The 11th Annual Talent Management and Leadership Development Summit

My first Symposium event (I think) and my first ‘public’ conference presentation for quite a while (slides are up on SlideShare).  Overall, I really enjoyed the day.  Sessions were short and punchy and I think all the presenters could have gone on for longer and still kept me engaged.

Of my presentation, I’m more than aware of the various faux pas including using charts in PowerPoint and talking too much about context.  However, the latter was key to explaining why we have done what we have and the former for showing some level of evaluation.  As blog readers will know I’m rather keen on evaluation.

My session seemed to hit a good spot with the audience, with plenty of interest in the breaks around what we have done with ILM, the apprenticeship levy and how we are tackling the healthcare workforce crisis.  Really, what I did amounted to a fairly standard case study which wouldn’t have been much ‘new’ to an L&D audience so I was happy that people at least looked engaged.

Chair’s opening remarks – Amy Armstrong, Senior Faculty, Hult International Business School

A session on the conference chair’s interests including “crucible leadership”, the term used for the impact of difficult personal experiences on an individual’s development.

The importance of the human element was considered alongside, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”,.  Amy argued that the future will mean combining Human Resources (HR) with BR (Bot Resources); the first time I’ve heard of “BR” and something undoubtedly to keep in mind going forward.

The focus of her work is on leader’s role in leading for the “human moment” at work, namely the compassion to connect and care (i.e. what AI can’t do – for now at least).  Amy mentioned the thematic crossover with the rise of self-focused individualism, in part due to dehumanization via electronic communication, increasing loneliness, increased stress and decreased networks (such as close friends at work).  Increasingly, it was argued, workplace interactions are very superficial and I guess I would agree with this considering how few of my close friends have come from the workplace (unlike school, university, etc. and unlike if I think about my dad at my age and his circle of friends).

So how do you start with this?  The presentation argued compassion needs to start with yourself (i.e. you need to take time to care for self, which can include mindfulness, etc.).  Kristen Nef’s work around self-compassion was referenced before the room did a “feel present” breathing exercise.  I must admit that I nearly dozed off with the breathing exercise, when I caught up with Amy later she admitted that’s not uncommon as people are so worn out that the exercise often is a rare opportunity for people to take a few minutes.  I would not say I am particularly worn out but then perhaps that is the point as the exercise might suggest otherwise!  In conversation with other attendees later in the day, there were some interesting ideas around this, such as a person who, in their Outlook calendar, has “looking out of the window” time.  Personally I was not sure if that is a good idea or just sad that we have reached that point, with all the conflict our society has been through and the technological developments is the nature of ‘being’?

Agile by design: the future of leadership development is here – Anna Seely, Principal, Talent Strategy and Leadership Development, Mercer UK

This session argued for the importance of agility (over other buzzwords such as VUCA).  Why?  Agility is what is needed to deal and change with the widespread industry disruption, including changes to customer expectations.

Amy argued that agility, not productivity, will ensure long term success if startups master scale and/or corporates master agility (the latter leading to the oft referenced decline in Fortune 500 companies over the last few decades).  What agility actually means was talked about at different levels, i.e. country, organisation, team and individual – for organisations it means being nimble.  One quote I don’t think I’ve heard before is “agility rhymes with stability” and the stress was on the need for a strong base.  A dancer metaphor lining this up as about a strong ‘core’, combined with dynamic moving parts that do not weaken the core.  This was quite a nice way to put the ideas across as not everything should be ‘made’ lean or have scrum applied to it and I’d certainly agree that too often people can be won over by trends that are not always directly applicable.

The session also considered the need to develop your practice identity, a model of continuous improvement Mercer use with clients.  This identity is “How I Lead” and “Who I Am” – these are influenced by factors including the crucible moments of the first session.  The “Who” is the core of conviction and beliefs whilst the “How” are behaviours, competencies and things you do.  Context is king with this, different levels need to manage differently and I was pleased to see this knowing my own presentation would look at levels of competency/how.

What makes leaders less agile was also considered, including their/organisational measures of success acting as blockers and encouraging short-termism.  Locked down processes and change resistance also play a part.  I agreed with the challenge that leaders need to get people to imagine a different future.  Indeed a nice example of a programme for a Pharma client showed how this can be done, a spaced 9-month programme combining experience, encounter (inc. classroom) and exposure.  Interesting that Mercer work on content only 2 months in advance to allow for the same overall journey but agility to current trends, with the Pharma’s CEO driving areas to focus on due to changes in the market.

Mercer sponsored the event and had a number of good takeaway materials available too.

Mind the Leadership Gap: the journey to inform, inspire and develop leadership potential – Transport for London

A good presentation from TFL on changes to their business plan and implications for L&D support for their leaders.  Their first, pan-TFL, director programme was launched in 2013 (prior to this was piecemeal across different departments – one of a few areas where it was similar to my presentation).  The first programme was run through CASS and cascaded down the management team/levels.

