We have hit the pre-Christmas reports, awards and events rush in UK learning and development circles, a number of which lead to new developments and analysis at the big post-Christmas events such as BETT and Learning Technologies.
Awards in ‘the Learning Industry’
Personally I have never really been into industry awards, yes I can see the point of celebrating success but I am always suspicious of back patting that doesn’t directly come from your customers.
My involvement in all of this has really being limited to attending two events in the last week or so – some notes and reflections below…as always apologies to the presenters for any misunderstandings.
Recent events 1: #KineoInsights
The first of two events I attended really focused on three reports:
(1) Kineo’s “Learning Insights” Report
The presentation specifically focused on the report and ran through the 10 tips identified from the 35 contributing L&D managers.
The context for the report was explained as an increasingly digital one, quality of experience and appropriate mix of solutions are essential in this environment – mobile/digital/online/in person banking given as an example of an industry which has evolved quicker than L&D.
One line of argument was that Learning now has to prove value above and beyond compliance. Personally I wonder if the trick there is if compliance needs to prove its value beyond “we have to do this” – if we can crack that then other learning will immediately be recognized as more important?
I will not list the points from the report as, as you’d expect, the managers highlighted a number of current themes in L&D thinking as well as reinforcing many of the points that have been as around for a long time (work with the business, learning should be in the workflow, more mature blends, etc). I was pleased to see a general thread of decentralization from L&D in the highlighted report items through, for example, making learning more open including the use of peers (there was a plug for a new social tool coming to Totara) and managers/leaders/learners all being better embedded in workflows.
The main issue identified, and discussed a lot through the day, was the skills gap between L&D teams and what they need to offer. Marketing and communication are now very important but not key skills for most L&D staff, whilst the lack of CPD for our L&D teams was highlighted as a major issue. Personally I don’t always understand the CPD question, sure, there might not be a great podcast and courses (such as the one I did which has since been cancelled) are few and far between but we have plenty of blogs, events, etc to learn from.
Finally, there was a suggestion that L&D teams perhaps need to be bolder, stress the value of in-house standards and seek a quality balance between in-house teams and vendors.
(2) Towards Maturity’s annual report
Lot of data in the slides: http://www.slideshare.net/kineolearning/learning-insights
A similar, albeit larger, report to Kineo’s. Key themes in their received responses included the need to really kick on with actions towards modernizing learning whilst still often having to do more with less (although this year 33% reported they have an increased budget and will be recruiting).
Personally, I had seen quite a lot about the report including this LSG webinar, already but one interesting aspect was this year’s focus on the top performing 10%. Most organisations can now be seen as sharing three goals:
- Respond faster
- Build performance
- Continuous learning embedded in culture
Interestingly, when people are asked what the barriers to L&D supporting these three are there seems to be a blame culture of ‘aint us guv’ – with costs, user/learning skills and IT the top three scapegoats (this seemed pretty amazing to me considering user/learner skills is something L&D should be directly able to influence).
Items of emerging importance include better use of data in decisions making, with business leaders expecting analytics to review, leading to improvements and better decisions. However, the data shows only 32% of respondents work with business leaders on KPIs for learning. I am somewhat torn on this as whilst KPIs have been something of a ‘holy grail’ for business in the past I would rather work with a business leader who recognizes learning as something that should be fully embedded in the culture of the business and thus difficult to measure without looking at wider issues, not least engagement.
Lessons from the top performers included that learning need not present solutions, but understand learner preferences and act from there. In addition, learning has to be part of the wider talent agenda. Skills diagnostics, content curation, 70/20/10, micro-content and linking learning to career development are all useful but achieved by few organisations. In other words, L&D departments have aspirations to move the agenda on but only “the top deck” is achieving many essential elements. Some of the ways they have achieved this were mentioned, including L&D driving BYOD policies where mobile/social have been a success, having a communications policy in place and business agreed KPIs.
I asked if there were specific organizational traits that could be seen in the top performers, hinting towards my concern that ‘corporate universities’ have pushed L&D down a narrow focus. The response from the presenter was that top performers can be seen as those organisations that successfully foster strong networks for L&D professionals and often best performance is where L&D report into business units rather than an L&D/HR silo.
(3) Kineo’s onboarding/induction report
I’d read this report before so there wasn’t too much new for me in here but the figures on turnover and related costs from new joiners are amazing and really backs the argument for ensuring a good induction.
The idea of balancing ‘empathy’ for new joiners with ‘efficiency’ was a nice idea, i.e. value joiners as people, in balance with all the boring compliance stuff you have to enforce on them. This can include giving them a voice, for example at BP they have new joiners write a presentation on the future of the organization, senior people come to the event and answer questions the participants have. At Tui they have a just-in-time information focus on their eLearning platform, the idea being that it is a source of information for sales people which goes beyond what you can find on Google – making the use of information is what makes the sales people better for customers than booking online.
I particularly liked one idea that was mentioned – send a welcome card, signed by team members, to a new joiner before your first day. I would suggest extending this to LinkedIn invites so new starters can get to know who’s who, faces at least, and more detailed CV information too.
