Yesterday I attended my third ‘Unconference’ with fellow L&D professionals from a wide range of backgrounds. It was (as always) a very thought provoking day where many issues were discussed and some solutions identified!
One of the sessions focused on empowering learners and engaging managers in learning. It was a very insightful discussion that considered how much training is VALUED in organisations, whether we are defining the right objectives (and whether the right people are involved in that process) to the metrics that we use to measure training (we decided that most metrics favoured by senior management were largely irrelevant to the measuring the effectiveness of a solution).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, line managers were identified as one the biggest obstacles to effective transfer of learning. L&D teams may offer great opportunities and solutions, individuals may be motivated to learn, but when managers won’t ‘release’ them from their day job (proof if ever it was needed that learning is something extra, not related to the real work for which they get paid), when no-one takes an interest in what has been learned and how it has been applied, when no-one is helping them to see the link between learning and job performance, it all tends to fall a bit flat.
Lots of meaty things for internal L&D teams to implement, but also for external providers like me to address, and I came away feeling that some really practical ideas had been shared.
Now fast forward to my evening: My daughter was practising her flute. She’s hardly touched it over the summer and for the previous 12 months, her interest has waned. She wasn’t improving, despite having lessons at school and us encouraging her.
We decided to try one last approach: a private tutor. Wow! What a difference to her motivation and to her ability in just 3 weeks. You may think I’m going to suggest that all formal learning should be replaced my coaching, but I’m not. That said, coaching can of course be an excellent way of developing skills for many people, and it should certainly be part of any L&D mix.
The thing I think that has made the difference is the fact that her music tuition is now more ‘joined up’. We didn’t know the music teacher at school, they didn’t know us, we never got any feedback, and our daughter had to be ‘released’ from ordinary school lessons to attend which didn’t always happen in a timely way. With the private tutor, the lessons aren’t an interruption to anything else. Because they are at home, we can hear what is happening in the lesson, we can give our daughter specific (and immediate) feedback and encouragement. The tutor also shares the goals she has set for her in the next week and what we should be doing as parents to help her to achieve them. We want her to succeed, so we take our role very seriously.
In this scenario, we are the line manager: we are now much more involved in the learning: We selected the learning solution for a start! We have regular conversations with the tutor (learning provider) and understand what is being covered and why. We can provide targeted help to our daughter (the learner) and can give specific feedback. We can also challenge both parties (this piece is too hard, we need to re-arrange the lesson, or why haven’t you practised? Do you want us to find that piece for you to listen to?). Of course, we also have a vested interest as private tuition costs more than school lessons!
The message for me is clear: the more we can engage ALL stakeholders in the design and delivery of learning, the better the outcomes will be for everyone as everyone has a vested interest. The challenge for me as an external training provider is convincing stakeholders in the organisations I work with, who may just want someone to come in and ‘create some training’…No matter how well I write it (and I will write it well!), it will have limited effect unless it’s joined up with other elements.