Archive for the ‘Resources – L&D Management’ Category

Contractual Outcomes

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

I travelled down to London from Yorkshire by train last Sunday as I often do. It’s usually an uneventful trip, however, it was different this time. Overhead power cables at Retford weren’t working so Virgin East Coast Trains had to take a detour generally used by freight traffic which wasn’t an ‘electrified’ route. This meant they had to borrow non-electric trains from other rail companies. So I boarded my East Midlands train an hour late and ended up in London about two and a half hours late – and after the tube trains and other lines had closed for the night.

In fairness to Virgin Trains, they handled the situation as efficiently as possible and sorted out taxis for everyone for their onward journeys.

Their staff were also keen to make sure travellers knew about their Delay Repay scheme, which, as the name suggests, means that travellers get a percentage of their fare returned where they have arrived at their destination over half an hour late. This is a good scheme, and I’m sure it acts as a financial motivator to train companies – having been stopped in a field in North Dakota, USA on an Amtrak train for 9 hours recently, such a scheme would possibly change Amtrak’s mindset, or put them out of business within 3 months.

Earlier this month the UK Government announced that it would be reducing this half hour to fifteen minutes – so any delays over a quarter of an hour will mean the train companies having to compensate passengers.

Which? Magazine has been campaigning heavily on another aspect of this too – their view is that as only an estimated 20% of people claim their Delay Repay compensation, the train companies need to raise awareness of its existence and make it easier for people to claim.  That may be the case, and it is great that the time at which compensation kicks in is being reduced, but I think this issue needs to be approached from a different angle.

The contract with the traveller needs to be fairer.

What happens if I get stuck in traffic and cannot make the specific train I am booked on to due to arriving at the station 10 minutes late? I have to buy a completely new full-fare ticket – as you can only amend tickets for specific trains prior to the departure time.

What Which? should be pushing for, and the Government should be introducing, is a scheme whereby if such a situation arises, I don’t have to buy a whole new ticket, but have to pay an administrative fee or additional percentage due to being late – which could be linked to how late I was getting to the station. A scheme that echoes Delay Repay, for when the customer is later rather than the train. This could have been complicated a few years ago, but a software solution to calculate such penalties would now be straight forward to create.

And this isn’t just the case for trains – it happens in other situations.

If I return a hire car more than an hour late, I have to pay a fee. If it breaks down for part of my hire period I get no compensation.

The unfairness of contracts isn’t the only issue though – and in the situations already described we, the consumers, have to accept the offer that the Goliath has put on the table.  We have more influence in smaller scale situations. How do we create more meaningful contracts in the first place? How do we contract for business focused outcomes rather than simplistic outputs?

If I want to employ someone to cut my lawn, he or she may offer to cut it once a fortnight, however, I might want the contract to be that they cut it every time it gets above a certain height – the latter being a more effective approach for me but a potentially more difficult contract to manage for the provider.

It has been interesting reading the debates about contracts to run private sector prisons. The move towards payments for how a company reduces repeat offending as opposed to just running a prison are very positive. The Government is encouraging this more widely through Social Impact Bonds. Again, more difficult contractually, but focused on the required outcome rather than a more simplistic output or activity.

Which brings me to my primary line of work – training. I struggle to understand why companies almost all the time contract for courses to be delivered. If a provider is offering training, it should be to up-skill people, improve performance, change behaviours, etc. So why don’t organisations push for the contracts to be about up-skilling people, improving performance or changing behaviours – and pay providers for that, as opposed to just delivering training.  Focus on the required outcomes, not the simplistic outputs.

Harder to contract for, but ultimately more business focused – and it drives up performance within the training sector, and the really poor performers (of which there are too many) either improve or are consigned to history.

Contractually, industry shouldn’t give training providers such an easy ride, in the same way that the Government shouldn’t be giving rail companies such an easy ride.

Paul

 

Pedagogy v Andragogy … v Humanagogy?

Monday, May 4th, 2015

A colleague recently drew my attention to an article, “Pedagogy vs. Andragogy: A False Dichotomy?”. (Being a person with a Reflector-Theorist learning style) I found it a fascinating read.

These two terms are often used to describe, respectively, how children learn and how adults learn. As the article explains, “The term (Pedagogy) is derived from the Greek words ‘paid’, meaning ‘child’ and ‘agogus’ meaning ‘leader of’ …. Andragogy is based on the Greek word ‘aner’ with the stem ‘andra’ meaning ‘man, not boy’ or adult, and ‘agogus’ meaning ‘leader of’”.

I have been a strong supporter of Andragogy for many years and always include it in Train the Trainer programmes I deliver. When I explain it, I tend to call it the Principles of Adult Learning.

