Giles Smith | 19 January 2015
With the Learning Technologies exhibition just around the corner (28/29 Jan) the world of L&D will be buzzing with IT innovations.
Stories of wondrous technologies driving company successes, efficiencies in cost and effective outcomes will turn our heads, making us all once again question why our own IT infrastructure doesn't allow for video streaming or access to TED, LinkedIn and other such tools. Personally my inner techno geek can't wait to see what I can do next with a tablet, phone and a willing delegate!
However, having lived and breathed learning for almost 20 years, covering roles from operations, delivery, relationship management and sales, I want to raise a note of caution and make a basic point.
Technology does not solve all the challenges within L&D.
I view L&D from 3 critical angles:
- Ensuring effectiveness in learning
- Driving efficiencies in managing learning
- Building relationships with clients and leading them to solutions that change behaviour and meet business objectives
If you can crack these L&D elements (Learn, Manage, Lead) and effectively Measure them, you truly have the key components of a successful L&D department.
In my experience, however, we often spend too much time considering the managing and the learning (with all its inherent technologies) and forget to truly understand and engage with our customers.
On New Year's Eve I posted a note on LinkedIn: "New Year's resolution for L&D professionals should be to add sales to their own capabilities." Why? Because unless we start to proactively drive value for our customers, the benefits of L&D will never fully materialise.
Successful businesses and business functions need many things all working together. It's not enough to have strong operations and great products, you also need to help your customers understand how you will add value to them or their business. Internally I call this Valued Business Contribution (VBC): the difference your role makes (contributes) to the success of the overall business objectives.
When assessing your VBC you have to ask the right question. It's not "did you deliver the learning that was expected?", or even "did you change behaviours as a result?" The question you need to look at is "how did it help the business?" That can only be judged by setting measurable, business related outcomes before the training and looking for the results after.
So, what about technology? The great news is learning technology can provide us with ways and means to develop training into a continuous learning experience. It will enable us to reach learners 24/7 with new content and support as needed, bringing communities together and generating a culture and environment of learning that is part of our working lives. But the real value is taking the vision, the values and benefits to the business and helping them to understand the real contribution learning can make to their success.
So we come back tolead. How do you know if you are driving value for your business? This is a tricky one because value can only be judged by those receiving the service. But there are some key questions that you can ask yourself:
- Does the business come to you for help?
- Do they invite you to be part of the team?
- Do they ask your advice?
- Do they share their objectives and challenges with you?
- How easy is it to have that difficult conversation with senior stakeholders?
- Do they accept you challenging their norm?
At QA the Strategic Sales team is not only focussed on improving the management and learning delivered to our customers, but critically, we are helping customers change the impact learning has within their business.
Linking learning to business benefit is a challenging but critical journey for every L&D team. But I believe it is one we all need to embrace.