Following the cascade they reached the point to consider what they should do next and they have shifted to DeSmet’s idea of “leader led” learning making use of the fact “every leader has a teachable point of view”.  I’d certainly agree everyone has sharable lessons but I don’t know if this should be a formal thing over amplifying the leader’s reflections via ESNs, blogging, etc.  Interestingly they benchmarked this leader-led learning to other examples at Deloitte and the DWP, but generally speaking there are a lack of UK-based examples.  The model has allowed for agility and at zero cost (to be fair the Q&A did call this out as not really being zero considering the time involved – really the shift is from the  external costs of CASS to internal ones).

They also had levels for different audiences, three in their case, with a focus on learner/leader self-direction and on-demand resources.  There are common/core elements across the three: the “expert hours” (with the leaders presenting for 20 minutes, 10-minute discussion and 30 mins on adopting/implanting), short term placements, mentoring, perspectives (external networking, recommended TEDs, etc.) and leadership challenges (specific issues with group brainstorming).  Overall the website they used looked good as a non-typical-LMS approach to supporting people across 5 topics (leading/self-awareness/change/financial and commercial), via these resource/activity types in the different ‘journeys’.  Again, like we have attempted to achieve, they have tried to encourage mentoring via lining up relevant people with specific roles.

A standout figure from the presentation, for me, was that 30% of the 500 leaders asked to contribute were immediately willing to mentor or contribute other content.  Personally, this sounded really impressive and it would be interesting to know how many organisations would get that kind of buy-in to a new approach.  However, they also acknowledged that moving from people having six days at CASS does risk a loss of kudos. The mooted idea of having contribution link to pay/bonus/performance reviews might also have had an impact on take-up!

Interestingly they consider themselves moving away from a “learning organisation” to a “teaching organisation” – in language terms I thought many L&D professionals might feel that is a step backwards but you could understand what they mean, i.e. that it’s being less passive than participating in learning and more about all managers leading it for the organisation.

In the Q&A, BP mentioned that they too are moving away from a residential business school programme (for them MIT) and facing the challenge of ongoing learning being seen as as valuable.  There was also the usual discussion around competencies being valid constructs for some consistency/clarity versus unwieldy corporate documents (again I touched upon our approach in my presentation and some previous thoughts on this are here).

Panel discussion – When it comes to leadership, does experience matter?

A discussion on the importance of experience, the panel being a Mercer consultant and a start-up recruiter.  Started with the geopolitical climate of young leaders breaking age records in Canada, France and Austria – evidence for the argument that leadership quality (or the perception of it) is not attached to experience.  Meanwhile leaders in industry include young leaders of tech startups whilst large corporates are changing too, Kraft just appointing a CFO in his 30s.  What has been found though is that young leaders need experienced heads around them.

The session went on to the rise of start-ups and wider trends toward flat structures, including the problem of people wanting to ‘move on’ which leads to management even if they don’t want it.  To an extent this is not a new problem, with all industries having promoted people for competence in one area and not necessarily any leadership or management potential.  I did disagree with a point made that you should accelerate young leaders to support digital-first policy, this being age presumptuous which is one of the things that really annoys me although older people obviously have to have continued their lifelong learning (to avoid being the old guy in the corner).

Some evidence from the research was mentioned including young leaders changing and adopting their behaviours quicker than older workers (which you’d suspect probably would be the case – i.e. they are less stuck in their ways).  The challenge was set for the delegates to have high potential development programmes challenge the identity (as in the earlier session) of how people manage/lead – with 50% of high potential programmes failing currently, in part, due to a failure to tackle this challenge.

The room’s input was that experience certainly cannot equal age any more.  I challenged a number of people during the day over why we then insist still in job adverts for set numbers of years of experience (and even worse specific industry experience for roles that are based on a largely generic skillset such as L&D).

How to develop your culture to become a values-based leadership organisation – Sandy Wilkie, Staff Engagement Lead, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust

A session on the Barrett Centre PVA model for the redesign of values for this part of the NHS, creating a standard vocabulary and common language around behaviour.  Sandy ran design sessions with staff, with the top ten values leading into a second stage which then created the Bolton V.O.I.C.E.

They have then worked on what the values look like through practices and they have become integral from recruitment, through performance management and development.  One aspect is “value based decision making” where values are pitted against difficult questions/situations for how people should act (using some of the theory from Myers Briggs).

There were aspects similar to the ‘identity’ piece earlier in the day in considering what personal values are and the desired ‘as-is’ to ‘to-be’.  The ‘cultural entropy’ levels considered across departments and their physical estate/layout.  They’ve found some surprise issues through this, including issues within teams that were previously thought okay whilst finding other areas for development elsewhere, including improving team morale.  Overall they are continuing on a cultural journey, as they move out of special measures.  That journey is led from the top, with the chief exec still running a clinic a week (as a doctor) to be ‘on the front line’.

I suspect many organisations have their values/behaviours, etc. but it was good to see an example of where they seemed to have had input from the whole organisation, leading to ownership and use.

Group Discussion on Table

A couple of questions were given to the room to contemplate, abbreviated versions:

  1. What is key for leadership and management success?
  2. How can we ensure future talent pools?

We discussed point two, considering how we might be able to create some clarity in a world of unknowns, not least the implications of BR and other technology.  Issues we considered included what skills we need for people to prepare for this.  Is a key skill/knowledge piece now better horizon scanning?  Is it all about adaptability?