I have also always been mildly uncomfortable with the term Andragogy, as I am aware that the approach is equally relevant to the development of learning for children – not just adults. It also implies that adults are easily able to embrace its principles, and I am aware from experience that this is not always the case.

It is, therefore, more about the group of people we as trainers or facilitators are leading, and the article introduces a term that I have not come across before – Humanagogy. The term was introduced by Knudson in 1980 and the article explains, “Unlike the separate terms of pedagogy and andragogy, humanagogy represents the differences as well as the similarities that exist between both adults and children as learning human beings. It approaches human learning as a matter of degree, not kind.” The emphasis here is moving the focus from an aged based assessment to an assessment comprising a wider range of criteria, such as subject matter, learning styles of the individuals, their level of motivation to learn, etc., but also including age.

This approach links very well with Heron’s 6 Dimensions of Facilitator Style. Heron’s model, as I explain here, is all about the facilitator considering the needs of the group in 6 discrete areas (Dimensions) and then deciding throughout the session whether their style should be Hierarchical (predominantly pedagogical), Co-operative, or Autonomous (predominantly Andragogical).

For me, Heron’s model develops the Humanagogical approach from a 2-D model to a 3-D model. It does this by explicitly indicating that whilst the initial assessment of the group’s needs in a way that matches with Knudson’s Humanagogy is entirely appropriate, this situation needs to be continually re-assessed by the facilitator – almost on a minute by minute basis, based on the group’s reactions and actions – in order to maximise the learning taking place.

I would have to agree with the article’s authors, Geraldine Holmes and Michele Abington-Cooper, that the terms Pedagogy and Andragogy do create a false dichotomy. Perhaps it should be a continuum with Humanagogy in the middle?

I will definitely be including Humanagogy in my future inputs and discussions on this topic.

Throughout the planning for and delivery of any session, the needs and motivations of the individuals have to be paramount. Any model, theory or discussion that helps facilitators understand, recognise, include and manage these needs has to be useful.

What are your thoughts?

Paul

De-briefing animals, drummers and Shakespeare

Monday, April 14th, 2014

W. C. Fields said, “Never work with Children or animals”. Is this a brilliant aphorism, or did it just indicate he didn’t have the best skill set for such situations? More importantly, how applicable is this to learning methodologies?

In my last blog post, where I described how to get the best out of the use of actors as a learning methodology, one of the points I covered was the importance of the de-brief and how to structure it in order to maximise the learning.

The de-brief itself is too often seen as not being particularly important. This is evident from events I have attended where it has been implemented poorly. This results in reduced learning, varying degrees of frustration for the learners and ultimately a failure to gain the benefit from the financial and time investment.

I have seen horses, drums and Shakespeare used to name just three methodologies – and in cases where these have been used, I have seen some poor quality de-briefs.

These interventions are “Low reality, high process content” learning methodologies. In other words, the “Low reality” indicates that the methodology has little or no relevance to the knowledge or skills of the participants (e.g. shop managers working with horses, office managers learning to play drums). This means that the individuals feel little or no group pressure to succeed in front of colleagues as they are not situations they would face in the workplace. It also means that there is a level playing field in that there is no workplace knowledge or skills required in order to take part. These factors also make the methodology “high process content”. This means that the methodology can lead to a rich seam of learning due to the removal of the described pressures – the result being relaxed participants whose inhibitions have been removed. The participants immerse themselves in the task. This type of methodology is particularly powerful in terms of self-development and team development, and will often focus on attitudes and behaviours.

The use of actors to assist the same managers to be more effective when conducting interviews or running team meetings (as described in the previous post) would be an example of the opposite methodology – “High reality, low process content”. The reality is high, because the situations are tailored to the managers’ work situations through, for example, context and language. The process content in these situations is low as they are predominantly about knowledge, understanding and skills – how to complete the task more effectively. There is less potential for profound self-development and less likelihood of a person changing their awareness of themselves due to participants generally being less relaxed and a little more inhibited – because they know their peers may well be assessing their workplace competence, and the intended focus is around a workplace activity.

Both methodologies are powerful; but for different reasons, and the correct type needs to be chosen. And as previously mentioned, it’s the de-brief that is the key – and one type is generally a lot easier to debrief than the other …

The “High reality, low process content” tends to be the easier to debrief. This is because there is a script, probably some models or theories to include, and it can be predicted to some degree as to the potential outcomes and learning points.

Little of this anticipated de-brief content is available for the “Low reality, high process content” methodology – if de-briefed effectively. The facilitator or de-briefer has to work with the ‘live data’ generated – and this is where many of the providers of this type of activity fall down. They often plan on what they expect to come out of the activity and even have their learning points ready prepared – thus making what happened in the activity fit within their debrief. This can devalue the methodology, and confuse the learners as it doesn’t fit with their experience – thus making any learning less meaningful.

