Last week I attended the CLO Exchange in San Diego where senior learning and development, and talent management executives from Starbucks, Estee Lauder, AmEx and other global organizations shared their challenges and plans. The following are five themes that emerged from the discussions.
Real Change Takes Time
Turns out all of those stand-alone, 30-minute eLearning modules don't have much impact. Of course, we all knew this, but it didn't stop us from rolling them out one after another. The labels participants used at the exchange ranged from campaigns to continuous learning to change journeys, but the sentiment was the same - real behavior and culture change require a thoughtful, sustained training plan delivered over time that includes diagnostics, learning, communication, application, assessments and more.
The Measurement Journey is as Important as the Destination
Measuring the impact of training has long been talked about, but more often than not we don't get much past a smile sheet. The reason are both legitimate -- there are a lot of factors that impact training -- and numerous -- no time, started too late in the process, didn't have time or budget to collect data and we likely won't change these in most cases. What we can do is insist that ROI be part of the conversation. By sitting with the business sponsor and asking if we do this what result can we expect, we can significantly move the conversation forward. This is the expected ROI. Just this step can have an immense impact on the shape, length and design of a program. And while we may or may not then pursue more formal measures, we can continue the dialogue with the sponsor as the program is rolled out and gauge their perception of the programs impact. You may find this good enough and far better than a 4/5 on a smile sheet.
Too often the ideas and behaviors advocated in our training programs aren't supported in the field resulting in a failed program. The direct manager of the person participating in a training program is typically the number determinant of whether the training is successful. Our role as designers of the training is to both formalize the role of that manager in the program and to prepare the manager to fulfill it successfully. This will often include behavioral rubrics, so they can provide detailed, quality feedback, formal training on the content and delivery of feedback and a reporting process to document the work product of the employee/manager collaboration. By taking these steps, we can create a shared accountability by employee and manager and significantly increase the effectiveness of our training programs.
Make it Personal
While tools like Knewton are making waves in the academic world, most training in corporations is still one-size fits all. Of course the big idea behind Knewton is that by continuously assessing the learner's knowledge level we can "right size" the learner's experience by serving up content that addresses their specific knowledge gaps. Based on the banter at the CLO Exchange, there is a growing interest in finding ways to introduce this dynamic to corporate learning. Of course some approaches, like an upfront diagnostic, or weaving assessment scenarios through a course as gates to decide if someone moves on to the next section or is "branched" to another round of instruction, are approaches many of us have used for a long time. That said, I would expect a new round of technology that promises a personalized learning experience to hit the corporate market soon. Tin Can, or the Experience API, are perfectly to power these kinds of experiences and technologies. Of course, even with the technology, success will come down to our ability to capture meaningful data points as the learner progresses through a training experience and that may be the most significant impact of this movement in the end.
Give Me Credit for What I know
If I already know something, should I really have to take training on it again? This was another question that was debated at the Exchange. Here's an example: If I hire a maintenance worker and a requirement of their role is some sort of OSHA training, but they've already completed training with their prior employer, then is it a good use of their time and the company's resources to ask them to take it again? There's a potential benefit for all parties in terms of time investment, but there still aren't great answers about ensuring quality and portability. Badges and qualifications may both hold promise in addressing this issue, but it's still early and wide-spread acceptance is a ways off.
Looking back over two and a half days, this is one of the most optimistic group of learning executives I can recall. We are at an interesting time with technology; the emphasis on results and the level of change in businesses have created a unique opportunity for learing and development to make a big impact. I am excited for the opportunity in front of us and am looking forward to a year of big change.
I hope you share my enthusiasm.
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