On point one the debrief between the groups was to drive talent and engagement through really acting on the value in employee surveys, change culture so change is a positive, local individual development (1-2-1 with managers) will stay essential, seeing engagement as a tick box/RAG, don’t see talent as about creating elites (which resonated with my presentation calling for more ‘socialist’ availability of development in organisations) to maximise everyone’s potential.

For point two one option remains to buy it in, inc. the large number of tech acquisitions by companies in recent years.  Wider development of talent pools needs to involve all level, chief execs or other levels are not special, have management mentors and projects: not necessarily clear up front what trying to achieve (i.e. give some structure but allow people to get what they want/need not have to do whole lot – which would be different to my session’s focus on apprenticeships).  I made the point that business needs to stop complaining about talent and do more with schools and apprenticeships.

Engineering a sustainable tomorrow to have a workforce that is representative of society – Jenny Tomkins, HR Operations Director, Costain

Some on the work they have done on equality, diversity and inclusion (including some of the slides from their training).  Showed, for example, the iceberg of differences (i.e. visible and non-visible).

Incorporated some of the evidence than diversity trumps ability through different perspectives and viewpoints.  They have taken this on with broader talent pools, LGBTI and BAME networks, refresh of emerging talent brand and role model for flexible working practices.  They are also including 50/50 female/male graduates intake.

They have set management bonuses for diversity targets.

The benefits and impacts of moving out the ‘9-box grid’ – Jennifer Doyle, Executive Resourcing & Talent, Financial Conduct Authority

A look at moving away from the 9 box – as I tweeted:

Issues with 9-box included that little evidence people manage to get it implemented well.  Tracking organisation-wide is often an issue too (and has been for me over the years).

Their alternative is “scope for growth” – which actually ended up being 9 positions but focused on the positive, everyone has potential.  The desire here was to recognise that, from a growth and talent perspective, meeting objectives are part of the impact but not the be all and end all.

The balance of impact and growth creates the 3 zones.

Three zone:

  • Depth: expand expertise in specialism
  • Breadth: build career beyond single specialism
  • Stretch: grow beyond your role, moving to positions of greater complexity

each has three levels, for example, if you are in the Depth area you are a ‘developing specialist’, ‘core contributor’ or ‘expert’.

I really liked the language here in relation to positive psychology and it’s a way to have “I’m happy where I am” as a positive (rather than always encouraging people to move up/on).  The support provided by the central team includes indicators of what the 9 look like (such as eLearning to provide background info).  The new tool/language used as part of review and career conversations.  The individual is given a worksheet to help with GROW and what want to be known for (i.e. identity again).

Advantages for The FCA include central reporting so have profiles across departments.  As have the data can map it to diversity profiles, etc.

Panel Discussion: Brexit and the future of attracting and retaining talent – Sandy Wilkie, Staff Engagement Lead, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust & Julia Howes, Head of Workforce Planning, Mercer UK

Mercer research shows Brexit is being blamed but demographic implications (such as ageing workforce and ageing overall population) were already underway.

Since 2013 (excluding immigrants) the UK workforce already falling.  Productivity challenges include dealing with this via reskilling older people and inactive people (such as home mothers/fathers).  Brexit has made it more urgent but varies by industry (health, in particular, is in trouble).

The NHS perspective included that there simply are not enough nurses and increasing demand with limited resourcing.  Challenges with current setup, six Philippine nurses who were brought in but only two have been able to get all the way through the conversion rules.

There was some agreement on needing a “grow our own” (like our model) but need national picture/solutions.  The c-suite often try to recruit out of problems, but now being punished for underinvestment in L&D since 2008.  Recruitment is also a risky approach, especially graduate schemes as there are less people aged 10-20 than 20-30 so not sustainable in immediate future.

Jon who was next up raised the point that, in part, we need to stop investing in cheap labour – instead there should be a focus on tech…

“The End of Leadership Development” – Jon Ingham, Executive HR Consultant and author of The Social Organization

Jon had sat next to me for much of the day and did a good job of putting together a presentation not really aligned to the advertised title (“New directions and opportunities in how we think about talent and leadership ”) but tackling some of the research and points made during the day.

One graph showed increasing spend on leadership and management development versus for a decrease in confidence in leadership.  I’ve seen this before but there’s lots to it, potentially, if you unpack it.  I’d say it is in part due to a loss of faith in capitalism (promises in the fall of the Berlin Wall drying up), the rise of the 1%, the rise of email (and loss of personal touch as mentioned earlier in the day) and much more.

So what should leaders be doing?  Jon argued for Simon Sinek’s approach.

There was a nod for the E-Test (which I’ve never really thought of as more than a joke – for example to do it ‘correctly’ you really need the knowledge of how writing mirrors) it does not feel like a robust scientific experiment to test something as important as empathy.

Pay and rewards have been shown to negatively impact performance, CIPD high pay research so have to look elsewhere.  Part is avoiding “buzyness” syndrome (another pet hate of mine) – mindfulness can help but also the need to think socially to engage brains and think about problems differently (this is in part why I advocate positive psychology to not become blinkered by problems but also the importance of inclusion as mentioned earlier).

