A fish called learning

On Thursday morning I’m attending the PSK Performance Fishbowl Discussion on the DNA of the Modern Learner in London. It’s running 8-10am, so that does mean a very early start to get into London for that time, but I’m sure it will be worth it!

The day is hosted by Trent Rosen, who is Director at PSK Performance. The panel include some well known L&D experts: Laura OvertonNick Shackleton-JonesDeborah GordonGer Driesen and Sukhvinder Pabial.

What is a fishbowl?

From the description of the event:

The Fishbowl format is less heavy on structure, more emphasis on interaction and audience participation that fosters learning. Unlike traditional panels, the audience can join the panel at any time to raise a question, share their experiences, and even challenge the panels thinking on this topic. Or observe the conversations whilst taking down tips and information. Whatever your choice, you will learn something new as a result of attending.

There are a number of topics listed:

  • Keeping up with the Joneses; how employee expectations are mirroring social, demographic and technology changes
  • Designing learning content that stimulates and meet the demands of modern learners
  • Navigating through the maze of technology distractions and the overwhelming nature of change
  • Creating a modern working environment that is conducive to less traditional learning approaches

Of these, I think the changes are important when focusing on the modern learner; the stimulation needed in learning experiences (not that those experiences are separate from things like performance support); understanding that whilst there is a maze of of technology, it’s all about focusing on the performance and learning needs; and the modern working environment versus more traditional approaches.

Balance of the modern?

I think to balance this understanding of the modern learning leader there needs to be an understanding that a lot of organisations aren’t there – they aren’t in a ‘modern’ space. The argument, of course, has to be that the staff are often there – especially when we think about how people use their mobile devices for social media and communication. Maybe it’s time for the staff, with the aide of L&D to bring the ‘modern’ to the business!

I will of course do some Tweeting as @LightbulbJo, on the #PSKevents tag and maybe some stuff from @TrainingJournal too!

I hope to see you there, or tweet me a question or comment!

Read about the event in this blog post!

The human condition

As part of the Modern Learning Leader Programme, the first webinar is all about “The Human Condition”, with Emotion at Work expert Phil Willcox.

What is “The Human Condition”?

Other than understanding the actual words, I’m not sure what that means. Obviously, the place to start is Google!

I thought I might start with an overview of some quotes that have been curated on the topic, including:

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
― Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

“Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

“Humanity is lost because people have abandoned using their conscience as their compass.”
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

So it looks like the focus is on us as people, individuals, team members and, ultimately, leaders. It’s about how we investigate, communicate, come to conclusions, make decisions, take people on a journey with us…

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

The human condition is “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.”

This is a very broad topic which has been and continues to be pondered and analysed from many perspectives, including those of religion, philosophy, history, art, literature, anthropology, psychology, and biology.

As a literary term, “the human condition” is typically used in the context of ambiguous subjects such as the meaning of life or moral concerns.

The most fundamental element of us is our humanity, for all of us. However, looking even just at that Wikipedia introduction, that can encompass so many things – where I am in my life and career journey, my gender and health, my religion, or lack of, what philosophies or values drive me, what I read, how I see other people from my perspective and so much more.

It must also, therefore, be about how we relate with other humans, either those that mesh well with our perspectives, or those that don’t. Perhaps especially those that don’t, as there are always challenges in life and some we don’t have an easy choice about walking away.

The human condition and learning

In his PGCE documentation ‘Different perspectives on evaluating lessons and developing as teachers‘ Richard Denny’s opening line is “education is a fundamental aspect of the human condition.”

Without development and education, over thousands of years, we wouldn’t be the humans we are now, and in the society we are now. As well as then the huge focus on the jobs that we do in learning and development.

Part of the pre-work is a TEDx video shared by Phil:

One aspect I especially liked from this was about public understanding, that people generally think of it as “a blank slate” and as communicators we can make things that make sense to us and drop it into them. The speaker states that “it’s neither correct, nor is it productive. We have to understand that culture always complicates our jobs as communicators”.

We have to take culture into account in our L&D roles – both the geographic culture of the country and specific location we are in, the make up of the people within it, and that of the industry and the organisation itself.

The human condition webinar 24th July 2017

The webinar that is part of the Modern Learning Leader programme is explained as: “We’ll be exploring modern theories about the human condition, what they help us to understand about human behaviour, and how we can be better leaders in learning.”

With that in mind, I’m looking forward to Phil bringing his amazing insight and expertise to understand our communication and emotional context as leaders in learning for modern environments.

Join in

You can come along to the webinars and also the workshop too.

There is also a Twitter conversation on the #MLLeader hashtag.

You can read my first blog in the Modern Learning Leader series.

Learning transfer – the what and the why

Learning Transfer Research 2017 – INSIGHTS FOR IMPACT is a new research report launched this month, from Lentum Ltd and Lever Transfer of Learning. As the title states, it focuses on making an impact around learning transfer and it’s the first in a number of years to look at this issue globally.

To discuss this research we were delighted to have Mark Arneill, Founder of Lentum Ltd, as our guest on the Lightbulb Moment webinar series.

