7 Steps to L&D Heaven

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!

Paul

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!

Paul

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