He advocated for less leadership development and more imagination around organisational design and development, for example, do we need permanent leaders?  Examples exist of electing leaders for companies, bottom up, for more empathy.

There was a plug for Mintzberg (who I must admit I hadn’t realised was still active) and his work on ‘communityship’: more leaders, less followers.  Nice idea and would be interesting to see how well that works – ultimately, to me, we still seem to live in a ‘carry the can’ society and it feels like someone is still expected hold responsibilities across the board.

On the community theme there was a bit on conversation/network analysis for identifying your key brokers and central connectors.  I must admit I’d largely forgotten about this as a technique after being excited about it from an IM/KM perspective previously.  In other words “social talent management” is the option to go for – I guess the criticism here would be that your social influencers may also be the people that (in 9 box grid land) you are easing out!  However, the challenge of how to recognise those who help others and not just themselves certainly came up more than once through the day – better goal setting would be the solution in part?  He finished with that very point on the need to performance manage teams, not individuals.

Raytheon Symposium 2017

I was not going to go to the RS this year – even though I was invited following attendance in 2016 – mostly as the sessions did not seem hugely promising.  However, I am glad I did as a couple of the presentations we’re really good.

The below write-up focuses on those two with some brief comments on the other presentation session.

Learning and Development in a VUCA World: Inform, Inspire, Involve

This session was particularly worrying – see previous comments on VUCA and L&D – when I read the invitation.  However, Susan Goldsworthy put together a really nice combination of positive psychology and other concepts to encourage inclusive L&D (I’ll add a fourth ‘I’ to her list!).

Susan referenced a number of models that would be familiar to L&D folks but with good examples and a real energy in presentation, some of the more interesting points with my comments indented underneath:

  1. Knowledge into behavior.   Example: Just look at huge value/revenues in diet industry to show that knowledge (eat less & exercise more) does not lead to desired behavior change (nor the results – of weight loss).
    1. L&D focus on knowledge and skills is fine but an organization has to do more.
  2. Human needs beyond Maslow.  Two key ones are acceptance (including belonging) and achievement (incorporating recognition).
    1. Have to agree with these and also closely aligned to Strengthscope’s 5A model and other techniques.
  3. Challenge to create a climate of caring and daring.
    1. I suspect a lot of organization would like to claim this (for example through value and behavior statements) but suspect they might fall down on it.  There were similarities to Strengthscope in the idea of stretch and the need to enjoy challenges.  I particularly liked the calling out of one of my pet annoyances – “do as we’ve always done it” – and the need to balance courage and energy.
  4. Four states of organizational energy – Productive, Comfortable, Resigned and Corrosive.  If you think from this perspective then you can see the negative impact of attempts – for example, new CEOs trying to be productive and move people out of comfortable, aka “do as we’ve always done it”, risk being dominating in a control/corrosive style.
    1. Not sure I’ve seen this particular model before but it makes a lot of sense, more about this view of organizational energy here.
  5. Trust is all important – combination of warmth (good intentions) and competence (evidence can act on good intentions).
    1. Trust is, of course, fundamental to many models – not least The Trusted Advisor.
  6. More natural to focus on negative.  Need to recognize this and focus on what can do instead.
    1. Again, similar to Strengthscope and the logic of needing to focus on the ‘path of possibility‘.
  7. Recognize learning from failure as a positive base.  Example: one of her clients use “get out of jail free” cards – people can use once to recognize failure and report the learning to the team.  The, Canadian, client’s boss being the first person to show how it was acceptable to admit mistakes.
    1. I liked this idea but perhaps limiting to only have one and make so specific?
  8. Importance of saving F.A.C.E. – four ‘buttons’ to get people involved: Fairness, Autonomy, Certainty and Empathy.
    1. Another really good idea/model, the kind of concepts that make a lot of sense but is useful to be reinforced when attending networking and development events like this.  Bit of detail on it below…
  9. Fairness: need to express what think, including negative emotions.  Being open about negative emotions reduces them, combined with courage of being open stops gossip and negative communication.  For example, Susan mentioned work she does with teams prior to moves to open planning working to allow people to express their concerns in advance so boundaries can be defined by getting people involved in decision making…
  10. Autonomy: give people a choice, even if limited – they might have to do something but leaders can give people options within it.  Most important element is self control.
  11. Certainty: ‘the need to know’, ‘cool head, warm heart’, live values, communicate (bad news is better than no news), etc.
  12. Empathy: “social disconnection creates social pain” [I loved that line].  Exclusion shows in brain as same part of MRI scan as physical pain!  Thus need professional and social collaboration and interaction.
  13. Shift power to people with environments where people own and share.  Waterfalls (top down – parent to child) to waves (in and out – adult to adult).
    1. This made sense and I particularly like the link to language [more on that when I get to writing up a recent Interact event I attended].  An Australian example was given on this, dont use “stop>start>continue” as parent-like telling off.  Instead “decrease>increase>maintain”.