As Abraham Maslow pointed out, “lf you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”.

Why does this happen?

1)      The facilitator is concerned that perhaps no ‘live data’ will be generated, or they will not be able to make the duration of the de-brief worthwhile – which leads to them deciding on the strands for the de-brief or creating the learning points beforehand. As a consequence they do not listen to or see what is really happening during the activity.

2)      The facilitator has a situationally dysfunctional mind-set. They approach the methodology with an “I need to handle” or “I must handle” mind-set. This leads to them adopting the approach described in point 1 above. In order to de-brief it well, the facilitator requires the skills and confidence to enable them to have the “I can handle” mind-set. This leads to the intrapersonal discussion that there will be ‘live data’ and they will be able to de-brief great learning, thus meaning that they don’t script themselves. They approach the de-brief objectively and with an open-mind, using only data generated. And they usually end up having to decide what not to include – rather than worrying about how much there will be to de-brief – as there are so many potential learning points.

Perhaps in the acting world, Fields was correct – certainly for situations where there is a strict script. There is, however, a strong case for using methodologies which generate unpredictable learning – but the time, place and facilitator need to be right.

Next time someone offers you a wonderfully innovative methodology, don’t get carried away by the methodology itself. Spend time checking on the skills of the person who will de-brief it – then you will find out whether it has the potential to be a wonderful methodology or just a frustratingly wasted investment.

Paul

 

All the world’s a stage …

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

… wrote William Shakespeare in “As You Like It”. I have used actors in learning and development interventions on a number of occasions over the past 20 years. Actors have assisted me in different ways, such as acting out business scenarios between themselves, and interacting individually with delegates. I have also seen others use them in innovative and powerful ways, such as Olivier Mythodrama where the facilitator or trainer is also a skilled Shakespearean actor. As Sanford Meisner said, “An ounce of behaviour is worth a pound of words”.

Recently I have seen a couple of posts on HR and training forums asking about how to use actors effectively and whether any return on investment evaluation has been undertaken regarding their use. A very successful use of actors late last year led me to reflect on what works and what doesn’t when using this methodology – which is what prompted this blog post. And it’s not just me saying it was a success – the evaluation qualified the value and, more importantly, demonstrated how the use of actors had made such an impact on the transfer of learning to the workplace.

But it doesn’t always go smoothly – and I have witnessed situations several times where there has been little learning or the people running the event didn’t make the most from the opportunity. So how do you make it work well?

These are the key foundation stones – put these in place and you will build on them during the session, and so gain the maximum benefit from what can be both challenging and financially expensive. It can also be a hugely exciting and satisfying way to develop skills!

Lots of delegates have had experience of role playing with colleagues, and the majority of them do not talk about it being a positive experience. This can be for a number of reasons, but the main ones are that the colleagues ‘ham-acted’, the colleague role player attempted to help the delegate, and that the delegate didn’t find it very realistic. Consequently, you will probably find some reluctance or resistance, making it even more important to plan and deliver the intervention effectively.

Choose wisely There are a significant number of actors and groups of actors available, so how do you get to work with good ones? Personal recommendation is always a good start but not always an available option. When I recently required some in another part of the country, I searched the internet. I found several groups and then sought to understand two very significant points – had they carried out this sort of work before, and secondly, would they give me contact details of their previous customers so I could get references? It is important to use actors who have undertaken business or corporate work previously – it is very different to stage acting in that the actors have to be able to think on their feet and deal with the unknown. Your delegates will not be scripted.

Make the scenarios real and relevant You need your delegates to be able to immerse themselves into the role play, to be able to forget about everything else going on around them, to find it realistic. And all this is possible.

The first aspect of this is the writing of the scenario. It needs to be realistic – as close to what the delegate would experience as possible. This can be helped by the use of the same resources as the delegate would use in the workplace – for example real documentation or forms, signed by who they would expect to see them signed by.

Another point that is so easy to include, but sometimes so problematic if you don’t … all the names of people to be played by actors should be non-gender specific – Sam or Pat, for example – then you can be flexible with your choice of actors.

Give the actors context The other side of this is giving the actors as much information or experience as they need in order to be able to be natural. So, if they are required to be members of the organisation, they need to understand the language, the culture, the role they are playing, current internal issues, etc. This will enable them to act, and to act well – reacting realistically to the unexpected paths the delegates are sure to take them along. Good actors will want lots of this – they know how critical it is to the success or otherwise of the role playing. Once they have all this, leave them to play the roles – your starring role is running the de-brief. As John Malkovich said, “If you don’t interfere with me, I’ll always do something really good.”