After this presentation, and in a number of other discussions on the day, there was a feeling of “only do eLearning it it’s good eLearning”. I think this is a valid point in that eLearning has become the standard approach for many L&D teams but is often unpopular with learners, however, I would say this is really based around SCORM packages rather than bespoke eLearning blends to solve the problem. eLearning courses in higher education, combining resources, remain ahead of the L&D SCORM-centric debate in many ways here. Interestingly, there was little talk of Tin Can which, I would argue, can have a place in Induction as we can get new joiners to develop an approach to reflection on the job which is more difficult for those who have been at a company a long time.
(4) Gamification at McDonalds
The third presentation on the day, prior to the onboarding presentation, was one looking at Kineo’s award wining gamification solution to McDonalds’ new till training. Interesting for me in that:
- It was not massively advertised, going viral from the intranet.
- Leaderboard technology wasn’t worked in, so teams could develop the level of sharing they were happy with – in store, by franchisee, by region, etc. This was interesting to me as I always remember the unpopularity of till speed tables at one of my early (supermarket) employers, the Kineo tool working in customer service questions to ensure it is not just a speed test.
- Nice articulation of the essential gamification elements: goals, rules, challenge and interaction.
- There is no set score for getting correct answers, it uses a more complex algorithm with ‘show me’ option if you get stuck.
- Part of the success was that it offered a safe environment – a familiar theme to the old ‘walled garden’ argument for having VLEs/LMS.
- I wasn’t horrendous at the game when volunteered to test it out in front of the audience J
Recent events 2: #TotalLearning
The Brightwave event started with Charles Gould commenting that many clients still look for eLearning solutions similar to what Brightwave encountered when he founded the company 12 years ago. His call to action was that L&D professionals need to better exploit the opportunities provided by technology.
David Smith (Global Futures)
Not happy to just point out where L&D are behind the times, the event started with a keynote speaker (https://twitter.com/davidsmithgff) who outlined many of the changes society at large may see in the near future. This was a whistle-stop tour and, like with my futurist of choice Gerd Leonhard, no doubt only some of this research will come to fruition. As someone pointed out over lunch, 30 years ago we might have heard ‘are you ready to be living on the moon?’ Yes there has been huge change, but technology has only really been universal where there is money to be made.
Some of the main points were certainly valid though:
- We tend to do old things with new technology, takes time for real transformation.
- Sourcing skills is changing, old ways of work are disappearing, and not least as the growing world population cannot be maintained by traditional corporations alone.
- For organizations to be a success they need to develop a ‘talent cloud’ around the network’s skills.
- We should be moving to the post email era, with new collaborative technologies and ‘work swarms’.
- Oculus Rift, virtual reality, an example, of a tech that has taken time to become monetized.
- We need learning organizations to adapt to pace of change, not least new mediums of data (Internet of Things, etc)
Kim George (Getty Images)
A great example of an L&D team that appears to be fully embedded in helping their organization develop and achieve better results. The presentation focused on the ‘fastest path to value methodology’ which Getty’s technology teams adopted to be more agile but has spread, not least to the L&D team. Ultimately it was explained that their team’s approach boils down to: #get****done (which I love!).
Four key elements to fastest path:
- Immediate progress. Start now.
- Focus on learning.
- Fastest path to customer.
- With a focus on frequent, small, releases.
There were two projects presented as examples to how this was achieved, the second being a new SharePoint intranet which sits within L&D responsibilities, recognizing that all material has a learning purpose (although formal L&D material does sit on an LMS).
Overall their L&D team seems to be nicely positioned as internal performance consultants, beyond simply offering courses.
Nancy Kinder (Feverbee)
I had heard of Feverbee’s community consultancy work before and it was good to get a bit more detail on the way they recommend communities are built, measured and maintained.
In relation to measurement it was argued that you can analyze learning communities/communications in terms of increased revenue and reduced costs (including calculation of work time savings – for example, using answers as a knowledge base resulting in less help-desk tickets). People value comes in increasing the sense of belonging, greater influence of global teams and ease of upskilling.
Argued that, to successfully accelerated learning, you need three things:
People is the tricky bit and delegates in the room pointed to familiar barriers including billable hours and commission as blocking people wanting to get involved in such activities. The presenter argued that fear is the key barrier; the culture needs to be in place to support use.
A workflow for establishing the community can be:
- Research objectives to meet
- Analyze your people
- Coach and let members influence success.
Processes for learning acceleration can include working in reminders around the fun stuff; ultimately it is all about relationships. The sense of community can be tested via survey and other quantification approaches.
I find the ideas around Communities of Practice within learning fascinating. Having been involved with them for a while including presenting at a conference on their possible irrelevance as well as being a keen supporter for CILIP Communities, on which I co-lead the ‘eLearning’ subject. However, as the presentation mentioned there is something of ‘critical mass’ and I suspect CILIP never managed that and the community manager on the initial project was missed once gone.