Creating Learning Flexibility While Following the Business Beat

A nice attempt at a jazz metaphor and visual cues in the slides albeit a metaphor that didn’t feel like it quite worked.  It was, at least, a slightly different way to consider how L&D needs to change.  If the organization is the baseline, and face-to-face learning is classical music then jazz would be allowing individuals their improvisation in an individual-centric solution.

Program and Content Curation in Times of Complexity

A refreshingly honest session from Aimee O’Malley of Google’s L&D team.  The title didn’t really align to the presentation (again) but was good.

Rapid growth continues for Google and still “scrappy” with lots of “trial and error” internally.

Working on 5 principles (as below some of my comments below) for L&D:

  1. From skills to mindsets.
    1. I thought this was interesting in that it seemed less a decision to leave technical with the SMEs and focus L&D on ‘soft’ or generic skills (which is often the approach).  Instead it was about acknowledging that long term planning is difficult so need people to be less role orientated and need them to be self learners who can change over time.
  2. Restructure yourself to be nimble.
    1. When I went through a redundancy due to L&D team relocation/restructure one of the strong messages from fellow professionals and recruiters was that very few people will have a long HR/L&D career without redundancies.  For Google they’ve shifted from business units (i.e. customer) focus to try and be more centralized and thus able to support emerging areas.  Still probably one of those issues where there is never a perfect solution but the ‘pool’ (rather than business unit resource) idea obviously could work but needs to be flexible – scale being the challenge.
  3. Ruthlessly prioritize.
    1. There was one great stat in Aimee’s presentation: for the last 6000 hired Googlers there has been 1 new L&D person.  Thus they have come to the conclusion that rather than “stacking programmes” they need to focus on the most high impact ones.  Aimee admitting this has been difficult for many, the “sun-setting” of one programme even being raised on a whole company call with the founders.  Again, I can sympathize with this having experienced the ongoing, vocal, advocacy for retired programmes in the past.  The organizational legacy and shifting the “this is how we’ve always done it” is of course very difficult.  I did like the idea, they have introduced, of “viking funerals” to celebrate the closure of programmes, including being open on the rationale for why things are being stopped.
  4. Open source everything.
    1. An open approach – the lack of L&D resource meaning materials are put out there with 85% of internal training by Googler-to-Googler (rather than L&D or external vendors).  This in part about scale but also opportunity cost, i.e. do L&D have to be involved?  Basic, level 1 type, feedback can then be used to spot the people not delivering well.
  5. Focus on landings not launches.
    1. A decreased focus on the “new” is no doubt something that would be good for lots of support structures.  This is of course, in part, the argument for better evaluation and less jumping from one need/project to another.  A particularly good idea, Google has introduced, was for L&D staff performance reviews to be focused on work completed 18 months earlier – i.e. the impact of previous work with better KPIs.  The “landing plan” of expected impact being largely aligned to the logic of learning indicators.


The final session should have been from AMEX but unfortunately the presenter was ill and the discussion in its place, on my table at least, was pretty broad and without too many outcomes for me – in part that I think I probably spoke too much!

Reflecting on: “Here’s why you’re failing to create a learning culture”

Another great article from Laura Overton and the Toward’s Maturity team got me thinking this week.  The article considers “five common mistakes” that can stifle a learning culture.

Below are some of my reflections on these points – both from my own experience and what I’ve read, seen at shows, conferences, etc.

