If x is the problem...does training provide the solution?

Share this page

Written by Alex Watson on 17 December 2015

Well, that depends what the problem is. Often at times, Leaning & Development employees are asked to provide or source training, develop an intervention, create some e-learning, or some such other edict.

Yet, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds later, the problems are still apparent. Why? We’ll come back to this.

Once the solution has been provided, the problems remain. It’s at these times we may start to discuss the difficulty in measuring the intangible benefits of a given course of action. We measure those things that are easy to measure.

Such as how many people completed a particular program. But they do not tell us, how what people have learned has impacted on their performance or how what they have learned has impacted the bottom line necessarily.

The best learning happens when you do not realise you have been schooled. It’s allows the learner to feel empowered and to recognise their own intrinsic value. It also allows the learner to take control, and feel motivated to apply newly acquired knowledge or insight to the betterment of a project, business, organisation or movement.

That is why most learning happens outside of the training environment (be that physical or virtual.) True learning happens in application as a sense of personal growth. Intrinsically understood. Synthesis. Application. Synthesis. Growth. Synthesis. Performance Improvement. 

So what should those inputs be?

L&D as Internal Consultant

Once I had departed from my last organisation before going into business for myself, I reflected on some of the projects I had worked on in my time there. I wanted to make a difference not just check in every day. This meant I was and still am really focused on those things that make a difference. I became a consultant, as opposed to an order taker.

So rather than agreeing to deliver something, which you know deep down may not hit the mark become an internal consultant. I did.

The makings of an Internal Consultant

1.    Always have your antennae open. Often times. The things people grumble around at the coffee machine belie underlying structural or interpersonal issues. Attempt to understand, where your organisation is doing well, but also those things, which may be holding it back, are not explicitly expressed via usual company communication. Rather they are spoken in hushed tones and it is often these conversations that have helped me understand where real problems lie. 

2.    What happens if you’re hit by a bus? One example is where the head of a department required some training for the employees in his team. As the fountain of most of his team’s knowledge, he worried that, if he were hit by a bus, a lot of his knowledge would go with him! On closer analysis (consultation), I deduced that it was coaching, not training that these employees needed.

Many of them were gifted and motivated. They had been with the team for a long time. What they lacked was the confidence and self-belief that they were actually capable. I said I could devise a program, a training intervention even. However, if he could schedule time with selected employees on a regular basis to provided guided coaching and feedback, then these I believed would be more beneficial. Lesson. L&D’s remit is not necessarily to justify their existence, but to demonstrate the ability to assist in organisational growth, below the radar, if needs be.

3.    Painting by numbers. A wise woman once said (me!) People are great mimics and magpies. Model the behaviour you would like to see. If people have confidence in you and you’re abilities, they will model similar behaviour. They will more often than not, on top of that, surprise you with where they take what you have modelled. This means you are not implanting knowledge, rather allowing the recipient to claim ownership of their received wisdom. This gives people wings and with these wings they fly.

4.    Link learning to values. Most organisations have underpinning values.  From my observation most employees take these values with a pinch of salt if they are not congruent with their experiences. Even so link any solutions to the organisational values and explicitly frame any ‘solutions’ to organisational values. This ensures you are on message!

5.    Unleash your inner genius. With all the rights and wrong you know you’re organisation better than it sometimes knows itself. Warts and all! Utilise what you know about your organisation, with your experience and knowledge, to provide fit for purpose solutions, which are bespoke, not generic. With everything you have learned about learning styles, 70:20:10, video, social learning etc. Ensure you fold a great deal of your individual perspectives these into your solutions. Discuss it. Debate it. Fight for it. Then…if needs be. Let it go! You may be wrong. They may be right! As long as what is decided works for the greater good.

Bypass often. Bypass “this is what you asked for.” Go for authentic. Go for insight. Go for bold. Go for belief. Settle for a compromise somewhere in between request and delivery of the request if needs be. For that is progress.

About the author

Alex Watson, is the director at SQUISH Media, a learning, performance and technology consultancy.