Make scenarios win / win Creating challenging scenarios will assist in immersing the delegate into the role play. The more they have to think about in the scenario, the less they will be thinking about what else is happening outside of their interaction. Whilst they should be challenging, they must also be ‘winnable’. If there is no way the delegates can bring the matter or situation to a successful conclusion, they will justifiably not see it as a very useful learning experience.

The delegates meet the actors in role, not as themselves The first time I engaged with actors, I suggested that they should be introduced to the group at the start of the event, so that the group might feel more at ease with the role plays. The actors suggested against this as they said it would dilute the realism. I went with their suggestion, and whilst we didn’t test it both ways, I’m sure they were right.

The delegates met the actors when they walked into the room – as one of their staff. The delegates didn’t have to adjust, the actor was their member of staff.

Plan in at least twice as long for the debrief as the interaction The learning comes out in the debrief. To maximise the learning for all concerned you need to explore what happened, why it happened, overlay it with models and theories, explore what could have happened with a different approach, summaries the learning points, action plan … it takes time to do it well. And to make it as effective as possible, you need a good debrief structure …

Structure the de-brief effectively “Actors are all about entrances, but writers are all about exits” (Vincent H O’Neil).  Trainers are about exits, too. All the planning and preparation you have put in will not be maximised if your de-brief is unstructured. Debrief the delegate first – he or she is the person most likely to be affected, and feelings will dissipate most quickly. Affective Domain learning is often the most powerful, so don’t lose it!  Try this model – it has worked very well for me and many others over the years. And as you work through the model, if you ask the right questions, there will be very little need for you to make many learning points – your cast will of players will have made them. You might even think of yourself as the Director!

Using actors can be a powerful methodology, and in order to maximise the return on your investment of time, the delegates’ time and the cost of the actors, it needs to be managed effectively.

Try these tips. Let me know how they work. Are there any you would add?

Paul

Purposeful Objectives

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

For effective learning to take place, what is the most important part of the process? The accurate specification, the quality of the performance improver (aka trainer, coach), the attitude of the learner, the quality of the evaluation, or something else?

I’m not sure it’s possible to make a robust argument for one particular aspect being more important or influential than any other – they are all integral to bringing about effective performance improvement.

Having said that, I do think there is one part of the process that links all the parts together. And it is an area that is often not given the priority or importance it warrants. It is the ‘learning objectives’ or ‘learning outcomes’.

When I used to train trainers, and then assess the lessons they delivered, it was the single most problematic area. Where the trainers weren’t clear on their objectives, or their methodology didn’t meet the objective (usually because they had committed the cardinal sin of choosing a methodology before arriving at their objective) they often came unstuck. Where they had a well structured objective together with a matching methodology, they had clarity of purpose – and the sessions generally went so much more smoothly for all concerned.

Well-formed objectives assure the client that the specification of their needs is clearly understood, they inform the trainer what is to be covered and to what level, they let the delegates know what they are there for and they let the evaluator know what they need to measure.

An well written learning objective needs to achieve two key criteria. Firstly, it needs to say what is to be achieved by the delegates, and secondly it needs to say to what level.

This is where we need to thank Benjamin Bloom for his Cognitive Domain Taxonomy of Learning. He developed his theory in the 1950s, together with work on the Psychomotor and Affective Domains. A Taxonomy is an “ordered list” and the Cognitive Domain describes the various stages and levels a person passes through as they develop greater knowledge and learning around a specific area.

The left hand column of the table below describes the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy relating to the Cognitive Domain.

Level Possible measurable
words
Knowledge Label; Identify; Recite; List; Name
Comprehension Explain; Summarise; Illustrate; Give examples; Distinguish between
Application Organise; Apply; Produce; Show
Analysis Differentiate; Compare; Prioritise; Categorise; Classify
Synthesis Compose; Construct; Hypothesise; Design; Combine
Evaluation Evaluate; Make a judgement; Recommend

The right hand column gives some of the words that can be used in writing objectives to ensure that they are both measureable and pitched at the appropriate level. Let me give an example.

An organisation wants its staff to learn about its Performance Management processes. Some staff who are perhaps not included in the process may need only to have ‘Knowledge’ of it. Those who are appraised probably require the “Comprehension” level, and managers will need to have the “Application” level in order to carry out performance reviews. Other staff in HR may require the higher levels within Bloom’s Taxonomy.

These first three levels should generate three different learning objectives which could be, for example, that by the end of the session the delegates are able to:

  1. Identify the organisation’s Performance Management processes (Knowledge)
  2. Summarise the organisation’s Performance Management processes (Comprehension)
  3. Apply the organisation’s Performance Management processes (Application)

These different objectives dictate the levels to be achieved, and therefore the methodologies to be used and consequently the duration of any learning intervention. To achieve the first objective could take 10 minutes, to achieve the third could take 2 days – a significant time and cost differential for a one word difference in the objective.

