Article: 'People are always open to learning'

Learning & Development

'People are always open to learning'

David Yesford talks to People Matters on how learning at various levels can help an organization perform at 100%
'People are always open to learning'

A lot of the times I find L&D managers, not necessarily the directors, are so focused on the form of what the training looks like that they miss what the training is for


Q. What are the key concerns for leaders in learning space and how are they overcoming such challenges?

A. When you look at the challenges and key concerns that CHROs are dealing with, there are three things: First is the whole aspect of engagement, which is articulated in a lot of different ways. As the world comes out of the global economic crisis at varying speeds, what has happened is that leaders have essentially ignored their employees. It’s sort of like “don’t bring your problems right now because you are lucky to have a job”. Many managers and leaders have stopped paying attention to what is required of their jobs because they have their heads down trying to move forward, trying to live with the chaos that they have to deal with.

The second thing is the whole aspect of globalization. Now is the time that organizations are becoming global and that is where leadership becomes critical. Once you begin to go global, think about the learning projects and what is your overall objective. Someone from Spain will interpret it differently from an American or an Indian. Organizations need to make sure that they clear the learning objectives and think about aligning local learning projects globally instead of trying to implement a global project from top down. A lot of companies are struggling tremendously with this.

The third thing is innovation. Everybody is really trying to be creative. People are looking at different techniques to be innovative. In fact, it’s not about teaching you to be innovative. It’s about allowing you to have the opportunity to express your innovation and understand what is required for it.

Q. What is the consequence on how organizations are looking at their learning strategy based on these three challenges you talked about?

A. There is always a connection between what an organization is trying to do as a strategy and learning. There are too many instances where L&D is separate from strategy. And part of what I think are the implications of what you need to do in leadership is take the responsibility, own the responsibility and it comes from both sides. It comes from the organizaional leaders who recognize that it is not buildings or machines or technology that implement strategy…it’s people. So you need to make sure from leadership to down to the organization that employees are clear about why they are there doing the work they do. What is the connection between their activies and the execution of the strategy. At the same time, learners need to demand the accountability for making the connection, asking their leaders for clarity on direction of the company and how they fit.

Q. Where do you see India in the scale of responsibility, where shared responsibility is the highest score and no accountability as the lowest score?

A. I think a general tendency seems to be more awareness about the Western way of thinking, though it is not that Western is the right way. In 2007, Saks and Belcourt conducted a research: Assume that in the classroom, you have 100 per cent retention of your skills. Within six months, that usage goes down to 50 per cent. By the year-end, you use only 33 per cent of the skills that you have learnt. Everybody knows that intuitively. That is not a surprise. What we do in learning transfer research is that we show you how to get a little bit more in terms of helping the organization perform better. A lot of the organizations that are coming in and talking about training want to give all these things to you. What you have to do is to make it simple. Many things don’t mean more value. Whatever you are going to give the learner has to be simple and easy to do, otherwise he won’t do it. For example, a logistics company, who over the course of using us to help communication on the floor of the plant, was able to perform so much better – they got enough RoI to allow them to buy two jumbo jet planes. Also, we helped a banking organization save $1.7 million.

Q. How does that get measured? That is one thing in India that people spent tremendous amount of time talking about it.

A. In the early part of any interaction, we ask them what you are trying to affect. To us that is much more the impact that we are trying to do than the RoI. The return of investment number can point to so much; we are really looking at what is the impact on the business. Wilson Learning believes that we don’t win unless the client solves their business problem. If we make a million dollars and put a bunch of people in class, and there’s no impact on the business we don’t win. No one will buy from us again and we can’t afford to that in any market in anywhere in the world.

Q. What different delivery modes create more improvement on performance behavior, change etc?

A. The delivery modes that you might deal with include electronic, e-learning, classroom and virtual classroom. All of this, in reality, is about preference. Of course there are situations that might drive a preference to classroom or more electronic. There is a research study titled “No Significant Difference” was started many years ago and is updated every single year. What they found is that it doesn’t matter what technology or modality you go through...what matters is how you do make sure that the learners are ready to accept the learning, and further are able to transfer that learning to performance on the job.

My answer to your question is more tied to learning transfer and managers. Specifically, “Learning Transfer” is the transfer of learning (no matter what modality of delivery) to actual performance on the job. Wilson Learning did a secondary research project a couple of years ago, looking at articles from around the world where transfer of learning was cited. One of the things the research indicated was that the level of manager involvement made a significant difference in Learning Transfer.

If the manager is then actively coaching the employee, learning transfer was up to 42 per cent. If the manager is actively coaching and knows the content, the learning transfer goes up to 67 per cent. A simple thing you can do right now is to make sure you train your managers in the same content as their direct reports. A lot of people say that is too expensive. But, what if you get 67 per cent better productivity out of the 20 people in the class by sending their managers?

Q. What is your take on learning budgets?

A. Learning is usually the first thing to get cut because organizations think it is a discretionary spend. The budgets may not get cut, but it is communicated that you can’t spend them. It is communicated that the training groups need to try to do more with less. I just don’t buy that. I think what you need to look at is doing more with more. I mean is you can do more if you have more focus.

I heard that phrase “More with more” 10 years ago. It’s not about money, it’s about what you have available and how you can be very efficient about what you do. A lot of time and energy gets wasted on training programmes. A lot of the times I find L&D managers, not necessarily the directors, are so focused on the form of what the training. In fact, no one really needs training…they need the results of training – Performance! That should really be the focus.

David Yesford is Senior Vice President of Global Marketing and Support, Wilson Learning Worldwide

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Topics: Learning & Development, Leadership, Strategic HR, #ExpertViews, #HRInsights

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