Identify where your L&D function is.
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- This has probably happened to you, someone calls you with a training request and they're really clear on what they need. And of course, you rise to the occasion and do a great job of delivering the training they wanted. But it ultimately doesn't solve their problem, and this is likely because the real problem was more complex. As L&D professionals, we need to stop playing the role of service provider and work more like consultants, partnering with leaders to help address the root causes, thus driving the long-term health and success of our organization.
From my experience, there's a few things that great L&D consultants do that can make them very effective. First, they establish a two-way relationship. They make it clear that the partnership is vital, and that they both have valuable insight and information that will shape the success of the outcome. Second, good consultants ask lots of questions to learn everything they can about the challenges that need to be addressed. They identify not only what the current state is, but they focus in on what the ideal state looks like.
This includes getting clear on, measurable metrics as well as specific words and actions that employees need to be doing. Finally, great consultants design and deliver a solution that creates the needed results. This requires using agile design principles to pilot first drafts, seeking critical feedback from both partners and participants, and iterating until the data shows that the results were achieved. So let's apply this to a real situation. Most requests for training start with some kind of problem.
Perhaps there's been a rise in attrition of top talent, or a dip in quality of a product. A key metric has gone up or down, and someone decides that it can be fixed with training. The call is likely to come from either a leader in that department or perhaps someone in HR who works directly with that team. If you have not yet established yourself as a trusted consultant and business partner, they'll likely call you with a pretty developed plan that they just want you to execute. Let's see what this looks like.
John and Maria both work at a large, global hospitality company. Size and industry is truly irrelevant here. John is the Director of the Marketing department, and Maria works in Learning and Development. John contacts Maria and says, "We really need a workshop or training on communication. "We want to put 30 people through it "before the quarter ends." If Maria is not wearing her consulting hat, she might say something like, "Yes, we have a 90-minute workshop on communication "and I have a facilitator "that can deliver it on these dates." She and John will set it up and deliver it, both feeling pretty good about how they worked together to address that problem.
And you know what's likely to happen, it probably won't solve the real problem, and later the training will be deemed a waste of time or the L&D program will be seen as ineffective. But if Maria operates as a real consultant, the interaction will go more like this: - [John] We really need a workshop or training on communication. We want to put 30 people through it before the quarter ends. - [Maria] I'm happy to help. Let me ask a few questions so I can make sure we deliver what you want and what you need. So first, tell me about what's happening right now.
- [John] The team is dropping a lot of balls as they're handing off projects. I mean, we're missing key deadlines and some things have gone out with errors that someone should have caught. - [Maria] Is everyone on the marketing team involved? - [John] No, it's really the coordination between the content team and the social media group. 10 people total. Right now, they either miss the deadline and get it right, or we get it out the door on time but then we find errors. - [Maria] So, what would it look like if everyone was performing optimally? - [John] People would follow the project plan to the letter.
We would make all of our release deadlines and what we release would be high quality, and it would be error free. - [Maria] How would you measure this? - [John] We track both of these numbers in our project system. So right now, we're releasing 80% on time, but then we have an error rate of about 25%, and I really want to see both those numbers shift. - [Maria] When you think about these 10 people, do they have the knowledge they need to make the shift? - [John] Yeah, they know what to do. - [Maria] What about their skills? Do any skills need to shift? And is anyone doing an outstanding job at this? - [John] Yes, I think they do need to have better time management and error-checking skills.
Kelly and Abdi are my top performers and they're doing the best. - [Maria] Do you know what they're doing differently than the rest of the group? - [John] Well, they've been here the longest. I wonder if they've come up with some helpful strategies? - [Maria] That is a great question. Let's connect with them and see what insights they can provide. Using what they share, let's do a focus training for these 10 people around executing the project plan, and adding in some elements of time management and quality control. - [John] Yeah, that sounds like it would help turn things around.
Thanks for helping me sort that out. - As you can see, Maria's questions were vital for getting to the heart of the matter on John's team. And they're now going to be able to leverage their internal experts, Kelly and Abdi, to create something that is much more focused on solving the real problem. In the exercise files, you'll find my favorite consulting questions that you can use with leaders in your organization.
- Discovering the importance of L&D
- Identifying your L&D role or function
- Engaging employees with succession planning
- Uncovering organizational and employee potential
- Achieving a competitive advantage
- Delivering critical results
- Building a culture of learning
- Understanding the brain's natural system for learning
- Implementing on demand, embedded, flipped, and blended learning
- Choosing the right format to achieve results
- Adapting to an organization's maturity level
- Empowering practice and accountability
- Measuring the impact using the five levels of evaluation