Posts Tagged ‘LNA’

7 Steps to L&D Heaven

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

In my last post I outlined seven questions that I always use when determining exactly what a client’s needs are. I said in this post I would explain why I use – and document – these questions, and why I think they are important.

The basis for them is that in my experience a little time spent at this stage pays dividends later in the process. This is because sometimes clients:

  • Spend too little time critically thinking about their true learning requirements.
  • Do not appreciate the true cost of the investment in people’s development that they are asking for.
  • Have no ownership of the rest of the process if not involved from the start and – importantly for the L&D provider – no accountability if it doesn’t achieve what it was supposed to achieve.

What is the identified performance need? Too often clients only want to talk in terms of a solution, and that solution is often a course. This is understandable to some degree as they are busy people and it will often seem relatively straight forward to them. This question, and any subsequent clarification questions, are intended to take us back to basics. This will help me to build a product or solution based on a firm foundation of a properly identified need.

Why is a solution required (how will it add value, and what would happen if it did not exist)? By asking this, I am ensuring that the learning is required – in other words, once completed, the person will be able to add additional value to the organisation. They will have new skills. It helps us start to identify what the intended return on investment (ROI) will be. If the client is unable to specify how it will add value, is it really a development need that the organisation should support?

How will the solution improve the organisation’s performance against its identified goals? Not only do we need to ensure that the person will be able to add value after completing their learning, we must ensure that this value is what the organisation currently values – is it a company priority? The majority of L&D functions receive more requests than they can handle – identifying which will support current organisational priorities is one way of prioritising them.

Which organisational competencies does the solution aim to address and to what level? This enables the solution to be linked to any relevant competency frameworks or appraisal process. In ascertaining the correct level, it enables the L&D professional who takes responsibility for designed the solution to be able to pitch it at the appropriate level.  If the eventual solution is publicised more widely, it also assists other clients to understand the level of the event.

What are the target staff groups /  teams / Departments for this solution? We have to ensure that the target audience is the correct audience to deliver this business improvement. As we all know, there are some people who try to get on courses for the sake of going on a course (and others who we can never get near one!). This question is intended to help me critically examine exactly who should be receiving it – thus offering it to all who have the need, yet not making it available to those who will not be able to use it to add organisational value.

How will the effectiveness of the solution be measured in the workplace? This links back to the return on investment (ROI) seed which we planted earlier in the conversation.  We need to clearly specify this so that anyone involved in the delivery and receipt of the solution is clear as to how they will add value. Also, so that the evaluator can check the effectiveness of the solution in the future. For example, let’s say the solution is in the contact centre environment, and it is intended to reduce a team of advisors’ Average Handling Times (AHT) and their Transfer Rates for calls to the contact centre. We need to measure these in terms of the average length of calls and percentage transfer rate prior to the interventions so that we have the base data. At a given time after the delivery of the solution, we can then measure again and quantify whether the required improvements have been made, and if so by how much – which can then be converted to a monetary value relatively easily. If this measurement, or the decision on how to measure, is not undertaken at the start of the process, we cannot quantify the success of the intervention.

What are the clearly stated, measurable objectives for the solution? This will usually  need to be completed by the L&D specialist as our clients are unlikely to be familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomies of learning, and in particular the levels.  Objectives need to be measurable so we need to ensure we use words that can be evaluated against. This means that when we say, “By the end of the session delegates will be able to …”, we should avoid words like ‘understand’ or ‘comprend’. Instead, we should use words such as ‘outline’ (Knowledge), ‘explain’ (Comprehension) and ‘apply’ (Application).

Finally, we need our sponsor to sign off a documentary record of what we have agreed. It can sometimes feel a little onerous to do this, and sponsors may be reluctant to engage in this process – if this happens I start to be a little concerned. Having them sign off the process is all about them agreeing that the answers to the questions are correct, and that the description of the need, the way it will be measured and the proposed learning objectives are all recorded accurately. If there are disagreements, then amendments can be made. If not, it can be agreed, signed and then passed to L&D professionals in order for them to suggest and develop appropriate solutions.

And the potential for significant added value will be greatly increased!


So tell me what you need, what you really, really need

Monday, April 25th, 2011

I’m all for the phrase “Make it happen”, but we always have to be clear on the ‘it’. Sometimes organisations are so keen to make ‘it’ happen, the priority can become “Make something happen” which can often be one step forward and two steps back. It can also damage relationships and cause waves in previously tranquil waters. And it can waste serious amounts of money.

The area of learning and development is one of the best – or worst, dependent upon how you look at it – examples of this.

I can think of several occasions where training interventions have been delivered and they have not delivered the required results in the workplace. In several of those instances the claim has been that it was “Training’s fault because they didn’t train the right things”. Hmmm. Perhaps it was, or perhaps it wasn’t. It is, however, relatively simple to introduce a process that minimises this potential and maximises the value from an organisation’s investment in learning. As with so many successful projects, the primary requirement is for the relevant people to take the required responsibility and accountability.

Learning and development professionals (the contractors) need to slow down the commissioning process. The commissioning process is the stage where the internal or external client identifies what needs to change. And this will only work if the responsibility is in the right place.

The client has to take responsibility for job descriptions, core skills and identifying individuals’ learning and development needs. The contractor’s role is to analyse the client’s needs and develop appropriate and cost-effective interventions, deliver the interventions, assess the competence of delegates and check the intervention met its stated objectives. Finally, we arrive at the evaluation of the changes in the workplace as a result of the intervention – which is the client’s responsibility.

The start of this cycle used to be called the Training Needs Analysis (TNA). However, it is increasing being broken down into two activities called the Performance Needs Analysis (PNA) and the Learning Needs Analysis (LNA). Whilst it is the responsibility of the client, the contractor needs to assist them in this process. When we are closely involved in matters, we often lose our objectivity and sometimes make assumptions – this is what can happen for a client and so we need to help them avoid this by taking them through a structure process.

This process can be as detailed as everyone wants to make it. Having said that, if learning and development professionals use too complex a process, they will lose credibility with the client. The complexity of the process should also be driven by the size of the audience – in other words, if 20 people need to improve their performance in a particular area, the process should be less arduous than if 2,000 people require it – but both require a process to ensure we make the right thing happen.

As a start, I use seven questions. These are:

  1. What is the identified performance need?
  2. Why is a solution required (how will it add value, and what would happen if it did not exist)?
  3. How will the solution improve the organisation’s performance against its identified goals?
  4. Which organisational competencies does the solution aim to address and to what level?
  5. What are the target staff groups /  teams / Departments for this solution?
  6. How will the effectiveness of the solution be measured in the workplace?
  7. What are the clearly stated, measurable objectives for the solution?

From experience, I know that these questions can come across as threatening to clients. This is particularly the case in immature organisations – in other words, organisations where discussions around learning and development activities are often packaged in terms of the client stating they want a course on a particular aspect, rather than rational, objective and meaningful discussions between the client and contractor on what they need to achieve together.  Consequently, my preferred approach is to let the client have the questions prior to us meeting face to face or us having a further phone conversation. This gives them the opportunity to identify what they need – what they really need.

When learning and development professionals get this process right, they are well on their way to making a meaningful impact for the organisation. They will be able to demonstrate their value in improving performance.

In my next post, I will explain a little more about each of these seven star questions – and why, when you have completed the process, you need to get your sponsor’s sign-off.