Today’s leadership development landscape demands employees adapt to constant change. In order for organizations to take on the pressing need of reskilling and upskilling, it’s critical they’re immersed in a culture of learning. However, the way we learn is changing: employees want control of their own learning, yet they also want guidance and support from managers and learning and development teams.
The uncertain economic environment of the past few years has had a significant impact on the resources available for learning and development in many organisations. This year we are starting to see signs of greater L&D investment in parts of the private sector, but pressure on resources remains an issue for many and workloads are high. This squeeze on resources, combined with an increasing shortage of key skills, means the need for effective, targeted L&D will continue to grow.
Currently many are held back by a lack of confidence, knowledge and insight around how to harness technological tools to improve their learning and development interventions. L&D needs to build skills and expertise in this area to profit from new innovations that meet business requirements and the demands of learners.
The L&D profession faces a stimulating and challenging future in meeting organisational and learner requirements in fast-paced and busy environments. L&D teams need to continue to work collaboratively across the organisation to ensure that current and future business needs are met and that L&D is agile, effective and timely. Technological developments and emerging insights from other disciplines have great potential to aid this process – but only if the capability to exploit these tools and techniques is developed concurrently. We, therefore, need to keep an eye on the future, to understand the evolving learning landscape, while continuing to build the professional competencies we need today to drive and sustain organisational success.
Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Scott Hunter, Scott is a specialist in personal influence and creative thinking.
Scott works in an exciting and ever-changing world, faced with new challenges and opportunities. Organisations today are in desperate need of creating agility and a more open capacity to learn. They need innovative solutions to meet the ever-increasing demand for change, requiring a new approach.
There is an opportunity for a holistic approach to learning and change to come to the fore. There is more demand than ever for learning that engages, adds value, drives performance and reignites organisational values and purpose.
Scott has been involved in learning for over 20 years, experiencing the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Over the last 5 years, he has focused on the changing landscape of learning and finding new ways to create development opportunities and learner journeys outside of the normal approaches.
Scott is going to talk to us about the importance of innovative learning and development and the ‘Five High Impact L&D Ideas on a Shoestring Budget’.
Thank you, Geoff, it is a pleasure to collaborate with you on this important subject.
L&D is often under budgetary and time pressures, with an ever-increasing demand to deliver solutions. This can appear like a never-ending challenge to meet these seemingly paradoxical pressures of developing employees with less money and time.
I would argue, that these challenges can be an opportunity for L&D to have an organisational wide impact, for L&D to help change the perception of what learning is within organisations. Using innovative solutions, it can be possible to guide learning in the organisation that align with business objectives and share accountability.
Learning cannot be detached from performance and, to achieve this, it is important to identify the environmental issues that need to be considered. It is not enough to just introduce new L&D activities and solutions, without considering the requirements needed to help support and the practice of new skills/behaviours in the workplace.
Here are 5 ideas for learning solutions that can be delivered with little financial or time investment from L&D, the participants or the organisation. Included are some thoughts on each idea and some potential environmental considerations for them to deliver the biggest impact.
1. Dragon’s Den (Shark Tank)
Elvin Turner, in his book ‘Be Less Zombie’, describes experiments as the rocket fuel of innovation and, let’s be honest, which organisation doesn’t want more innovation at the moment.
Experiments enable organisations to explore possible innovation, with minimal financial or time investment. They enable innovation to become less risky and more data and evidence-driven.
This is based on the Dragon’s Den TV show.
Once a month/quarter, an employee can pitch their innovation-ideas to a panel of managers in the organisation.
If the managers like the pitch, they can then agree to invest a small amount for the employee to run an experiment to test the assumptions their innovation is based upon.
To meet the criteria of an experiment it should be:
• Designed for learning
This provides an ability to maximise learning with the minimum commitment of resources. Each iteration and development of the innovation is supported by data demonstrating the potential after every step.
It also provides information that can create clarity on actions or directions that will not be beneficial to the organisation.
Some of the advantages of this L&D activity:
• Increases employee understanding of the organisation
• Develops critical skills required for leadership
• Aligns innovation energy towards tangible benefits for the organisation
• Creates deeper insights into opportunities
• Creates knowledge that can be used across the organisation to make evidenced improvements
• Encourages collaboration across the organisation
• Leaders being open to the ideas from employees
• Supporting the experimentation during work time
• Reward and recognition of employees in line with learning
• Supporting employees in developing pitches
• Support in designing experimentation and metrics
• Allowing employees to be involved in the projects
2. Work Based Projects
Work-based projects can be used to align employee learning efforts to strategically identified outcomes. Creating opportunities that have tangible business outcomes. Creating the environment where employees can participate and learn simultaneously provide huge benefits.
Projects are ongoing within organisations on a regular basis and are great opportunities for employees to practice the skills/behaviours identified. These projects can be existing ones, or they can be created to specifically support the application of skills/behaviour from a programme, such as a leadership programme.
The use of projects can provide an evaluation of the application of learning, the behaviour of participants and the application of skills in a real business environment. This provides the opportunity for specific and data-rich analysis of the programme and its impact.
Some advantages of this L&D activity:
• Provides opportunities to practice skills and behaviours in a real business environment
• Provides rich data to evaluate the programme and participants
• Links tangible business outcomes to the L&D activity
• Provides the opportunity to test organisations processes and procedures
• Develops a deeper understanding of the organisation
• Encourages collaboration and cross-functional/department working
• Develop leadership skills
• Leaders support in providing time to be involved in projects
• Clarity on the deliverable of project and provision of sufficient resources
• Agreement and collection of suitable and relevant metrics
• Ongoing support and feedback during the project
3. Peer to Peer feedback sessions
The power of feedback has been well documented and is an integral aspect of performance management and coaching. However, I would suggest that most of the interactions and observations of our work are with our peers.
