Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Rome

“Why is Learning & Development so slow?” A client was recently asked this question. She and her team of employees and consultants are striving to create training for a massive, division-wide initiative.  She was frustrated, and rightfully so.

My joking response was, “Well, put the answers in terms that the group of engineers will understand. Advise them that we need inputs to produce outputs – just like in all the engineering process flows they want us to train nearly 2,000 people on this fall!”  She laughed, and responded, “the issue is, they don’t understand the importance of developing learning outcomes and then creating learning solutions to meet those outcomes.”

All joking aside, this is a common issue in the field of learning and development; the time spent up front to do a root cause analysis or align training solutions with the business goals is often seen as a) a waste of time; b) not necessary because ‘we just want an eLearning’ or c) slowing down the progress because ‘training needs to happen NOW’.

input model

Consider This…

How would you answer the following questions?

1. When a construction firm builds a structure meant to hold thousands of people, does he/she begin without a detailed drawing from an architect? Are specific outcomes and impacts to the users are considered in the final approved plan, prior to construction?

2. When you plan a graduation party, wedding, or family reunion type event, would you do it without first listing out the what, where, who, why for the various items you need to organize? The number of guests might impact the location of the event, or the budget may determine how many appetizers, for example.

3. When determining compensation plans, is this done without outlining specific individual and team metrics and measures prior to launching the plan?

4. Would you expect an R&D team to create a product without critical product specifications and requirements? If the end product was “create a water bottle,” how likely is it that you’d get a water bottle that met all of your requirements?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the questions above, you see the value of planning prior to investing hours and resources into an outcome that will impact many people. Additionally, the completion – or even prototype – of a plan is dependent upon getting information from the “expert” in the situation. The learning plan, the building, the party, the compensation plan – none can be completed without input from the ones impacted by the change.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, the training need wasn’t determined in a day, and nor will the finished training product be so. Set expectations for project owners, content experts, and learning professionals. Hold all parties accountable to deadlines set, and likely you’ll see that the process will increase speed.  Creating successful behavior change by using training as a communication vehicle can be well done through a collaborative approach between the project owners and the learning and development team.

The Office is Closed Today

The new year is almost here. Have you loaded your organization’s annual holidays into your calendar yet? Of course you have. This next question is a bit more challenging. How does your organization work with contingent staff when it comes to holidays where the office is closed?

office chair.jpg

At first glance, the answer may appear obvious; everybody knows what days organizations are typically closed, right?

Not so fast. Here are some additional tips to ensure your organization and your external staff are on the same page for the holidays:

  • Contingent staff do not typically get paid for holiday time. Does your project budget allow for contingent staff to work 40 hours during a holiday week if so desired, or do you estimate billable project hours based on the office being closed one day (or more) that week?
  • Do you need your contractor to put in 40 hours during the holiday week, due to project constraints? When do you set this expectation?
  • Does your project timeline factor in access to key employees during a holiday season? For example, will your contract staff be able to hold meetings or get information from people if half the office is gone the Friday before Memorial Day?
  • Do you know what your contractor’s holiday plans are, and how they may impact the project? What expectations do you set for getting this information in advance?
  • Who at your office is responsible for ensuring that contractors know which days your office is closed?
  • Does your company have additional days where the office is closed that may not be as common in other industries? For example, a consultant I know once showed up for work at a large global organization on Good Friday; she had no idea the organization was closed that day!

At the end of the day, it is important that the project owner and the contingent staff are clear about the expectations of availability before, during, and after the holiday(s).

Contractors do not typically get paid for holidays as they are not working, but may assume they can still work 40 hours that week. You may be assuming they will not bill 40 hours that week. To avoid disappointment in an otherwise fabulous organization-consultant relationship, have the conversation before the day the office is closed.

Not Your Grandmother’s Catalog

Do you have enough years on this planet to remember using card catalogs to find books at the local library? Not online card catalogs, but paper, roledex-like card catalogs?

When I was a kid, my grandma worked at the public library. I vividly recall visiting her there when I had research projects for school, or wanted to try out a new author. She would help me find books when I was unsure how to spell the author’s name or book title, and best of all, she would help me when I couldn’t find items such as “The Great Gatsby” under the letter “G”, because it was located under “T” for “The” instead.

card catalogueLearning the rules for how card catalogs worked helped me immeasurably with finding information I needed. Grandma showed me how to try other options to find what I was looking for, if I didn’t succeed on my first search. Little did I know, but Grandma was teaching me how to use metadata or “tags” to search under words related to my desired topic.

In a recent article by Elliott Masie in CLO Magazine, Elliott proposes that one of the “jobs of the future” for learning departments is that of librarian. With all of the content and formats that exist today, the challenge is “discoverability” through use of metadata, search readiness, and content taxonomies.

How will you set up learning opportunities so that employees can access them? What naming conventions will you use, and how will you cross reference “like” materials? How will you know when data is no longer valid and needs to be removed from the catalog? These are just a few of the many questions needed in the new librarian’s role.

One thing is certain; it’s not grandma’s card catalog, anymore.

What Do They Have in Common?

What do the topics of “followership, teambuilding, and content review” have in common? Keep reading for my suggested answer.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend and volunteer at the American Society of Training & Development’s fourth Regional conference. During this time, I attended three breakout sessions on different learning topics; followership, teambuilding, and content review.

The Followership session was a discourse on a proposed model of four types of employees who follow a leader in an organization. The idea was that employees are either a) yes people, b) slackers, c) criticizers, or d) self-starters.

The Teambuilding session discussed the idea of the parts of a team that can make or break the team. For example, mission/goals, roles, work processes, and relationships are components of a team, and according to the presenters, are also possible areas where teams can break down.

Last but not least, I attended a session on Managing the Content Review Process. We looked at ensuring that our projects have a proper review cycle so that clients/learners are satisfied with the end result.

What common thread weaves through all of these sessions?

Answer: Setting expectations.

Session 1: Followership
How do managers develop their employees, manage expectations, and encourage employees to bring their strengths to the table? As an employee, how are you clarifying your expectations within your workgroups? Do you expect your boss to give you answers or solve difficult situations, or do you handle it to the best of your ability and let the boss know the result? If you have a critique of a situation, do you simply point out the flaw, or do you also propose a solution?

Session 2: Teambuilding
How are teams set up, and how are roles defined so there is minimal confusion as the project evolves? What happens if something goes well? What happens if something does not go well?

Session 3: Managing Content Reviews
How do we prepare project reviewers to give much needed feedback that is specific and timely? Are roles clearly defined so people know where they can benefit the project most? Do people understand the consequences of not providing reviews on a project? Are the right people reviewing the project?

Setting expectations with people we work with, whether we are the lead or the one being led, is crucial to success. Understanding the purpose of our role and the work to be done means that we are free to execute on our responsibilities. Creating a secure environment in which people can discuss both successes AND failures without fail creates a sense of “where do I fit and why do I matter” for all players on the job, on the team, and on the review process.

So, how are we going to work together? Let’s start there!