Training just isn’t working* article 2

Training just isn’t working* article 2

Changing the perspective


This is the second in a series of articles that will explain in more detail why we believe that the workplace Learning and Development operation is broken and how better results can be achieved.

In Article 1 we covered going back to basics and discussed the importance of being absolutely clear on the answers to two big interlocking questions:

  • WHY the organisation is investing in L&D in the first place and what they really want in terms of outcomes
  • WHO is the ultimate customer / consumer of L&D and who defines the need and the learning offer?

Our point is that the key WHY for learning has to be about driving the vision for the organisation through measurably improving individual and collective performance.

The WHO is the organisation and every person who works in it. Learning should service the needs of every individual which means that you are then delivering the outcomes for the business. We explained this was not happening effectively because learning needs are not often user defined but defined by the internal and/or external L&D teams working with senior management.

Let’s provide a little more context.

Most L&D professionals (or the people responsible for people development) that we work with initially disagree with our views on who is defining the learning needs. We often hear “hang on, we really do understand exactly what our people want in terms of L&D, because we do a training needs analysis (TNA)”.

Ok. That could be brilliant. But – how often do you do it and exactly how do you gather the training needs information. In our experience, TNA’s are usually done as one-off, or now and again, exercises which isn’t enough in this dynamic, ever changing world.

Another issue is that…well they often just don’t collect any valuable information. What happens?

  • Often individuals (and their line managers) are asked to look at a pre-defined catalogue of courses and programmes and select what/which would be of interest to them.
  • Or, wanting to avoid the bias that a pre-populated list may generate, individuals are asked to define their needs. This is great…but often the wrong questions are asked.

“What would help you to be more effective in your job?”

“What training do you need to support your development?”

The thing is… these questions are too big and ambiguous and are based on the assumption that people know exactly what effective performance in their role is, and what progression may look like. They often don’t.

This is why many of the answers are…

“ermmm…well, maybe something like time management would help me. And some general people management skills as I need improvement there”

Or even… “well what courses are available and I can pick from them”!

This usually then leads to individuals being booked on training sessions which could be interesting and fun, but which will probably have little impact on the day to day role. It really is a ‘hit and hope’ approach.

The questions that really need to be asked are:

  • “What, specifically, is causing you pain in your job at the moment”?
  • “What are your top 5 problems that you believe are limiting your current effectiveness?”
  • “If you had an hour to spend on YouTube right now, what would you search for to help with your work performance?”

These questions have a far better chance of uncovering the real ‘right-now’ and relevant to role learning needs of L&D customers. Instead of pushed down ‘sheep-dip’ training, L&D should be focused on creating ‘pull’ solutions to these real needs. (We will explore further next time).

One more thing to think about. If the purpose of learning is to constantly improve individual and collective business performance then all individual learning needs have to be ALIGNED with the strategic development needs of the business.

It is relatively straightforward to ALIGN traditional learning programmes that are pushed out to the business. Internal and/or external L&D teams work with senior management and set a strategy to develop the skills, behaviours and mind-sets required to drive the business vision and strategy.

To ensure that the learning needs identified by individuals, based on current (and future) role pain points and challenges, are ALIGNED with the business, then the people and performance management systems of the organisation have to be operating effectively.

Every individual must have clarity on:

  • the strategic goals of the business
  • the business values and behaviours that underpin them
  • the expectations of their current role, their KPIs and how they contribute to the strategic goals of their team and the business
  • what they need to do to progress in their role, or progress vertically or horizontally

This means that people at all levels will be able to identify relevant learning needs and be more engaged with the process, as they can see the clear benefits of taking action and improving performance (the What’s in it for me? (WIIFM?)).

The next step it to think about the WHAT (learning solutions) and HOW (to deliver them effectively).

theGrogroup are experts in advising organisations on how best to improve performance by effectively executing and embedding required change. We do this through our proven framework; clarifying strategy and change needs, enabling people through skills, behaviours and mind-set development and creating the systems, processes and infrastructure to lock in change as the new normal.