  1. You don’t trust staff to manage their own learning
    • I totally agree that everyone needs to own their part in continuous improvement and the part learning plays in that.
    • We are doing a lot to empower managers to coach and facilitate their team’s development.  The challenges I see are two fold:
      1. is that people feel they are too busy to take this on.  I tend to feel people are ‘doing this already’ and do not perhaps realize but…
      2. how can the ‘day to day’ learning can be amplified?  The amplification across silos being a particular challenge.
    • The “trust” point is an interesting one as I wonder how many L&D organisations are happy to trust the individuals in what they need (with the risk of verging into solution-centric models rather than analyzing issues) but not in how to spend money.  In some ways this is fair as it is where L&D have a governance role to play – consistency, economies of scale and consistent outcomes with controlled pilots/innovation, etc.  However, there is the risk of being a blocker…
  2. You are stifling staff contribution
    • “91% of learners like being able to learn at their own pace and they are more than capable of searching for the information they need” – my experience would suggest people generally struggle to search and retrieve (information skills are limited and overload a problem).  This is where information systems are key, L&D needs to be embedded with coms and KM, architecture is all important and it largely depends around what is already in place for having an online internal profile – for example, ESNs.
    • I would though agree with the main points: it is all important to get people to share what they find and user generated content is part of this – so too is getting people to feedback after external training or conferences.  The latter examples have been known issues for a long time and remain issues, I presume, in most organisations from what I have seen and heard.
    • Perhaps the issue here is with “personal development planning” and career development more generally.  Yes, it is a personal journey and one which will be more personalized via analytics, customization and technology like Filtered.  However, the fundamental point why an organisation wants to invest in you (be it funding or just funding your time away from work) is to see a performance improvement now or in the future (see Degreed for a definition of learning culture) so do we drop the “personal” to stress that it is a co-investment?  We could say “performance improvement plan” but that sounds rather draconian and as if people are on their “final warning”.  Anyone out there got a better name?  Really “plans” just needs to be dropped altogether for ongoing small scale development?  Then what about required accreditation (where they are not going away any time soon)?  Lots of issues here for the workplace in general beyond L&D departments – for example, how do you budget for these more flexible requirements.
  3. Your content is inaccessible
    • Yep, a real problem with the traditional model of hiding things from search via SCORM, etc.  This ties in with some of what I’ve written under ethos about trying to change L&D to an open web approach – do we really need to hide behind logins?  Often its about having everything in one place but that is, in part, due to poor architecture and a lack of hyperlinking
    • There remains, to me, a question over how much the best content is inaccessible.  Yes, the open web hosts enough to get by on most topics but do we still need to licence from vendors larger libraries of nice solutions like getAbstract?  I would say yes, even if many publishers have gone to the wall in the digital age.  The challenge then remains what it has been for probably 20 years or more – federated search across multiple resources.
  4. You take learning away from work
    1. Again my ethos page stresses the need to consider learning as work and work as learning.  I ran a session last week for people in my organisation who have formal “learning” responsibilities in their roles.  The interesting outcome of the session, which was the first such event and therefore deliberately navel-gazing about how we work (via me picking various articles and thought pieces from Jane Hart, Donald Taylor, Saffron Interactive and others), was our consideration of where we are on some of these spectrum.  Effectively a bench-marking reflection exercise for the wider group.  I still doubt many organisations are actively giving people such time to reflect on external learning and bring it back in a productive way to influence behavior.
    2. The growing importance in the UK given to apprenticeships is in some ways reinforcing problems here but also targeting learning at the workplace performance.  It remains to be seen if the government’s approach with the Levy can survive the Brexit fallout and other challenges.
  5. You don’t reward learning
    1. Agreed, this can be a major problem.  I’ve previously left organisations frustrated at a lack of opportunities to make use of my skills and I suspect many many others have had this problem.  I recently spoke to a colleague who had even been through a formal development programme only to not have a role to go into at the end – again apprenticeships should help here with the formal development options leading to rewards.
    2. Sharing success can be driven via internal coms channels and we’re also using a combination of Open Badges and competency models to drive recognition.

Overall some really interesting points to reflect on and try to tackle going forward!

Can L&D learn anything from The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) experience?

The above article is one of many to pick up on the outcomes of the first UK Higher Education TEF results.  The standout piece of the story, for me, is that the measures being used to judge “teaching”, including:

  • facilities,
  • student satisfaction,
  • drop-out rates,
  • whether students go on to employment or further study after graduating.

are as, the article points out, “based on data and not actual inspections of lectures or other teaching.”  Swap out “data” for “indicators” and you basically have the L&D model.

The Ofsted inspection of schools is, of course, more teaching focused but, even there, judgments of schools use other metrics.  School teachers, for example, are expected to support “progress” that is influencing by beyond what is immediately impact-able.  The impact of other factors, like parenting, are not factored in.

Therefore, between Ofsted, TEF and L&D (via models like Kirkpatrick) we really do not seem to have cracked the nut of measuring how well we develop learning and improvement.

With TEF it feels like a missed opportunity to evaluate the quality of ‘traditional’ lecture centric programmes versus more seminar or online models.  Some included elements, such as student evaluation of facilities, are also surely difficult considering most students will only know one HEI and thus not have something to benchmark against.  The cost of London living presumably impacting on the poor perception of many London-centric organisations, including LSE.

So, beyond saying “well universities haven’t cracked it either” what can L&D departments learn?  I’d be interesting in hearing people’s thoughts.  One item from me – with the growth of apprenticeships and accredited programmes “training” is being reinvigorated but also being reimagined with a performance focus and approaches like bitesize learning away from the big “programmes”.  Therefore, for me, the more metrics the merrier to try and build a picture of our organizations.

Learning Tech Summer Forum 2017 #LTSF17

I nearly did not take up the offer of a free ticket for this year’s conference as I was not hugely optimistic about the session line up – yes there were some great presenters but nothing that really stood out.

The introduction to the day, from Donald Taylor, said the summer event tries to be more conversation than presentation (unlike the winter conference) but I felt ‘the best of the usual suspects’ might be a more apt way of describing the line up.

In the end, I chose to take up the offer of the ticket, primarily, for the opening keynote from Dr Itiel Dror, who I have not seen present before.

Unfortunately come the big day, after being awoken at 3am by the ‘song’ of the local urban fox population, I set out somewhat wearily.  Conversations around the event were mixed, in part as I was needing a caffeine drip, but a couple of first timers that I spoke to really seemed to find it useful.  More regular visitors had the usual hit and miss feel it seemed, indeed one overheard conversation in the gents went as far as someone saying “f*ck that’s an hour of my life I’m not getting back”, [yikes!].  I think you can always take something away from a session though – even if it’s just a reminder/refresh.  I always remember a few years back walking through the ExCel conference center and overhearing a delegate from the Oracle show that was on (I think I was there for BETT that was running in parallel) explaining to a friend: “sh*t I’ve become the old guy in the corner who doesn’t know anything”.  If nothing else, at least going to conferences and other networking events should help you reflect where you are on that particular journey!

