For many years I’ve felt that L&D has been herded into three set fields; face-to-face, online, and blended. Whilst it is fine to categorise the type of learning that is being delivered, what is usually not identified, discussed, or strategically planned for is the learning culture needed to participate in L&D.
Some companies talk about innovative, proactive and open learning cultures, but most of the time I’ve found them to still be using a top-down approach.
Is this bad? Not necessarily bad, more a traditional approach to delivering L&D, however in today’s modern society I felt myself wanting more from the cultures that I deliver L&D in. Recently I had that opportunity with Solera to build what I have termed as ‘socialist L&D’, the fusing together of a top-down and bottom-up approaches to ensure that all sectors, grades, and roles are developed as a whole.
In my last post I spoke about the flipped classroom methodology and gave a small insight into how the socialist L&D culture was implemented. As we move forward in this changed world towards the new normal there is a catalytic opportunity to develop the learning culture as well as the methods of learning delivery.
Our world is changing rapidly, Covid-19 aside, how companies operate, products and services delivered, market share, customer loyalty and company longevity is ever changing. In addition, employees are more empowered in their own careers, they move roles more frequently, and not necessarily staying in the same industry or expected career path. So shouldn’t they have a say in how they are developed? With such changes in retention patterns it is so easy for managers to fall back onto the traditional transactional management roles, knowing that their teams are no longer in the ‘job for life’ mindset. However, given that both customers and staff are looking for enhanced lifestyles, having transformational leaders makes a significant difference to the company as a whole. And that’s where socialist L&D comes in.
Generally in a number of companies L&D activity is seen as an ‘add on’ service to day-to-day activity, routinely only discussed annually or quarterly as part of a member of staff’s appraisal. A manager usually identifies that a member of staff requires L&D training to fulfil the objectives set for the year and leaves it to the member of staff to enrol on said training and then they check in on the completion of the training when either signing off the funding or at the next appraisal meeting.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
At Solera I wanted to put the managers at the centre of the learning and development, alongside the member of staff all the way up the hierarchy. For L&D to be at the core of an organisation, this strategic placement of the managers is crucial. Personal development needs to be more than just an annual discussion that feels compulsory because it’s on the appraisal form. Managers, to become transformational leaders, also need to understand how their staff are developing and the subsequent impact on their performance – how else will objectives be adjusted, workflows changed, and praise received?
So at Solera, I bestowed the power of checkpoint clearance to the managers, and not to myself. I can view an asset created such as a PowerPoint and think it sound in terms of design and storyboarding, but a manager would know whether the client or product specific content was 100% correct. This small change shows the importance of manager involvement in staff development.
The approval process was completed via the Business School platform, powered by Bridge Instructure, and the managers were provided with a rubric to ensure that they were assessing the learning outcomes and objectives of the course. I would spot check the approvals to ensure that the academic standards were being met and that a full assessment had been given. This approval system was integrated into all manager’s workflows all the way up to the managing director.
At first, I was presented with the usual cultural push back, the main theme being one of ‘too busy’. I’ll be honest, if a manager is too busy to help develop their team, then they will find themselves too busy correcting outcomes of an under performing team in need of training. Given these checkpoints can be integrated into weekly 1:1’s there was little weight to this counter argument, especially when they realised that they manager would be approving their checkpoints. It wasn’t a grade thing, is was a shift in a cultural paradigm thing.
And then something truly astounding happened. In all my years of research in online learning, and the 120,842 surveys that I analysed for my doctorate, the general consensus always was that learners preferred communication or assimilative activities (reading, watching, chatting), and their least liked activities were learning activities, formative and summative assessment. At Solera, the results were VERY different. When surveying the staff, they found the most enjoyable parts of studying were; learning activities (58.18%), formative assessment quizzes (54.55%), and summative assessment checkpoints (43.64%). Given that the learners were also managers that were assessing the checkpoints, this was an exceptionally interesting finding.
So we have to ask ourselves, why?
Upon further investigation it was found that the employees felt that their work and career benefited from their manager viewing it. That they were proud of their achievements and wanted to demonstrate to their managers that their skill set had improved, that they appreciated their manager’s feedback on their portfolio submission, and that they didn’t feel targeted for training because the checkpoint sign off system went all the way to the top. In return the managers felt a closer working relationship to their teams, a greater understanding of their team’s skill set and capability, and that they had developed as a manager as a result.
In changing the structure of L&D, you can develop a community as a whole.