L&D, Comms and Marketing

There’s a natural meeting of the minds when you bring L&D, Comms and Marketing people together. They’re all trying to achieve behaviour change, albeit for their own devilish purposes. And that behaviour change outcome means these three people can sit down and talk about meaningful ways to make that happen inside a company.

For me, I remember my old boss, Dan. He was telling me to think like a marketer back in 2003. He wasn’t just telling me to think like one, he actively made sure I was exercising that muscle. He was buying books for the team on the subject, he was getting us to be creative about our comms and how we worked with the comms team, and we were actively involved with the marketing team and their efforts.

It helped me to think beyond my role as an L&Der and how through better use of images and words, you can raise awareness that something is afoot, and that there’s a process of thinking and getting to a point where you ask people to make a call to action.

The last session at Learning Live I attended was Craig Taylor’s Course to Campaigns talk. His previous role had a focus on developing e-learning content. One of the last projects he was tasked with was around the compliance training needed to be completed within the company.

As well as doing some good piece of consultation with the subject matter experts across three key subjects, he wanted to explore other ways of effecting desired behaviour change. What emerged for him was to collaborate with suppliers who could bring a different approach to the e-learning solution by asking them to develop ideas on how to market the desired change.

This helped Craig to work with suppliers who wanted to be involved with the project and really do something interesting other than make the e-learning more engaging or better designed or more social.

The simple idea they landed on was in creating two personas of people who would become the core focus of a marketing campaign. One persona would show how to do the right behaviours (better online security), and the other would show what the consequences of not (possible hacking of systems). And on the posters and other online material there would be a link taking you to the e-learning directly.

We can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we need to go out with a big bang of activity and then things will magically start to happen. Of course, human behaviour doesn’t work this way. Especially in a working environment. We need reminders, we need prodding, we need enticing, because otherwise we’ll forget and move on. At a previous company we called this comparing a fireworks display with a bonfire. The fireworks display is nice for initial awareness but you need to plan for the bonfire for lasting change.

So, my thanks to the LPI team for asking me to be a Live Reporter at Learning Live. As I said last week, content is king and this conference absolutely delivered.

Oh, and if you’re interested Craig is looking for his next role. Why not get in touch with him?

Simplifying L&D with efficient use of technology

Tom Bryant, of Colt technologies kicked this session off. Colt have approximately 5000 staff across 23 countries, with a widely dispersed L&D team.

What they had in place were tools such as Microsoft Lync and webex to enable communication to happen. They chose to focus on taking e-learning development in-house using Adobe Captivate. He shares a good point that one key benefit is the agility to adapt/amend content as needed. They created virtual training labs to provide training to engineers across countries. This allowed for on-demand training for engineers when they needed it. There is a need to consider where the use of external partners can help support the L&D training delivery – for example taking off the shelf training in topics such as project management.

Tom makes a good point that people need to be primed in using technology in order that this is to a barrier to learning. The technologies they used were: e-learning, webinars, videoconferencing, training labs, LMS, videos and podcasting.

Interestingly, Tom spoke about getting an external provider to support ROI through the Kirkpatrick levels.

Next up was Niall Gavin. Immediately I appreciate the way he provides his history without the use of words on the slide, instead he provides his contact details.

Niall advocates that in light of challenges First Group are facing, they’re focusing on the customer experience. He also advocates that HR needs to see the people they work with as customers, and we need to improve their experience which has an impact on how we work with customers. I agree with this.

Interestingly, he says that the classroom was the original social learning platform.

Niall makes the point that through their e-learning platform, they decided not to develop their own MS Office training as they could buy this in. They instead chose to focus on business critical software which could be transferred to e-learning. He shares a great story abou how they developed learning for a particular software, only to be told by the IT team it was being upgraded thereby making that development redundant. It’s all about engaging with stakeholders to understand the needs of the organisation.