Personally I found the keynote excellent and other sessions/conversations around neuroscience interesting in so much as the industry seems to be seriously trying to take a more scientific approach to things – ending a model of being “naive” as the keynote described L&D – rather than just replication of old models/approaches with new tech.  The science in this space is increasingly amazing and there really is a world of research out there I feel like I’m still only scratching the surface of, for example, this podcast is fascinating on David Eagleman’s inventions around cognition.

Brief notes from the sessions I attended below (as always I’ve not edited these much from OneNote so there will be obvious errors).  As always there are plenty of other good reviews/reflections online including from Kate GrahamLearnovate and Unicorn.


Focused on the presenter’s research into “real learning”, work that has been done with various groups including surgeons and nurses, a two day workshop converted into a really funny and informative one-hour session.  It focus on some tools that could be taken away across three perspectives:

  1. acquire – aka need to understand/do
  2. memory – aka need to retrieve in the long run
  3. apply – aka use it back at workplace

The point being that, for the brain, these are different – albeit intertwined [see my previous post for some more on this].  How can we help the brain deal with having limited resources, tips included not wasting brain power on:

  • inconsistent navigation
  • pointless images
  • exaggerate distinctiveness – simulations don’t have to be reality: focus on features want to.

Remember – brain is active.  Not a camera.  A few nice, quick, activities were run through to show how we presume and add our own meaning.  As the brain is active allow development over time – learning objectives are boring and not suitable as a result.

We are creatures of habit so, as we all probably know in learning, change is difficult and ‘relearning’ more difficult that learning.  Brain built not to like this rewiring aware from habit – this is why change is hard.  Relates to terms people will have heard like “plasticity”.  However, that is two fold: neuronal (‘hardware’) and cognitive (‘software’).

So can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Perhaps predictably the response was “it depends”.  The science behind this being about how the previous was engrained – for example, you become very familiar with driving but can still switch relatively easily to driving on the other side of the road when on holiday.

There were some of the more familiar recommendations and what you would expected about encouraging the use of mental representations and chunking.  The latter at least seems to be one evidence based item that is well ingrained in learning practice.  Again familiar to (I presume) most learning professionals was the stress put on the importance of learner motivation, but there were recaps of some good studies showing that financial reward can kill internal motivation whilst external motivation factors (such as KPIs) rarely work.  There was the valuable point that Training Needs Analysis are often just wrong – as they ignore motivation (the M of KISME of course), if people do not believe in it, if they do not want to change, then there will be no change.  People have to be on board, not just about learning but important for them (not just the company).

Motivation killers we can all relate to include being forced to do learning from a LMS.  The argument for breaking this was to increase the tension/risk – treat as a “kick in the ass” or the “terror of error”, with the latter allowing for learning from your mistakes.  An example of a solution he helped design/support was for sepsis with Australian medics.  Misdiagnosis in this area is rife and training failed to improve it as people would diagnose sepsis if they knew it was a sepsis course.  Therefore, instead they set participants up to fail by ‘sabotage’.  A memorable learning experience was created by treating it as “Low Blood Pressure Training” in which medics would lose their patient to sepsis as they were not anticipating the correct ‘answer’.  This is a really great example of how to create a salient mental point.  Some other good examples were run through – for example how you tend to remember bad dates more than good ones!

Another medical example was at a hospital in Boston where he deliberately did not use the provided hand sanitizer.  He then challenged the clinicians he was with as to why they did not challenge his as they walked around – again it created an emotional situation much more effective than the previous of having static posters that people ignored.  Other examples can be more on the fun scale than the difficult and challenging – for example kids playing a version of twister where the floor play area is replaced by a colored map to teach geography.

Certainly plenty of things to consider in how we might do things differently.

David Kelly: The now and the next of learning and technology

A wiz through some of the tech that is impacting on the way we with live and learn.  It was deliberatly high level after his winter conference session went deeper in AR/Vr.

Resources from his blog will probably be more useful than me listing out what was covered.

I personally came along as I like David’s online stuff (loved his meme-ing L&D) and do not think I’ve seen him present before.  It was good to not have (m)any “gosh I’ve not heard of this” moments, the most standout bits really being:

  • Data in business and for decision making is changing: Whoever you are (not just L&D specifically), you need to be part of the conversation of what this means for your org.
  • Create experiences: Email phishing example from room, similar to the sepsis idea in the keynote, send people spam emails and see how many people open them: make people learn not do something in a realistic way but via a safe scenario.
  • Mobile apps increasingly splitting between Motivating and Manipulating: how is your org encouraging people?
  • Curation: needs a purpose [i.e. don’t do it for the sake of it – yes, yes, yes!]
  • VR: Example where starting to replicate old issues in new. Similar to how Second Life went wrong (lecture theatres in virtual world, etc). Mention particularly emergent in healthcare but other areas need to be careful.
  • Daqri helmets were new to me: huge possibilities here in remote support, work and AR spaces.
  • IOT: Interesting point about it being a combination of tools, not about the value of one IOT item.  An example could be a headset getting data from IOT devices, all interacting and IBM Watson powered. Some of this will lead to job elimination.

