I was on a call with a chap I started working with recently. During the call he said to me (in what I believe was the best intention at heart) that no one would listen to me – a lowly learning professional. In his view, the business knows better than learning professionals, because we don’t know how to do the business. The business does. We’re just trainers.
Well, with the best intention in my heart, I disagree vehemently.
I told as much to the chap on the call, but I think there is merit in writing about this, because I think many people still believe this narrative.
Out with the old…
I’m nothing but honest when I say that I understand why this narrative came into being in the first place. I’m nothing but honest when I say that there are many learning professionals out there that fit that narrative of the learning professional who is little more of a trainer, who breaks out in hives when they are asked to produce KPIs, and their best version of assessing learning is a happy sheet.
At the same time, I’m nothing but honest when I say that the number of those professionals is shrinking. They are not yet extinct, but it looks like they are headed that way.
…in with the new
Learning professionals have become an amazing breed of people who are exactly the kind of folks the business needs to listen to.
They may not know how to do the business (although you’d be surprised – many of them understand the complexities of the business more than the people who actually deliver it), but they have the capacity to study who knows what in the business and what impact knowledge has on the business, both short and long term.
The new learning professional is geared towards understanding the world outside of the learning interaction. They are not only geared towards it – they are aching to experiment with it, much like your Sales and Marketing and IT folks have been tinkering with Big Data and Analytics.
But the learning professionals can’t do it alone.
They need to business to dance with them.
Nobody puts Baby in the corner
It takes guts and being a bit blazé, and probably rubbing some people up the wrong way. But it’s high time learning professionals step up and out, and start believing themselves when they say: nobody puts a learning professional in the corner.
My experience suggests that many businesses simply don’t know what to expect from the new learning professionals. They put Baby in the corner out of habit. That’s where Baby’s always been.
(But in the movie, the minute Baby takes to the stage and shows her dance moves, her folks accept their daughter’s talent.)
(and this, I suppose, is this awkward Dirty Dancing analogy which point is, once the new learning professional suggests to the business that there is additional value to be added – insights to be learned that the business didn’t know they could have – the business will approve.)
An oversimplified approach for leaving the corner
1. Find a key learning initiative that the business cares about. (This can be a compliance training programme as well as leadership. Have an open mind).
2. Give this some proper thought: who benefits from this programme and in what way?
3. Go talk to the people who benefit from it and ask them about their impressions of the programme and its impact. You may also want to consider talking to programme attendees and get their views, too. (Make sure it’s more than three people. Make it at least six. Be brave, and make it 12).
4. Devise a list of the different things the programme does in the business (impact it has), positive and negative.
5. Come up with ideas of how the items on your list could be measured, and how frequently they should be measured. You may want to consult someone – a researcher, an accountant. They could offer some help.
6. Reach out to some of the analytics/Big Data/bean counters in your organisation and share your list and measurements with them. Do they have a way to link your method with their existing analysis of the organisation?
7. Get some senior buy in. (While this isn’t critical, it’s highly recommended. Even if the buyer isn’t your boss, but sufficiently senior).
8. Get researching.
Go forth, learning professionals. Have the time of your lives.
What do you think? Is it that simple?
Grainy image in the spirit of VHS from Wikipedia.com.