Friday, 31 October 2008

Make Learning Stick.....Part One

The amount of effort that can go into the design and development of a learning intervention can be very significant. If you are dilligent you might even think about measuring some of the benefits......and this is often where things go wrong.

Measuring the benefits of a learning intervention is GOOD but it is important that you make the learning stick. How do you really embed learning after an intervention so that real behaviour has taken place.....permanently? You could show that the training course was a great success but what about 2 weeks later when everyone is back to their usual work environment......?

In the next series of posts I will look at ways to make learning stick in your organisation. With resources tight now this is more important than ever. If you have less money to invest in people development then you need to squeeze everything you can from it!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Why is L&D more important than ever?

If you work in L&D you may think that the current times are tough. Your budget is being slashed and maybe training has already been frozen or slimmed down. Before you reach for your noose there are some incredible opportunities out there for L&D at the moment.

The recent collapse of the financial markets was largely due to the lack of regulation in place. The banks could do what they liked......and we are now all paying the price. Now that the banks are back under the control of the govt (in the UK the govt now owns most of them) then that will all change. There will clearly be a focus on introducing new regulations and policies but perhaps more importantly a focus on changing the culture and inherent behviours of those in the banking industry.

Can you imagine how many people are going to be impacted by this....?  Each organisation is going to have to make sure that their people fully understand these new regulations - without it they won't be able to do business. If that wasn't a large enough L&D opportunity then how about the behavioural change piece. How can you change the behaviours of such a large group of people?

I am already talking with clients about these opportunities. To say they are receptive is what you might call an understatement....!

What other opportunities are out there for L&D professionals.....?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Education vs Training

In the past couple of weeks I have gone from watching the news eagerly each day to becoming quite nonchalent about the shrinking economy, the falling stock markets and the weakening currencies.

In the corporate arena I have noticed that each part of the company is having to work really hard to justify their existence. This is even more obvious about this time of the year when budgets for next year are being finalised.

If you work in L&D then you need to have your ducks lined up, your business case in hand and your sponsors well prepared.

You may find it helpful to read this article by Paul Kearns on the Training Zone site. Paul starts out by illustrating the difference between 'eduation' and 'training' and uses a really funny example of sex education.

"I'm happy for my teenage son (or daughter) to receive sex education but I don't want him (or her) having sex training!'

He discusses how sex education teachers might evaluate their work using the Kirkpatrick approach. Can you imagine the level 2 check - kids putting a condom on a banana..........and how about level 3 - the practical application...!!!

Of course being able to evaluate the ROI of any learning intervention requires you to focus on the practical application of the new skills, knowledge etc. If you can't show how it is having a postive impact on the business then it's a waste of time and money.

So remember the following items to make sure that your L&D voice is louder than everyone elses:
  • Always have crystal clear, measurable, organisational objectives right at the beginning of any training activity. Pick items that are in the language that the business understands - increased sales or reduced costs for example.
  • Despite being tempted to see all 'trainees' as homogeneous we should view everyone as a unique 'trainee'. It might sound bleeding obvious but not everyone is the same - you can't deliver training off the shelf and expect it to have the same impact on everyone.
  • There is little point running training programmes that are detached from all of the other extraneous factors that influence behaviour. You need to integrate it into the culture of your organisation and the way in which everyone works in the real world.
  • Some things will always happen by chance, or even by accident, but training should endeavour to make things happen by design.

Keeping focused on business impact should mean you get your fair share of the cake...

Friday, 17 October 2008

Leaving - A Talent Management Opportunity

I left my company today having worked there for nearly ten years. Obviously this was a major decision for me and something that I thought about a lot.

The whole leaving process wasn't a good experience and I am therefore leaving the company with a few negative feelings. It reinforced my belief that I have made the right decision to leave. Of course I will move on and am already excited about my new job which I start on Monday.

In the current climate there will be a lot of people leaving companies, many of them involuntarily. However if handled correctly organisations have an opportunity to leave a professional image with the departing employee. Why is this important? Well it is entirely possible that the person leaving now might well be on your 'shopping list' in the future. What simple things can organisations do better?
  • Make sure that at least all the adminstration takes place correctly. Arrange for them to return company property etc. Don't just leave it up to the individual and hope for the best.
  • Have a proper exit interview. Encourage the individual to be frank and honest about why they are leaving.
  • Take some time to plan a handover. Make the process as easy as possible with enough time for someone else to pick things up. Where possible get things out of their brain and into a document of some sort.
  • Communicate with all parties concerned. Don't try and brush things under the carpet and hope no one will notice.
  • Make sure you provide easy ways to maintain links with the individuals. Well run alumni schemes can be a gold mine for future talent.
  • Be civil and professional - try not to let emotion and feelings cloud the process.
I'd be interested to know other people's experiences - what did 'good' and 'bad' look like?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Training Qualifications....worthwhile....?