You can watch the recording of the free webinar from Wednesday 19th July at 10am UK time.

The introduction of the paper states: “Learning transfer is a decades old problem. Businesses globally have grappled to understand how best to increase the performance of their workforce in order to improve productivity, efficiency and engagement.”

What is learning transfer?

The reference in the report uses the 2015 definition from Jefferson, Pollock & Wick (The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development into Business Results): “The ability of a learner to successfully apply the behaviour, knowledge, and skills acquired through learning to the job, with a resulting improvement in job performance.”

The focus here is on job performance, which should be the focus of all learning interventions in the corporate space. If we aren’t impacting what people do in their work why are we bothering?

There is a delineation here between “behaviour, knowledge and skills” which is an important one. Often in L&D people start with “what do people need to know?” rather than “what do they need to do?”.

Starting with the knowledge aspect drives a content delivery approach, rather than a practical approach to change behaviour. You can read more about this on Cathy Moore’s fab website for her Action Mapping approach to organisation challenges.

An overwhelming 66% of respondents suggested learning transfer "could be improved"

From the Learning Transfer research report by Lentum and Lever

 

Why is Learning Transfer important?

It’s a fundamental part of our job in L&D. If we teach something in our classroom, and the attendee can’t replicate that in the workplace, what was the point of them coming to class?

Of course, there’s all sorts of different learning situations and contexts, not just a face to face classroom. So, for any learning intervention at all, why bother with it if it isn’t helping people to do something?

This is why it’s important that we understand the issues and challenges around learning transfer.

In the report the authors Mark Arneill and Emma Weber state: “Learning needs to be more efficient and more integrated into business impact and outcomes. Increasing
the amount of learning transferred from 10%-20% up to 70%-80% or more will give organisations a significant advantage.”

 

You can learn more

If you haven’t already, remember to download your report.

To get to grips with some of the research insights, discuss where the challenges and gaps are, and ideas on solutions, you can watch the recording of the webinar with myself and report co-author Mark Arneill.

As part of the registration people asked questions, such as:

  • How to get it right?
  • How to make learning stick with sale people?
  • How to measure impact and ROI
  • In a fast paced change environment, what helpful hints do you have to make learning stick?
  • What encouraging messages can we share when highlighting the relevance and application of learning?
  • What can make it more likely to stick?

We answered these in the webinar.

Add your thoughts below!

Bob Mosher notes from TLDchat – performance support and more

#TLDChat is a webcast hosted every morning US time (4pm UK time) by Brent Schlenker. A number of different L&D topics are covered on different days.

Bob Mosher was the guest today, and I shared several tweets of some of his key messages. I thought I would gather them with some other detail as Bob’s work is so important for us all to be aware of or reminded about.

This is the bio of Bob, from the community website for performance support:

The #TLDchat was about an hour and covered a variety of different topics. You can watch the recording here and below are some of my tweets:

This is a different way of thinking to a lot of training design. This is firstly about what people need in their every day job role in order to perform as they need.

You might need to make one sheet guides, quick reference guides, give people access to short videos to support them. It could also be bigger solutions such as the help tools available with software.

Either way, Bob highlights to make sure people have what they need to be able to do their job. The training is to “back up” the support materials – to add extra richness and depth. It’s not about the training first, and hoping that people will rely on your emailed slides!

 

Bob says this was what someone said to him once, “oh, you are the guy that hates training” or similar. Just because there are other things to do, like performance support materials, it doesn’t mean that training isn’t good or the right thing. It’s just not the ONLY thing!

 

It was hard to get this all in one tweet, and I’m not sure I did it gracefully! The point here is that there is often time between a training event and when a person next needs to perform that task. The point Bob made was that you might we have a tick in the training box, a tick to say that they passed the test, but if they can’t do the actual task, then it will be the fault of the L&D department who did the training.

So if we rely solely on training to equip people to do their jobs, then it’s training that will get the blame when people can’t perform. If we provide other elements too, such as a PDF or video or whatever to help them do their job in the moment, then we are the hero’s.

 

An analogy used early in the discussion was about swimming. Bob had said that the minimum you need in a swimming lesson is how not to drown! Learning the details of difficult swimming strokes is for another day.

Taking this analogy further, the detail of different things about swimming (or not drowning!) are best learnt in the pool, trying them out. However, if you’ve never, ever gotten in the water before, without the help of some training, that very first toe you dip in is going to be scary.

It’s our job in L&D to help people get in the water, to make sure the know how not to drown, and, over time, get them competent in other areas and help them as they need it.

 

This point about the 70:20:10 model is to design first for the workflow, where people need help in the moment, as mentioned above. Another Bob Mosher (and his partner Conrad Gottfredson) also talk about are the five moments of learning need, and that’s well worth a read.

 

Here’s a tweet from Marco, the only other content tweet from this chat, capturing a lovely point!

 

Click here to read my blog post for more on Instructional Design. 

Soft skills gap – do appraisals really work for identification?