Moving finally to our evaluator. He or she can then ask delegates, either verbally or in writing, to “Summarise the organisation’s Performance Management processes” – and the answer will tell us whether the intervention has achieved its stated objective. When reported back, the client has clarity as to whether their requirement has been met, as does the trainer.

Paul

Creating a Strategy (3) – Aligned and Fit for Purpose

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

If Part 2 was the engine room, Part 3 is all about the different lubricants to keep the engine performing. Engine oils and other lubricants are constantly being improved. If your engine can be improved by using these improved lubricants, you should use them. Whilst I am a dvocating a 5-year strategy to give stability and focus to the vision, I also advocate constantly reviewing it to make sure it’s relevant.

Sections 6 – 9 in this post need to be revisited and amended at least annually. It’s a case of carrying out your MOT – Maximising Our Training.

If you are managing a Learning and Development unit, I’m guessing that you have a finite budget? I’m also reasonably confident that you will have more requests than you can meet with this finite budget?  In which case, you need to maximise those resources.

To deliverer optimum value from your budget, you need a process or processes to ensure that:

  1. only those who really need the learning interventions get them,
  2. where a course is involved, it is run at maximum occupancy, and
  3. those who undertake such interventions have demonstrated that they have the new skills once they return to the workplace.

Section 6 – Organisational Needs Analysis

Based on my previous arguments around whether this Strategy should be a ‘Training’ or ‘Performance Improvement’ Strategy, it should come as no surprise that I advocate a Performance Needs Analysis (PNA) as opposed to a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). Very different entities. I have previously discussed a model for an effective PNA, and this section should summarise the process your organisation will use in relation to assessing its performance needs.

Section 7 – Prioritisation of Needs

Then comes the thorny issue of deciding which, and how many, of the needs you can address. My experience is that the organisation likes the L & D function to undertake this activity. My advice would be not to! The client side is responsible for prioritisation, the L & D side is responsible to effective delivery. If you have a finite budget and some needs cannot be met, who gets the (thorny) stick if L & D have undertaken the prioritisation? Yes, you do!

You should suggest an objective prioritisation process, and work with the client side to ensure that it happens, but not undertake it.

Section 8 – Addressing Needs

This is about getting the right people into the position for the correct needs to be met, and then checking that they have in fact been met. Key aspects of this process should be:

  • The person requiring the performance need (or their manager) giving a clear explanation of the need.
  • The manager explaining why they cannot address this matter locally (through coaching, shadowing, etc.).
  • The manager showing clearly how by addressing this performance need, organisational performance will be improved.
  • Agreement from local senior management that this is a valid need.
  • The delegate creating an action plan at the conclusion of the intervention.
  • Within three months of the end of the intervention, sign off by the line manager that the person’s need has been met – and they can now do what they couldn’t do before.
  • Or re-submission of the need for a further intervention if the manager cannot give this sign off.

This can all be included in one process, and if you would like to see how, please let me know and I will send you further information.

By undertaking Sections 6 – 8, you will ensure that relevant needs at
organisational, team and individual levels are included.

Section 9 – Collaboration

In the past few years the world has seen the formation of a number of strategic alliances between passenger airlines. If you buy a car, there are many makes, but in reality there are only three or four producers in the world with each make falling under one of the larger umbrellas.

Who could you collaborate with to save on design time and maximise places on courses by sharing capabilities? Running programmes more regularly will benefit your organisation, it is easier to fill events to capacity with a larger pool of potential delegates and people will learn different ideas and skills from other organisations. If this works for you, you should include you organisations approach to collaboration within this section.

Section 10 – Design, Delivery and Evaluation

I would advocate a separate Design, Delivery and Evaluation Strategy – and for some organisations it will make more sense to have three separate Strategies covering each of these aspects. This section should make reference to their existence and where they can be located.

Section 11 – Sector / Organisation specific considerations

It may be that your organisation needs one or more specific sections – this is where to add them. An example could be a section on Diversity and Equality, where you might include:

  • A statement of commitment to diversity and equality.
  • The reasons for addressing this aspect separately.
  • How diversity training will be included in programmes.

Section 12 – Monitoring

For some of us, perhaps getting a strategy up and running has been a challenge, and now it is done it can be put to one side and other matters can be focussed on. If that’s the case, what was the point in doing it? If it is mapping out a course we see as being the right direction, we need to keep making sure that we are on track. It needs refreshing and renewing.

This is a short section to write, covering:

  • Who (or what meeting) will monitor activity against the Standards of Performance in Section 4?
  • How often will performance be reported on (quarterly suggested) and who to?
  • Who will review this Strategy?
  • How often will it be reviewed and updated (at least annually)?
  • Who (or what meeting) will the updated Strategy be presented to?