For the past couple of years I have been designing and delivering training programmes without any formal training qualifications (apart from NLP Practitioner). I seem to have been doing OK - maybe I was lucky. Feedback has been positive and we even measured good ROI.

However when I read this article from Training Zone I got a bit concerned. I just didn't realise what a plethora of training related qualifications there are out there. Here are some of them:
  • CIPD Certificate in Training Practice
  • ITOL Certificate, Advanced Certificate & Diploma in Training & Occupational Learning
  • Doctorates in Education & Training
  • Masters Degree in Learning, Education and Training
  • Certificate in Post Compulsory Education & Training
.....and so the list goes on.

Most of my learning has definitely come 'on the job' and it has been more about understanding the business and then delivering development activity that supports it.

I would be interested to know your views on this but I suspect the answer is a mixture of some academia layered with 'hands on' practice - I guess that's a blended approach with lots action learning thrown in to the pot!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Warren Buffet on Talent Mgt

The current credit crunch is shaping a major rethink for many investors, forcing them to take stock and rethink their priorities. Some investors will lose out, others will win.


For those engaged in talent management - recruitment, assessment, development, coaching and succession management - it is a good time to evaluate their leadership investment strategy and game-plan. And who better to learn from than Warren Buffett, the most consistent and successful investor in the world?


Download AMAzure's take on how Warren Buffett might approach talent management here.

It applies an interesting slant on talent management using Warren Buffet's own philosophy. He has achieved 20% compound growth per year by investing in businesses that:

  • he understands
  • have favourable long-term economics
  • are run by able and trustworthy economics
  • come with a sensible price tag.
Even if you just take 5 minutes to read the short document I am sure you will find it worthwhile.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Leadership Development - beating off the crunch

Leadership is really under the spotlight at the moment. Gordon Brown has been getting some negative reviews of his performance over the past months and Henry Paulson is both a hero and a villain.

So how can we help our leaders and managers develop? If we can help to equip them for times like these then that can only be a win/win situation.

"So what kind of development is most likely to enable that transfer of learning into practice? There are no guarantees that it will always work, but the kind of characteristics of a development programme that are most likely to produce real performance changes are:

1. Clearly defined learning outcomes that are linked to the identified needs of the learners and to organisational goals.

2. Flexible learning that fits into the working practices of the organisation and its business cycle.

3. Short, focused learning programmes that enable flexibility yet are part of a larger programme that has a coherent structure and inter-relationships between the elements.

4. Structures that encourage learning transfer and performance change.

5. Mechanisms for assessment that focus on application and performance."

Wally Brock also has some interesting advice on leadership learning on the job:

"Yet, despite recognition of its importance, leadership development is going nowhere fast. Confidence in leaders has declined steadily over the past eight years, and most leaders are not satisfied with their organization’s development offerings."

There's lots of good material about leadership development and succession planning in the Summary and the whole report. There's material on the differences between line executives and HR executives, too. Each of them blames the other for the problems with leadership development."

Finally Art Petty has some great advice on Teaching a Senior Team to Dance with Leadership Development. There are 8 Steps to the dance so I suggest you put your best foot forward.

All L&D professionals have an opportunity to really engage with the business to show how they can really add value and support. Are you up to it?

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Do we need a stress awareness day at the moment?

If you are connected with the Financial Sector at the moment then you will be surrounded by stress and worry at work. Even if you are not directly connected (who isn't?) then just turning on the news brings more tales of woe. 

It made me chuckle that November 5th is National Stress Awareness day. Surely they got the date wrong by about a month! Do we really need to be made more aware of stress?

Having said that as a good manager it is an area that you need to be both aware of and prepared for. Do you know how to recognise stress and do you know what to do about it - both in yourself and others?

There is no specific law in the UK on stress, but under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 you must take measures to control the risk. Failure to do this could cost you dear in an employment tribunal. Watch your back!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Mentoring - another way to focus on L&D during tough times

Mentoring schemes are a great way to support the development of your people. If you don't already have a scheme in place then now is a great time to start one.

