Blog: How L&D leaders can help achieve business outcomes?

Learning & Development

How L&D leaders can help achieve business outcomes?

For L&D professionals the real work begins when the classroom program ends. Lack of sincere post-training follow - though it is usually quoted as a broken element in the current learning and development process by professionals.
How L&D leaders can help achieve business outcomes?

Global Business environment today is characterized by 2 Facts (1) accelerated pace of change and (2) global and intense competition. Organization which can learn faster and better have competitive advantage over their competitors.

That is where Learning and Development function fits in. The only reason Learning and Development as a function exist is to help ensure that employees learn required skill at right time, pace and place so that organization can achieve business outcome.

However, many studies suggest that learning and development is not highly valued by business managers. In fact, as per survey of CEB 2009, more than 50 % of business managers believe that employee performance would have no impact if Learning and Development function would shut down.

Based on interviews of successful managers, Lombardo and Eichinger formulated the well renowned 70/20/10 model of Learning, which suggests that Successful and effective managers learn 

  • 70 % from tough jobs
  • 20 % from people (mostly the boss)
  • 10 % from courses and reading

Planned or organically, Learning happens, at work and elsewhere, all the time and most of the learning takes place outside of training initiatives. It was also suggested in another study that employees spent minute part of their time in the classroom and it is the remaining 99.9 % of the time during which bulk of development takes place

Such observation found relevance in today’s era of technology-enabled information and poses questions on need for investment in training at all, or to suggest that "only 10 % of learning and development's budget resources and time should be spent on classroom or eLearning" 

On the other hand , The 70/20/10 ratio actually establishes efficiency of formal training with its contribution to success at 10% .It also suggests that although employee on an average spends about thirty hours a year in training , it comes out to be less than 2 percent of their time at work 

The model also serves to remind L&D and HR professionals that employees are learning all the time and any learning initiative is unlikely to have much effect unless the culture, performance management systems, training and coaching are all in alignment.

So, the big question is how L&D and HR leaders can help achieve business outcomes.

Firstly, many a times training is not the best solution and HR leaders must be able to identify whether training is an appropriate solution.

Perception of learning as the number-one solution when an organization has a problem. 

Business managers and leaders who request learning intervention often see lack of know-how by employees as root cause of most of the problems or On-the-job Performance. As a result, learning must be the solution is assumed

However, On-the-job performance is influenced by factors at three levels: the worker, the work, and the workplace. These three factors are also influenced by the external factors in which the organization operates like political and business climate (the world). 

  • The Worker -Employees knowledge and skills, expectations, motivation and capacity 
  • The Work- Processes, Procedures and Workflow 
  • The Workplace- Organization culture, mission, values, resource and tools
  • The World- Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors

If lack of skills or knowledge contributes to the performance gap, then learning intervention can be planned. If the real issue is in the, processes, environment or performance management system, investing resources in training is futile and management ought to address the real issues 

Hence, first and most important decision that needs to be made is whether training is an appropriate solution.

Secondly, many organizations ail from Learning scrap. Learning scrap refer to training that employees attend but has not resulted in improvement of their performance. Learning scrap is expensive.

The fact that training often fails to improve performance has been recognized for decades. The failure of training to improve performance is the elephant in the room which must be addressed.

Even in 1950s, studies evidently showed little or no difference in job behavior due to training. Subsequent researches after 3 decades highlighted the 'transfer problem' in organizational training. It is estimated that training and development outlay is up to $100 billion in American industries, while less than 10 percent of those expenditures actually result in transfer to the job. Similarly, Researchers have also concluded that much of the training conducted in organizations fails to transfer to the work setting to achieve desired performance

For L&D professionals the real work begins when the classroom program ends. Lack of sincere post-training follow - though it is usually quoted as a broken element in the current learning and development process by professionals.

Building on above studies, it is safe to propose that value created by Learning interventions is limited only to the extent that it is transferred and applied to work. And the relationship is best expressed by the equation:

Three factors influence the probability of transfer: 

  • Ability to use
  • Motivation to use
  • The catalysts and impediments in the work environment. 

Transfer effectiveness is influenced directly or indirectly by these 3 factors

Don Kirkpatrick proposed that managers' responses to training fall along a continuum – Prevent, Discourage, Neutral, Encourage, Require. Learning transfer and the transfer climate is impacted disproportionately by a manager. Recognizing that "make or break" success of any learning initiative relies on immediate supervisors; and thus, securing their support ought to be an integral part of the plan.

Six essential elements can substantially help improve transfer support process:

  1. A schedule of events - The first prerequisite for a more effective approach to driving learning transfer is to have a clear schedule of events post-instruction.
    • Definitive activities, like reports, assignments, teleconferences, or other touch points helps shift the paradigm away from "the end of class equals the end of learning."
    • Spacing post-course activities out over several weeks takes advantage of the powerful spacing effect, resulting in more durable and accessible knowledge and skills. A simple and effective tool to reinforce learning is “Teach Backs”
  2. Reminders - Post-course reminders can through— telephone calls, automated calendar items, email, etc. Reminders serves to reemphasize that objective is not forgotten
  3. Accountability – Passing accountability to participants for making effective use of company sponsored learning is simply good business practice
  4. Feedback and coaching
  5. Performance support - Job aids, apps, help lines, coaches, and other forms of performance support increase employees' confidence and the probability that they will attempt to apply newly learned skills on the job
  6. Finish line – Defining the end business outcomes of learning. Remember, Performance is the goal, not learning

So, while classroom program, e-learning, self-study and instruction can provide impetus to learning, there are no alternative of practice to become highly proficient in any endeavor—it takes practice and lots of it. 1 – 3 months or more of daily practice is required before a new behavior becomes automatic. All learning interventions must be designed to accommodate realities of human behavior.


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Topics: Learning & Development, #GuestArticle, #ReimagineLearning

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