It takes longer to undertake. It entails considering and documenting:

  • If the organisation’s Statement of Values has changed, this document needs to reflect it (Section 1)
  • Have the strategic objectives changed, and so need updating? (Section 2)
  • Do the Guiding Principles require updating? (Section 3)
  • Bearing in mind the above amendments, do you need amended Performance Standards? If not, do the measurements of success need updating due to the current levels of performance? (Section 4)
  • Do the responsibilities need updating? (Section 5)
  • Sections 6 – 8 then need amending in light of all the above information.
  • Is there anyone else we could collaborate with to deliver a more effective service for the organisation? (Section 9)

And that’s it – Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy successfully completed!

Paul

Creating a Strategy (2) – the Engine Room

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Having firmly laid the Foundation Stones for the Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy within sections 1 – 3, sections 4 and 5 deal with Standards of Performance and Responsibilities in delivering the Strategy. This is the engine room of the Strategy.

Section 4 – Standards of Performance (Success Criteria)

This section deals with what you are going to deliver, and how your unit’s performance will be assessed. You need to make the Standards both specific and measureable, yet also relevant for the 5-year lifespan of the Strategy.

This is where you really show whether you are a “Training” or a “Performance Improvement” unit or department. Are your standards of performance going to be “Output” focussed or “Outcome” focussed? Your ‘Scotch Corner’ moment, as I have previously described it.

Here are some examples of Standards of Performance that you could consider using:

  1. Number of days training and development invested in staff per month (i.e. a 5 day course for 12 people equates to 60 days investment)
  2. The % of managers undertaking at least one Leadership or Management Development Course each year
  3. Rating of internal interventions by delegates – % of delegates indicating that the learning event will be of direct benefit to them in their current role
  4. Rating of all interventions, 2 – 4 months after a learning event – % of staff indicating that they have improved their performance as a result of the intervention
  5. The % of managers stating that (your unit) has delivered an improved level of performance, as measured against the previous year

For some of these standards (such as 1 & 2) it may be that your target is the same throughout the 5 years, assuming you are not anticipating any significant changes in your organisation’s staffing levels. For others (such as 3 & 4) it may be that you want to increase the performance percentage for each year of the strategy’s lifecycle.

What would these Performance Standards indicate about the particular unit? If I saw statements 1 and 2 above as the style of Standards of Performance being used in a 5 year Strategy, my initial impression would be that this unit is very “Output” focussed and has little focus on improving performance. The unit is being measured in a relatively simplistic manner. It appears to be a “Training” function.

If, however, I saw statements such as 3, 4 and 5, I would get a very different first impression. These Standards are very “Outcome” focussed, seeking to demonstrate the value of the function to the rest of the organisation. The Standards are more difficult to measure and are more testing to achieve – in order to achieve them, they require more detailed communication and more effective relationships with other parts of the organisation. They indicate that this is a “Performance Improvement” function and that across the organisation there is a more mature culture.

Remember that what is measured generally happens. The measurements you select will become important. If you measure relatively unimportant activity, it will become important – and that will be detrimental to both you and your organisation.

Section 5 – Responsibilities

It is helpful if everyone is aware of their responsibilities in relation to the Strategy. The responsibilities need to be discussed, negotiated and agreed from the outset. Getting clarity and sign off at this stage will save you time in the future.

These are the roles I suggest that you have responsibilities listed for:

  • Staff
  • Line managers
  • Senior Operations managers
  • Members of (your unit)
  • Head of (your unit)
  • Head of (overall part of the organisation within which your unit sits)
  • Senior Leadership members
  • Chief Executive / Head of the Organisation
  • Board members (where appropriate)

Here are a couple of examples of what you might list under two of the above groups.

All members of Staff are expected to:

  • Take responsibility for their own learning and development
  • Learn from their workplace experiences
  • Identify, through the PDR process, and address, with the assistance of line managers and (your unit), their particular learning and
    development needs
  • Make use of self-help facilities
  • Keep up to date with the organisation’s policy, practices and procedures

Senior Leadership members are expected to:

  • Set and review the strategic direction of the organisation
  • Set an example by being effective in managing staff
  • Value and action their own training and development needs, and those who they line manage
  • Monitor and quantify the improved performance delivered as a result of staff undertaking learning and development activities

If you would like examples of the responsibilities that you might list under the other suggested roles, just let me know - I will be happy to send you some.

The third and final part of the TPI Strategy template will be the focus for my next post.

Paul

Creating a Strategy (1) – the Foundation Stones

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I am often asked for a template for developing a Training Strategy or Performance Improvement Strategy – which, based on the arguments in my last post, will be referred to as a Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy for the remainder of this post – perhaps I might be able to influence change!

Such a template can be very useful as a guide, but it should only be used as a guide. If taken too rigidly it will hinder your creative thinking or the adding of aspects that might be of particular importance to you and your organisation. I offer you this template with those words of caution.