There was a nice three-step summary:
Research > Relationships > Report
In other words, know your audience/challenge(s), develop relationships and report the benefits. For reporting and other elements Feverbee make free help resources available on their website.
LearnerLab: How strong is your learning brand?
This was one of those conference/event sessions where I wanted to jump in at multiple times with challenges and questions. I didn’t but in, partly as some of the issues were dealt with in the presentation and I expected others to be tackled in the following session.
Overall, this was talking about how to get L&D advertised internally to promote the value of learning. The argument was that L&D needs to learn from digital experiences to improve learner engagement. L&D teams needing better communication to build the brand, drive purpose and engagement.
My concern was that this was very L&D-centric. I wondered how much, such a brand building activity would be for L&D staff to feel more valued rather than delivering better business benefits.
That all said, I would agree with a lot of the points made:
- You need to know your stakeholders and plan for engaging with them.
- Learning brands are easily marred by bad experiences, building trust is harder than destroying it, you have to be consistent in doing what you say you are doing.
- Brand is an experience, not a logo. The users own the brand.
- Mentioned learning needs to be ‘frictionless’ (although I’d query if brand is needed if you make learning totally frictionless and just part of day to day work).
- Amplify stories to motivate, recognize successes and strategic contribution.
For me, there was one point though that really helped save the presentation – “Focus on outcomes not activities”. Overall we should not be selling courses/resources but rather what they mean for the learner/organization afterwards, this message should be inline with the corporate strategy.
Finished with a summary argument, that you need to “set your stall out” via clear communication to sell L&D internally.
This session focused on the award winning success of Tesco Bank, developing a learning culture to support their growth.
The presenter was excellent in arguing key aspects, a number of which challenged the ‘learning brand’ session:
- Department exists for the business, not learning for the sake of it.
- Knowledge does not equal power; is about an ability to find information via your personal networks.
- People coming in need to be allowed to decide on what to learn.
- Need a colleague brand, not learning, learning is just part of deal for colleagues as part of the organization’s nature.
- HR need to act as marketers, have a Head of Employee Experience to tackle the challenges posed by desirable workplaces such as Google. Even if you can never tackle the physical environment.
- L&D/HR need to be: business consultants, colleague experience support, storytellers, workforce planning (big data), digital adoption and facilitating access to information.
- Need an agile environment in everything you do.
- “Inspiring great performance” is the brand for their colleague proposal.
- What you produce needs to be as highly quality as what you offer external customers (I would challenge this as I think quick and dirty is often actually best).
- Don’t come up with your own metrics, use the ones business leaders use.
- They do have an online ‘academy’ but it is for curation of external material. Tesello is used separately for graduate onboarding.
- Recorded 12 “why learning matters to me?” videos as part of communication – tell stories!
- Ultimately about abolishing ‘learning’, just something you do in the workflow. He has never written an L&D strategy – act faster (obviously a challenging point but I would agree, to some extent, that the end game is to have a pervasive learning culture where everyone can contribute).
I asked if compliance (considering the banking industry) breaks the model of people being bought into such a learning everywhere culture. The answer was that people know they have to do a certain amount, transparency about this stops other things being devalued, but they are starting to think about compliance in a different way.
I wont cover this in full but I liked one line – L&D need to be facilitators in a much broader sense. I thought this was an excellent point and really takes me back to my hinterland of the interplay of learning, tech and information (educational informatics) to achieve personal/organizational outcomes. This may mean the organization has to give up more time to ‘learning’ but you should be aligned enough for them to realize this importance.
Tesello at Unison
A brief presentation which showed quite nicely how well a CoP website can succeed. Using Tesello’s technology meant that organizational and personal development were both served via sharing tools and Learning Record Stores. One small point I thought was interesting was that they referred to their tiles as the ‘organising library’ – a nice wrap up from the futurist suggesting that we use new tech in old ways but also something of a confirmation for me that my ‘librarian’ background certainly still has relevancy today – after all curation is nothing new.
The blend organizations can now implement to develop the knowledge and skills of their people is far more complex (and as I’ve mentioned before doesn’t need to be size orientated) than even 10 years ago. The two events just really highlighted the different approaches L&D departments are taking to learning culture/communities and support for new ways of working beyond a focus on traditional approaches. In many ways neither day really discussed anything new, just reinforced (for me) that its better to drive change than to allow it to happen to you.
Moving beyond an LMS to support an ecosystem of learning (as recently covered by the eLearning Guild), be that McDonald’s Intranet based game or Brightwave’s Tessello, makes sense and is really about better supporting learning at large. We have never been able to ‘manage’ all workplace learning but we should at least be able to put in place processes and technology to help our people.
Overall, I would see this as an interesting time where there appears to be growing interest in workplace learning, as part of talent policies, as leaders fear the implications of attrition and global competition. Indeed such is the potential for change that we are seeing big money flowing into L&D (for example Xerox’s purchase of Intrepid Learning) in a similar way to the venture capture that has flown into education. Therefore, there is real potential for L&D professionals to seize the opportunities and put themselves in a position where they offer their organisations something valuable.