As I listen to the L&D Head of an IT services, outsourcing and consulting firm share his journey and his learning as he moved from an operations role to L&D, I find many relevant reflections that could break some paradigms and open up a new thinking channels for our L&D community. Here are some of the reflections for your thought and action.
Know your business and link every L&D activity to your core business. We talk about it so much, and still, relating L&D initiatives to the core values and the strategic objective is far from reality. Many times, the business as a whole and the L&D function may have two scorecards – why should that be the case? L&D leaders should spend more time talking to Business Unit Heads and Executives to deeply understand where the organization is heading? What are the key themes emerging? And then, really look in the mirror while asking the tough question: “Are we really focused on these key themes or not?” There are a million things that L&D teams need to do and understanding those key issues will help you narrow down your focus. Be ruthless. L&D efforts should solve a business problem.
Empathize and don’t be prescriptive: L&D folks sometimes complain that the business does not understand or care about the value the L&D function brings. While it may be true that business complains, it is also true that L&D teams are serving its internal clients, and they need to understand the needs of the customers, empathize with them and provide solutions, which ultimately solves their problem too. L&D can be as prescriptive as it wants but it won’t fly. Take real problems and find actionable solutions – there is no question about answering on ROI.
As the business grows, L&D’s reflex should not be to organize training. If you believe in the 70-20-10 principle where 10% is what you get from training, then we will be spending a lot of time just scratching the surface and being accountable for things we have no control over. It becomes necessary to understand what problems we are trying to solve. Is it a sensitization problem or is it a cultural problem? If it is an awareness problem, we can do propaganda, trainings, etc. but if it is a cultural issue, then training may not work. Not all business problems can be solved with a training program.
Figure out what your people want to do. People are enthusiastic about learning. There is no such thing of individuals not wanting to learn. But we all need help in sustaining such efforts. So what you can look at is: Can micro-learning be a concept that you can apply? Can we break this down into modules? Can we build some sort of gamification to get people interested in the module again? Enthusiasm for learning is not the challenge; the challenge is how you get them to learn continuously.
Focus on great products, not on the marketing of bad products. L&D could be prescriptive, mandate training and think that it knows best of what people need or; alternatively it could just understand that different types of individuals have different learning styles, and the idea is to try and tap into what their needs are and offer them learning options. It is critical that L&D teams use data to understand what people are consuming and what is working. If you have a ‘great program’ but there is resistance from business and learners, it is most likely due to it being prescriptive in nature. Assess the requirement of that program? Are you keeping it because you spent a lot of money and effort putting it together? OR is it because you really need it as a business (for compliance for example). Be candid with yourself: for a bad product, you can do as much marketing as you want but once the people have spoken, you need to hear them too.
The battle of content creation is over: L&D has lost it. Especially when it comes to technology-driven content, companies are unable to keep up with the changing needs of technology. There are marketplaces like Pluralsight, who curate for the best authors around the world on the most cutting edge technologies. Technology is changing so fast and creating content is not the L&D core competence.
To sum up, people say that the “journey is not a sprint but it is a marathon, but if you are in L&D, the journey is a marathon AND a sprint.” Always refreshing to learn from cross-pollination of professionals from business to HR and otherwise. We will love to hear your views on your myths and paradigms for taking the L&D function to the next level.
Source: This blog is written from the knowledge sharing session led by Mukund Nair, Director L&D, Nagarro, at the People Matters & Pluralsight roundtable discussion.