Fosway group: Making sense of the digital learning market

A useful reminder/recap of sensible practice (I even got on the mic at one point) via a number of surveys with people using the app/website to respond in real time:

  • UX needs to be considered in conversations:
  • Importance of search engine within systems should not be underestimated.
  • Make use of focus groups and end users.
  • Changing from massification to personalisation.
  • Partner with IT to ensure big enough to wag tail.
  • Think about transition from implementation projects to day-to-day from day 1 (such as reliance on vendors and contractors – implementation team will face questions more seriously if they sticking around to live with the consequences!).
  • Articulate user personas and scenarios.
  • Useful point that somewhat went against some of my previous thoughts: Harness analytics for individual not organisation – use to make AI intelligent.
  • Included positioning of Fosway model:
Fosway innovation model

Fosway Group innovation model

  • Innovation plan (photo about) [I wondered if it was sensible to pilot or wrong to look from tech lens?].

Stella Collins: Mind shift – moving people to a positive learning state

  • Mind shift: Moving people to a positive mindset.
  • How get correct internal environment for learning.
  • Don’t have to be neuroscientist but helps understanding, own interest and your own designs (the below takeaway was very useful)
Brain related hormones, triggers and impact

Stella’s brain guide

  • So what can you do as a facilitator and designer?  The answer is lots:
    • movement can help,
    • can’t learn new things whilst asleep (you do not learn languages if listening from tapes at night) but will automatically have learning stick overnight (‘let me sleep on it’ is true),
    • be on edge to learn from experience (i.e. not repeat same old stuff),
  • Unhelpful states: Argumentative, avoiding, not looking, depressed.
  • There was a good bit on what happens in the brain with neurotransmitters: chemicals transmitting in brain.

Went on to ask tables to consider some scenarios and then was a debrief on how we can use the science in the above table and what we know [tends] to work

  • Increasing curiosity: Dopamine. Often tilt to head to side: If hang posters on tilt can encourage more curiosity to look at them. Like slimming can make u more happy.
    • Curiosity (ideas from table): Personalize, small tasks, text to side, music, new information, suspense and stories, branching and differences. Exercise, almonds, bananas, motivation, reward. Link learning to gaming. Start conversations with questions, not answers. Guessing gets brain going (shown to promote long time learning). Click bait. Slow reveal. Escape rooms.
  • Increasing creativity to release dopamine, serotonin, Oxycontin. Dark chocolate start trigger for serotonin. Oxycontin can come from things like hugs. Alpha waves in brain – can help with creativity: Dreams, walking, etc. – i.e. More creative when not thinking specifically about task.
    • If think creativity there will be. Set up challenge and give responsibility. Get audience to do work.
  • Graveyard slot: Let people relax and rest in afternoon or get them doing something [i.e. think about what you want to encourage in the brain for relevant learning states].  Allow relaxation can be useful – people tend to stop questioning so this can be the opportunity to throw ideas into people in more didactic approaches.
    • Graveyard: Make clear what engagement expectation is. Could increase activity. Rewards/sugar – or activities. OR could relax, mindful, stretching, dark choc. Mindfulness could be in eLearning. Reflect, mind gym, team work – more reflect: Shorter videos to deliver messages. Choice and reflection time on what doing.
  • Long term memory: Glutomate, serotonin, cortisol.
    • Long term memory: Guide reflection, time kind or guided questions for reflection, sleep rooms in organisation, space and intential repetition,
  • One major challenge is you do not know how things are triggering in other people.  You never know states going to create.

Donald H Taylor: Your learning technology implementation checklist

  • Don admitted there are perennial problems and the same kind of things hit again and again: his book is part of trying to fix this.
  • Checklist provided in session today helps with people doing implementations but also to ask right questions.  Focus, as in book, is “processes and people over tech”.
  • Challenges include ownership, networks/infrastructure, varied people, how persuade usage, etc.
  • To be success: Got to be right thing for job and fit in the environment and with people.
  • Checklist – mindset, skills, method (pic below):
Mindset, Skills and Methods for learning techs

Checklist for learning tech implementation – sorry for the awful photo!

  • Perspective grid (pic below): Nothing new – being connected key. People still not talking to organisation. Best implementations build on IT relationship – not create new relationship.
External v Internal and L&D v Wider Org factors

Key considerations

  • Need element of conscious incompetence. Get perspective of what need. Consider L&D role in organisation.
  • Need to be connected in org: Can even do network analysis. Get your ambassadors.
  • Nemawashi principle: (comes from preparing tree roots for tee transport) Talk around topic, get people on board, rather than presenting something to them, get shared ownership in advance [this was great and one of my big takeaways for the day that there’s a useful name for this!].
  • Need to performance consultant – do not ‘solutioner’ with latest shinny thing.
  • Online focus groups can help: Strict time limit. One person facilitate, one person notes and record. Limited questions – get people on call to trust (this one of the bits of advice and examples that are mentioned in the book).
  • Six step implementation method [relatively logical].
  • Rallying cry to finish: St Paul’s story again. L&D enables individuals and organisations to fulfill their potential.