I was the guest speaker on the Bray Leino Learning webinar, “Identifying and Closing Soft Skills Gaps.” You can watch the recording here.

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Appraisals are often used in organisations to review achievement and also look forward to goal setting for the coming year, which should include identifying all sorts of skills gap and how to close them. You can read a brief history of performance management here to get more of a background.

There are some that suggest the annual performance appraisal is a dying process. This includes Josh Bersin in his LinkedIn article, “Are Performance Appraisals Doomed?“.

The negative look at appraisals

In this article from Personnel Today, data from the Corporate Executive Board (now Gartner) showed that “the average manager spends more than 200 hours a year on activities related to performance reviews, but a staggering 90% of HR leaders feel the process does not yield accurate information”.

This Harvard Business Review article commented on the fitness of purpose for the future of business, that appraisals had a “heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments and their end-of-year structure, they hold people accountable for past behaviour at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future, both of which are critical for organisations’ long-term survival”.

Are manager’s supporting the learner?

Moving away from the debate of appraisals and whether they are fit for purpose any more, a recent webinar with Lentum Learning Transfer Software and Lever Transfer of Learning highlighted results from their 2017 Learning Transfer Research (due to be published very soon).

The webinar included these results:

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Above shows the steep drop from what is learned initially to sustaining that learning for longer term performance in the workplace, as reported by L&D survey respondents globally.

Lentum and Lever highlight that this is a significant issue in the investment of resources into L&D programmes without significantly showing change in workplace performance.

Additionally, this data was telling about manager support:

lt5

A staggering 46% of respondents stated that manager’s were not involved in supporting the learning transfer, and therefore work improvement, of their direct reports.

This post from 70:20:10 framework champion Charles Jennings writes about research that shows “managers who set clear objectives, explain their expectations, and clearly set out how they plan to measure performance have teams that outperform others by almost 20%.”

A great Training Journal blog from Paul Matthews of People Alchemy states that “the delegate should be sent back from the course with a list of actions and goals that will deliver on the desired, paid-for business outcomes. That is the core purpose of learning transfer.”

With this information it seems absolute madness that more organisations don’t have these processes, approaches and, probably most importantly, culture as part of their business. Why wouldn’t you want to improve performance by 20%? If your managers are spending 200 hours (or over five weeks!) a year on performance reviews, why wouldn’t you want to see the pay off from that time?

Is the problem that manager’s are too busy? Is it that they don’t see anything to do with ‘learning’ as their job? Do L&D do a poor job of uniting learning to performance? It’s yes to all of them, and many, many more elements involved too.

Harold Jarche, on his blog, states that ““We have come to a point where organisations can no longer leave learning to their HR or training departments. Being able to understand emerging situations, see patterns, and co-solve problems are essential business skills. Learning is the work.”

What can we do about identifying and closing the soft skills gap?

You can join us on the webinar on Wednesday 26th April 2pm UK time, 11pm AEST, 9am EST, and discuss further!

Watch recording

identifying-and-closing-soft-

Flowering in L&D

Yesterday I wrote this blog post for Training Journal, about how to refresh ourselves in our professional life. It was inspired by seeing a stagnant stream on a walk.

This morning I went on a similar walk and saw some plant life that reminded me of two things: blooming in adversity and perspective.

Blooming in adversity 

Where I walk it’s full of what we would call weeds in our gardens – lots of ivy, nettles and all sorts, as well as nicer ferns and blackberries. flowers1

Whilst walking along I saw this one flower blooming in amongst the tangle of everything else. With yesterday’s blog on my mind and knowing that there are many of our L&D colleagues in organisations that don’t support modern work-learning methods and feel frustrated, this one flower made me think about being the one person doing something despite all that’s going on around.

I remember an organisation I worked in where I seemed to be the one L&D team member taking a consultative approach with our internal customers. It seemed obvious to me, to ask what they wanted, what the problems where and how we would know we’d made a difference. The clients felt listened to, like they got what they needed as well as what they wanted. Of course I often felt frustrated with my colleagues – I sometimes felt that they were the tangle, offering training menus where I was trying to encourage whole different recipes and cuisines!

I learnt from those experiences, I achieved successes, I learnt from failures. Seeing this one flower made me realise how just one bloom can make such a difference.

Perspective

On the way back from my walk I came to the point where I’d seen the one flower. And I was pleasantly surprised – on the other side there were lots of those flower heads!

Sadly my photo doesn’t capture it as well as I saw it, lots of pale white petals adorning the green wild mound of foliage.

flowers2

This made me smile and think about how a change of perspective can make all the difference. Where I had seen a lone flower, there were actually many!

This is about connecting with others – they could be in your team or department, or more widely in your organisation. Arguably the wider organisation may be more valuable in you learning about what people and the business need and making a difference.

It’s also about connecting with others in your profession and wider to it. It can be the same old LinkedIn, Twitter, conferences, local CIPD, whatever. The point is finding like-minded and also challenging people where we can all learn, work and support together.

That way we can all be gorgeous flowers in a sea of verdant vegetation.