates me at exhibitions is how often the people representing an organisation actually don’t want to meet with interested people or totally lack the art of striking up a conversation, anyhow I will come back to the stereotypical types another time.

When I presented myself to some of my target organisation to find out more about their capabilities in social learning and gamification, I received a very varied approach, some because the organisation on my name tag read “looking for work” completely ignored me and sent me walking with a brochure, others did take a genuine interest and gave me white papers and others again thought my honesty was refreshing and even offered to help me find a role. In any case this time I found out the Saba and Cornerstone very likely had the social learning capability on offer that I fancied and spoke about in yesterday’s post, my only unanswered question would be the kind of budget needed to make it happen, but they wouldn’t disclose that without a real project in mind but their showcases did look interesting and worth exploring further.

The twitter feed, which I contributed to occasionally, had me visit QA purely because they had actually replied to a tweet I posted yesterday while I was on the way to a meeting and they had invited me to the talk by one of their representatives, unfortunately the talk was only on yesterday and the gentleman in question was no longer at the show, but they promised to send me his presentation. So in a way it shows me that a lot of the organisations at the show do promote social learning but very few are connecting on social media and this kind of target public would be a prime audience if you ask me. a bit of practice what you preach, is always good in my book for trust building and integrity.

Thanks to the conference twitter feed I managed to catch glimpses of one highly recommendable futurologist Gerd Leonhard and I managed to watch a good bit of his keynote recording at the end of the exhibition. And his point about information overload really meaning that we need filters, will give people like me a chance to act as a filter for the most relevant information to feed forward to my target audiences based on the needs analysis I would have conducted. I agree looking beyond the obvious is going to be totally key, I am also looking forward to catching the full presentation online, because it is bound to have great data and suggestions.

My biggest highlight of the two days and a very refreshing in terms of content and very engaging talk was by Ben Betts of Curatr on “Playing games with quality”. Not only did Ben echo my own thoughts that there was pretty damn little about gamification of learning available at the expo, but he also gave a fantastically balanced view of how to introduce game elements in non-game environments. My top take away piece from him was to not make gamification compulsory but instead to reward the right behaviour. As an experienced learning and development professional getting the desired new behaviour out of managers is often a challenge, but once you get them to think along those lines also very powerful and seriously brilliant to work with from a training perspective. I was also fascinated by his statistics on contribution and usefulness, which means more thought and encouragement is required than just traditional training thinking, but it does suit the social media generation down to the ground if you ask me. Being part on a number of collaborative learning groups on Facebook, proved it’s value to me a few times over where I as a participant was able to help other participants in addition to the main tutors who totally encouraged helping each other forward.

Ben’s 3 top tips when looking at gamification were as follows:
1. Find the right behaviour
2. Shape the right behaviour
3. Measure the right behaviour

I have to say Ben’s presentation made the whole day worthwhile and tickled my fancy to explore the topic further and as a result I am contemplating another book project or as the Cranfield University people suggested potentially a DBA on the topic and practice of gamification. It was fun to have a good and interesting academic debate on executive development, it always brings back my MBA days of theory versus practice debates, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

So in conclusion, it looks like what I believe is essential in terms of social learning is only in it’s infancy in terms of both technology and probably organisational readiness, but I do concur with industry experts that it is the way forward for the coming generations of learners. When it comes to games for learning I definitely feel like I am ahead of the pack in terms of thinking and experience, but it is a hot topic not to be overlooked to keep your audiences engaged. I believe if social learning is still in it’s infancy, then gamification is currently premature based on what I saw and heard at this exhibition.

Thank you to all of you who shared great wisdom, good conversation and white papers, I will be going over them in the coming days.

Learning technologies first day observations

As a learning and development professional I like to stay up-to-date about what’s new and happening in the industry and how potential systems can help the learning experience. With that in mind I attended the first day of the Learning Technologies exhibition in the Olympia in London. My expectation was to learn about sexy new technology for social learning and also gamification options for learning going forward.