The mentoring relationship can be a win/win situation for both people involved. It's a great way for senior people to spot talent and the less experienced people get a great opportunity to impress as well as receiving their words of wisdom and guidance.

For great tips and some more advice check this article out.

Monday, 6 October 2008

100 Learning professionals to follow on Twitter

I have been using twitter for a couple of months now and sort of 'poking it with a stick'. I could see it has potential but I wasn't quite sure how I could really make the most of it. However I read a post by Jane Hart on the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies web site and this has now all changed!

Jane has listed the twitter addresses for a whole host of learning and development people. I connected with about 50 of them over the weekend and can now see what a powerful network this is.

Take a look yourself and start tweeting by connecting with me.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

10 Reasons to be cheerful

It's not all doom and gloom out there. Management Today have come to the rescue with 10 Reasons To Be Cheerful.

Being a bit of a greeny my favourite one is:

" REDUCED CARBON FOOTPRINT. Recession equals reduced consumption, fewer hydrocarbons burned and less CO2 emitted. QED. The roads are already less congested and petrol sales have fallen for the first time in 10 years. Airlines are canning less-popular flights and routes and parking surplus aircraft in the Arizona desert. Bus and train travel is booming, and the high cost of electricity and gas is encouraging householders to don another jumper rather than turn up the thermostat. It may not be fun but it's good news for the planet."

Friday, 3 October 2008

Action Learning - the Final Part

OK, in parts 1 and 2 we looked at how action learning works, the principles and also who needs to be involved. In this final part we are going to look at how to get action learning started in your organisation and how to best integrate it into other learning activities.

What do you need....?

Step 1: You Need Some Participants

It is really important that the people taking part in an Action Learning Set are there....because they want to be there. They should be open minded enough to approach the experience with a positive mindset - it is no place for cynicism. The individuals need to be prepared to share some of their issues and problems with the view to being able to resolve them via their participation in the group.

Try and get together a mix of people perhaps from different parts of the organisation or individuals with differing levels of experience. This all helps to provide the participants with a different view point on their problems and challenges. Hierarchy should be left at the door. However do avoid having an employee and their manager in the same group...

For your first Action Learning Set it may be useful to invite people who could become future facilitators. Having their own experience will be invaluable and of course they will also help to spread a positive message.

Step 2: You Need a Facilitator

In Part 2  I described the role of the facilitator and it is particularly important at the start of the action learning process. Whilst you ultimately want the group to be self facilitating they will almost certainly need a helping hand at the beginning.

The facilitator should have specific experience of action learning and will most probably also be experienced in coaching or mentoring. They need to be removed from the content and just facilitate the process.

Step 3: You Need a Sponsor

Ideally each participant should have someone senior sponsoring their participation. The sponsor should be interested in the outcomes and actions for the individual. A key reason that action learning fails is the struggle for individuals to find the time to participate. The sponsor can play a key role here.

Step 4: Select an Environment

This also shouldn't be underestimated. The environment should not contain any references to hierarchy and the layout should encourage the involvment of everyone (probably chairs in a circle). The participants may be wary of this to start with (it's not alcoholics anonymous.....) but it is an important part of the process. Clearly there are some ground rules to be agreed by the group ranging from turning off phones to commiting to follow through on 
any actions etc.

It is also worth thinking about how you will measure success for both the group and also the individuals. What are the outcomes that the individuals are looking for? Translating the outcomes into tangibles will make it easier for others to understand the benefits of the approach.

It's all in the blend....

As with all learning interventions success usually comes from providing a blend of learning offerings to your organisation. Action Learning can play a really important role on its own but can be even more powerful when integrated with other activities:
  • Following a formal learning intervention such as a classroom based course it can be extremely useful to form an action learning group for the paricipants. For example you may have been learning about emotional intelligence but the real learning comes when you return to work. That's where you need the support and coaching from an action learning group.
  • Think about how you can use action learning as a tool to develop your talent. You may wish to offer it to your 'High Potentials' initially to encourage their peer networking. It is also a great way for participants to develop their own coaching and listening skills.
  • Think about grouping your action learning sets into themes. For example you may want to start one for the sales community. They may all have a common goal of achieving their sales target but they will individually have their own sets of problems and challenges to overcome.
  • Think about how you can join up with action learning groups from other organisations. For example in the UK the Whitehall Industry Group (WIG) faciliate groups that span many organisations and sectors.
....and if you want more..

Action learning really does work and is most definitely worth the effort. If you want to find out more then here are some useful resources:-