It seems, therefore, that gaining feedback from peers can be a great source of information to for areas of improvement, and recognition. The use of peer to peer feedback can create a more open and transparent working environment.
Also, it can provide insights into behavioural aspects of performance, which can often be missed in more traditional performance management approaches.
It can work in an organic way, where feedback is in line with recent observations and requests. Or it can be guided, perhaps to provide feedback to specific behavioural requirements of the organisation.
One example could be, that putting customers first and excellence are key pillars of the organisational strategy. L&D could then provide guidance on what areas to observe and provide feedback on during the peer to peer sessions. This links ongoing organisational feedback with identified strategic outcomes of the organisation.
Potential advantages of this L&D activity:
• Improved performance across the organisation
• Improved relationships
• Improved teamwork and communication
• Alignment of feedback to organisational outcomes
• Support delivery of behavioural change in the workplace
Some environmental considerations
• Support of peer to peer feedback in the performance management process
• Review reward and recognition policies and processes
• Support with guidelines on providing and receiving feedback
• Support from line managers to encourage the process
• Agree metrics for uptake and impact
4. Skills-based video channel
Employees want to be able to do what they need when they need it, lack of specific and often little pieces of information can create unnecessary delays. An example may be needing to create a pivot table in Excel.
Normally this may require an employee to find someone who knows how to do this and then ask them to show them. This is time-consuming and an inefficient method of knowledge sharing.
L&D can create a video channel that is dedicated to micro explainer videos of skills that are often required within the organisation. Working with line managers, L&D can identify employees who have these skills and approach them to create explainer videos.
These videos can then be tagged and hosted on an in-house server, or externally such as a closed YouTube or Vimeo channel. Content can be updated, as and when it becomes clear that skills are required, or an employee has a skill that could be beneficial.
This will provide employees with a searchable and accessible resource of skills and information, which they can easily use at the point of need.
The content could also be highlighted to groups in their employee life cycle as it may become useful. Such as reminders about interview skills, tips for performance management could be provided to line managers in the run-up to scheduled performance management reviews and assessments.
Potential benefits of this L&D solution:
• Provide access to skills as and when required
• Reduce potential delays, improve productivity
• Increase motivation and value for those employees selected to provide content
• Flexible content that is adaptable to organisational needs
• Reduce dependence on training courses, saving time and finances
• Reduce time away from work of subject matter experts
• Access to the appropriate server to host videos and allow organisation-wide access
• Review reward and recognition for those submitting content
• Provide feedback for content generation
• Support of leadership in creating content
• Ensure compliance with appropriate copyright and licensing requirements
• Communication of resource
5. Microlearning activities
Microlearning is all around us and used in everyday life; allowing employees to consume information and learning quickly and effectively.
These activities can be directly linked to skills or behaviours that are required to deliver team/organisation outcomes. This provides flexibility to create content that can be delivered within specific areas of the organisation, or across the whole organisation.
These can be scheduled and used as stand-alone actions or can be used to support other programmes or initiatives.
In the ‘Influence to Innovate’ coaching programme we provide individual and group microlearning activities. One example is called ‘Lip Sync’ which was designed to help develop better listening skills. Below is an outline of the activity.
To build trust, one of the most important dimensions is selflessness. However, in conversations, we often interrupt and speak over others. This demonstrates that we are more interested in what we have to say rather than what others are saying. This damages our reputation and decreases the trust others have in us.
How to Play
• During your day, when you’re invited into a conversation, pay attention to the lips of the others.
• As soon as their lips move, you must ‘Lip Sync’ by not moving your lips and letting others speak.
• Your objective today is to ‘Lip Sync’ as often as possible, ensuring that your lips do not move at the same time as others
At the end of the day, take some time to reflect back and answer the following questions:
• What were the differences in conversations when you managed to ‘Lip Sync’ compared to when you were unable to?
• What do you think the impact on the others was?
• How might ‘Lip Sync’ help you in your work and personal relationships?
• What action can you take to improve your ‘Lip Sync’ ability?
Or if you prefer to see it in a micro-learning format, click here
As an example, you can see that this activity can be briefed quickly and the playing of the activity happens within the normal working day. It does not impact the operations of the organisation and can be completed across specific teams or the whole organisation at the same time.
The use of microlearning can help develop learning at speed and scale.
Some benefits of this L&D solution:
• Specific skills can be developed organisation-wide at the same time
• There is no requirement to be released from work
• Skills can be developed that are directly linked to team/organisation goals
• Can be used to develop behaviours in real work environment
• Can support long term learning programmes
• Improve relationships within organisations
• Can embed values at scale and speed
Some environmental considerations:
• Support from line managers in playing the game
• Support to encourage reflection on the day’s play
• Facilitating healthy discussions within teams
• Link required behaviours to performance management, reward and recognition
• Access to activities
• Enabling all employees to participate
In my opinion, L&D does not own the learning in the organisation, and can move itself to be seen as the strategic convener of learning. All the ideas in this blog were chosen against the following criteria:
• Had limited operational impact
• Had limited financial costs
• Encouraged learning, as close as possible, to the required application
• Ability to support organisation-wide learning
• Ease of linking to organisational outcomes
• Encourage multiple stakeholders in learning
• Can be easily evaluated for impact
This is not an exhaustive list, and there are many great ideas on how to create learning opportunities in the workplace.
Hopefully, these ideas have given you some food for thought, enabling you to implement some of these quickly and easily into your organisation.
These ideas may help move the conversations L&D are having in organisations and change the perception and move them to be seen as trusted strategic partners.
If you would like to chat about changing the perception of learning in organisations, feel free to reach out.