There are 3 distinct parts within this Strategy template:

  • Part 1 – The Foundation Stones
  • Part 2 – The Standards and Responsibilities
  • Part 3 – The Supporting Processes

Within this post, I will cover what I see as the Foundation Stones for a beneficial Strategy. These are required – as the name suggests – in order to ensure a sound platform for the remainder of the Strategy.

Section 1 – Statement of Values

This section should include a statement on behalf of the organisation setting out its commitment to performance improvement / staff development / training.

If your organisation has a Board of Governors or similar, the statement should be agreeable to both the Board and the Senior Management Team. This is important in terms of unity and clarity, and so that you can gain organisational acceptance for your TPI Strategy.

If you have your own Vision, this can also be included within this section.

Section 2 – Strategic Objectives

Consider these questions:

  • What  are the long term objectives of your organisation?
  • What  are the core skills required within your sector?
  • What  are the likely influences on your organisation over the coming years  -you might want to undertake a PEST / PESTLE  analysis (consider adding as an appendix the key documents you have considered)?
  • What  are the national learning and development issues that are likely to impact on your organisation?

As a result of this Strategic Assessment, you may well come up with several specific objectives, or you may decide to use just one, such as, “To develop the skills and improve the performance of our managers and their team members”.

Do which works best for you, but remember, whatever objective(s) you do come up with need to long term (5 years) and also link into the organisation’s long term objectives – and the links need to be obvious.

Section 3 – Guiding Principles to Underpin the Strategy

This section can be particularly useful in less mature organisations where you are still seeking to embed effective development processes.

The sorts of principles that you might see benefit from incorporating could include:

  • The PDR / Appraisal process will be the effective link between personal development and organisational effectiveness
  • Learning and Development is a critical support function working to enable the organisation to deliver improved organisational performance (particularly useful to include if your unit’s title is ‘Training’ or ‘Learning and Development’)
  • The focus of activities will be on improving the performance of staff and the services we provide (the comments against the previous bullet point also apply here)
  • Staff will be encouraged and supported to undertake appropriate self-development activities
  • The content of programmes will be stimulating and challenging
  • Leadership skills and valuing diversity will be key threads throughout learning activities
  • Where possible, learning and development activities will be linked to nationally recognised qualifications
  • Monitoring of transference of skills to the workplace will take place in order to ascertain the value of learning and development activities

So those are the Foundation Stones – in the next post I will explain Part 2 – the Standards and Responsibilities for the TPI Strategy.

Paul

Time to take the road least travelled?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

In my previous two posts, I have discussed the importance of a Vision. The Vision helps a company or team gain a shared view and understanding of what they want to achieve and how they want to be viewed.

If you are looking to create a Learning and Development (or Training) Strategy, you may have created your own Departmental Vision if your unit is large enough, or it may be that you have a company Vision which you use. This is a helpful starting point for your Strategy.

Here in England, just north of where I live and about 100 miles from Scotland, there is a road junction called “Scotch Corner”. Most people hardly notice it now, but in years gone by it was a hugely significant junction. Before getting to this point, the traveller needed to have planned their journey and decided whether they would be going up the east coast or west coast of Scotland. The decision had to be made a long time before reaching Scotland. Once they had decided which way to turn at Scotch Corner, it was expensive, time consuming and complicated to change course. The same is true of a strategy.

So before you go any further, why are you creating a strategy? The dictionary definition of a strategy is, “a long-term plan for success; a plan to achieve an advantage”. Nowhere does it suggest its definition is, “a paper exercise; the ticking of a box”. Sadly though, too many strategies are created for this second purpose – and such an approach can also become a millstone, or worse – a stick with which others can metaphorically beat you.

For a strategy to give you this long term plan and a competitive or organisational advantage, you need to put time, thought and energy into its formulation. It should enable you to clearly express where your function is heading and most importantly how it will support organisational performance, improvement and success. Once you have achieved this, you should be able to gain support and acceptance for your approach from your organisation’s senior management. This ‘sign off’ gives you further clarity, and can be very useful if you need to ‘challenge’ other parts of the organisation if for any reason they do not support your activities or seek to alter your direction.

So far I have referred to the document as a ‘Learning and Development’ or ‘Training’ Strategy, however, I would suggest that you really think hard about what you call it. Its title will set the tone for what you do and how you are seen. I have previously set down my thoughts on what can happen when a person is called a Trainer (“Sell your crunch, not your apples“), and how this can be unhelpful. As an aside, since writing that post, I have been on a course where the attendees were people who coach, train and develop others. The job title of one delegate was “Performance Improvement Consultant” Music to my ears! Having said that, the person worked at a group of hospitals in Orlando, Florida and so my concerns as to whether the title would be understood in the UK still exist.