Hmm… now how can I say this, I have been underwhelmed by a long shot so far!!! Games and game technology for learning I have yet to find and encounter, so I will trawl through some of the documentation tonight to hopefully find those gems tomorrow. It does really fascinate me though that real forward thinking hasn’t reached the mainstream exhibition, I do believe there is some mention in the conference on the topic based on their tweet feed and some of the forward thinkers I already follow. What I also wonder about is whether this is a reflection of what is going on in companies and whether I am just dreaming of our future ahead? Some of my biggest aha moments in learning have happened as a result of games and simulations, the more competitive usually the bigger the learning.

In terms of facilitating social learning a lot of the e-learning and LMS system providers have caught on to the words of social learning, but with some of them I am not convinced they have any idea of what they actually mean they just want to sell their piece of technology or how that would actually work in practice. I did meet some gems so far too, but not that many. What I would love a system to be able to do, I haven’t seen so far, but maybe I will find out tomorrow.

I attended one free talk by Videoarts, whose video’s I have used for training in the past and I totally love the original thinking of John Cleese, way back in the day when this was unheard of. Ironically the presentation itself was pretty boring, here is a company that has exciting content, massive back end materials, but the presentation on how to engage with the youtube generation left me wishing I was watching youtube right there, because it was dry content read of a powerpoint. Come on guys… you have such great stuff to offer a bit of wow factor could have been good. In any case that sort of ended my appetite for the talks, who seemed to all have the boring reading of a powerpoint theme in common, so much for innovative presentation style in learning and development, if innovative is too far a stretch then ideally engaging as a minimum, not too much to ask I hope?

I did like the concept of learning and development evolving into a more curator type of role of providing relevant information on multiple levels, who get’s to see what and what they do with it.

I had an impressive demo by a provider for Google on creating simulation based learning modules with amazing back end behavioural statistics. I totally loved how the system created modules, even though I wonder how it would be implemented in practice when looking at soft skills and how much time it would actually take to develop and also how much of the trainers input would be good enough to have meaningful results, but it was excellent in output and the data tracking of how well somebody responded gave management information most of us in learning and development can only dream of. Behavioural analysis data on your whole target market, well done ETU –

The guys that in my view seemed to know their stuff when it comes to social learning are and their 70:20:10 model implemented with Zara in retail gave a good example of encouraging learning across an organisation and giving people the tools to do exactly that. In my ideal world I would love the learning to travel both ways bottom-up, top-down and additionally peer to peer side ways, a bit like an internal showcase of what I learned this week in short snippets done by everyone and sorted by a searchable database and as a user you can track your colleagues, mentors, managers… just like you would on social media. Technically it is all possible, practically it is about encouraging people to put themselves out there with the potential of getting it wrong some times, and totally spot on other times. I guess for most companies that will mean a cultural shift, which when you have a practical mindset doesn’t have to be too time consuming although you will invariably meet that as a point of resistance. Most leaders read articles, books, watch youtube, tedx and other information to stay-up-to date all we want them to do is share their sources and if they have interesting views are willing to add to into their source, then social learning has started… easy 🙂

In terms of leadership development, I stumbled across a gem from namely the Primary Colours Model of Leadership which has their trademark on it and comes with a 360, a leadership report and employee engagement surveys, which they will teach practitioners to use and roll out. In terms of content all the key elements of leadership were covered from strategy to operational result and interpersonal skills. Having spoken for some time with a professor or SAID business school, he convinced me of the value of the programme and it’s content and then when he mentioned the crazily low price I questioned if he was being real, but I guess that’s when you meet academia whose love for learning is bigger than the need for profit. Anyhow in my view highly recommendable (especially before they put their prices up).

These were my highlights and lowlights of my morning at the Learning Technologies, I am delving into some of the documentation I picked up tonight to plan my visit for tomorrow and I will share my 2nd day observations also, hopefully getting in will be less chaotic tomorrow morning.