He shared a good story about how he first came across Twitter some years ago at a learning technologies conference. He saw the potential of it and tasked his team with signing up and seeing what the potential comes from it. They started to hear about how technologies such as webinars were being used, for free. They decided to look for a webinar based technology, and decided to use a system compatible with their internal systems. This ended up not working because it wasn’t robust enough. Lots of great learning being shared here about where things didn’t work, and what happened next.

Good piece from both presenters about practical use of technology to enable learning to happen in different ways.

This is your life

Yesterday I spoke about the first steps in developing business acumen in the workplace. Already you can start to see that it’s wrought with an array of challenges simply in defining what does business acumen mean for the business. Simply, it is about helping people to understand the consequence of decisions on the business. From a decision to introduce a work/life balance policy, to introducing fresh fruit to the business, there is always the ripple effect, and there is always a consequence. We can’t plan for every outcome, but we sure can be mindful of making the right decision.

Those first steps were about when introducing new starters to the business. It’s then interesting to look at what’s happening with current people in the business. I’m not talking about learning and development specifically here, I’m talking about developing business acumen across the business. With that in mind, here are some suggestions.

With the prolification of technology in all we do, it’s easy to let staff share knowledge across a variety of platforms. At HRD two years back, I remember Peter Butler, former Director of Learning at BT talk about how they used Sharepoint as a platform to allow anyone to produce videos and upload them about the work they do. At the time I thought, yes that’s brilliant! I think the same now. Give people the opportunity to share knowledge, and they will make the best use of it. By and large, people are good willed, and willing to share what they know. Here within LBi, we have an internal blog which is used by many different departments to share content they find across the interwebs, and creates a good place to find good information and inspiration.

How does that link to making better business decisions? Because by sharing information on what you do, others are better able to understand how you might need to be involved in making something happen, or how you might need to be consulted for something to be effective, or why the idea might need to be refined because you hadn’t considered something. Good business sense?

Expanding on the previous, it’s quite easy these days to also create e-learning modules about different business services. This is really useful as people can go in and access these when they want. They can go quite in depth and allow for better exploration of what a team does, how they produce work, when they should be involved, and what they can do to help collaborate. Sounds quite rosy doesn’t it? Good business sense?

What about the management team, what business guidance are they being given? Let me guess. You put them through management training, and they receive a quarterly update from the Exec on business performance. That’s not developing their business acument. That’s skills training, and cascade of information. What they need is something like this. They need to go through a Finance for non-Financial Managers course. They need to go through a business simulation. I once worked with a company called Profitability, who may not be the best company to have a client relationship with, but by God did they have an awesome two day business acumen exercise to take you through. Truly cuts to the heart of what it means to make good decisions and how they impact business performance.

Do you distinguish between the management team and the leadership team? If so, then the leadership team are likely to be the Exec or the Senior Leadership Team, right? What about these guys? Aren’t they also liable to receive some sort of continuous professional development? They bloody well should, because they’re the ones who are meant to be guiding the business to absolute success. Send them on MBA courses, or get Cranfield School of Management involved to give high quality training. Invest in executive coaches who have steered businesses to success and help guide this team to identifying the right objectives to be focusing on. The value of an external facilitator at this level is quite vital. Sometimes the Exec team in particular can get so caught up in themselves, they lose sight of how to make good business decisions and get wrapped up in politics instead.

Internal knowledge sharing sessions are awesome. I don’t mean team meetings where someone is asked to present something for 20 mins. I mean regular internal business wide presentations that are an hour long, and allow the opportunity to discuss and share some fascinating insights, knowledge, and new thinking that helps to inspire the business to do and try new things. A lot of people in your workplace have their own pet projects they’re working on right now. Some would like to have a pet project. Others didn’t know they could have a pet project. Ultimately, what you’re trying to do is engage the workforce to share what they know. Where’s the business sense in doing this? You never know where a good idea might come from. Any business that has success, finds it because those ideas get surfaced in the right way.