Put yourself in the shoes of your senior operations manager – or similar – for a moment. Do they want a function that provides ‘Training’, ‘Learning’, ‘Development’, ‘Performance Improvement’, or something else? I see this as a continuum to which you could potentially add other words or phrases.

I’m pretty sure that the majority of senior operations managers would put themselves towards the right hand end of this continuum – they want performance improvement. That’s how they are measured, that’s how they demonstrate success, that’s what keeps the business competitive or the organisation successful.

Why then do so many people have ‘Training’ Strategies? Possibly because that’s the way they have always been done, or possible because of where the function sits within the organisation. Often this function is part of HR. Within the HR profession, ‘Training’ is still an all too popular generic title. If this function was moved to be part of the Performance Management arm of the business, would its primary purpose still be seen as Training? I think not.

Consequently, this Strategy is far more than a piece of paper. It will say what you are about, and how you are positioned within the organisation. It should make you think long and hard about what impact you intend to make. So before you even start to write it, think about these crucial questions.

Will you be having a ‘Training Strategy’ or a ‘Performance Improvement Strategy’? This is your ‘Scotch Corner’ moment.

Paul

Building the Perfect Vision

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In my previous post, I outlined the components of a good quality Vision, together with examples of good and not so good offerings. In this post I will explain how to create a meaningful Vision.

For a Vision to be effective, not only does it need to meet the suggested criteria listed in the previous post, it also needs to be owned by the company or departmental staff, and both understood and valued by the customer base. The following process will enable you to achieve all this.

  1. Brainstorm or board-blast words and short phrases that describe what your organisation or department is to be about. This activity can be undertaken both internally and with customers, although the sessions should be run separately.
  2. Having undertaken this with one or more groups, look at all the words and phrases you have generated. You will see some themes and overlaps. Some words will have similar meanings. Group the words and phrases together where possible – using one colour for customer comments and another colour for staff comments.  This will give you an indication of which themes are numerically most important to the people you have consulted with, together with a check of the weighting from each of the two groups.
  3. Now prioritise your themes. Which are shared by both staff and customers? As the leader of the company or Department, which ones meet with your long term view? Which are most important to the success of your venture?
  4. Within each theme, is there a word that encapsulates, as far as possible, what the theme is about? If so, make a note of it. If not, is there a two-word phrase that sums it up? This step of the process is all about simplifying the theme and looking to take it forward as succinctly yet as accurately as possible.  You will never fit all the comments people have made into a sentence of a few words – so you will have to be prepared to accept inclusion by implication – and this is what you should be seeking to achieve with this step.
  5. Put your prioritised words together in a phrase. As I have mentioned previously, the phrase needs to be memorable, and as many people as possible need to be able to understand how their contribution has helped form and been included within the sentence.

If you get to this point, well done! It isn’t easy to get to this position, and it is time consuming – but it is well worthwhile.

The last time that I undertook this process was when I was leading a large Learning and Development function within an organisation. The Vision that I settled on was “Partners in Developing Performance”. This reflected the requirement to work with other parts of the organisation in an Adult and objective manner, together with the recognition that we existed to develop people, and that our Department needed to make a positive impact on organisational performance.

I found it very helpful in articulating what we were all about, and ensuring that all our activities fitted with this Vision or value. The most pleasing impact was when one of the trainers – on his own initiative – had delegate desk name plates (i.e. a folded card where the delegate wrote their name as a part of their introduction) printed with the Vision on. Proof that it was owned and valued by staff!

Furthermore, due to its positive impact, the HR Department adopted an amended version of it – “Partners in Managing our People”– for their own use.

So if it can be so effective, why don’t more organisations and departments do it? There are many potential reasons – here are some of them:

  • Looking for instant results – if that’s what you want, you probably will not invest the time in a Vision
  • Bureaucratic – it can be viewed as such where people don’t understand its value
  • Fear or embarrassment – it can be seen as a bit different if people haven’t been involved in such a process before
  • Inadequacy – some people tell themselves that they couldn’t lead such a process. Remember, there are facilitators who would be able to assist you with the process
  • Fatigue – there will be many other things on your plate, and it can be an easy one to push off the side.

But try it – clear these potential blockages and set out your Vision.  Be clear on where you and your team are going.

Once you have your Vision, you can develop your Mission – which will be your over-arching objective or overall aim. This could be your objective for where you will be in 5 years’ time. You can then work backwards setting objectives as to what needs to be in place or happen to get you to that point. Your path will have clarity for your staff and stakeholders.

Which takes me back to where this all started – the writing of a Strategy. The Vision can make this easier, and in my next post I will outline a template for creating a meaningful Learning and Development Strategy.

Paul