Last week at our fortnightly Learning and Development team meeting – the last one for the year, we had one of the more robust team discussion we’ve had in many months.
The aim of our meetings are to update what everyone is working on and as we are a relatively new team, to communicate what our tools, processes and methodologies will be when we work with our internal business clients. (The current team is made up of two different teams who each had their own tools and processes until a restructure in June merged them into one).
I arrived late for the meeting as I was with a client who had called me to discuss a possible solution for performance gap in her team. Her team is responsible for back-office transactional processes but who don’t have contact with any external clients. To some, the job function of that team is considered tedious and boring – but they do play a critical role in the organisation in the checking of important mortgage documentation.
However this team is positive and motivated towards their roles which makes my job easier. In fact, they wanted more responsibility, more accountability and would relish the opportunity to be proactive in learning from each other on-the-job. The Team Leader had approached me to discuss how to get her team cross-specialised and to harness their enthusiasm into some on-the-job shared coaching/learning/collaboration.
After chatting with the Team Leader and getting a thorough understanding of her needs and what performance and business outcomes she wanted her team to achieve over the next year, we laid out high level plan for on-the-job peer-to-peer subject matter expert coaching; and once done, we sat back, looked at each other and nodded our heads in agreement.
I love it when I get to this point with my client. The measure of my initial success of analysing client needs is the size of their smile; the firmness of their handshake and the shared understanding of what we need to together in our partnership.
She turned to me and said this, “Thanks for your help today. You came up with ideas I hadn’t even considered for my team and I’m excited to try them out with them and you. Thank you for your work with our team. I value that you get to know our business and my team; and that you’re on the floor so we know who you are and what you do. I never really knew the function of Learning and Development but now I know.”
It is always lovely to get this feedback from my clients and it was greatly appreciated. So much so, that she offered connecting me with external consultants and networks she had outside of the organisation to broaden my own networks.
So after this successful client meeting, I walked over to my L&D Team Meeting with some trepidation thinking I didn’t want my spirits dampened after this high. It’s no secret that sometimes I find our own L&D team meetings lacking inspiration or generating any productive ideas because it’s focused on detailed, administrative matters.
One of the agenda items was the discussion around Participant Workbooks.
For those who have been reading my blog recently, you know that we’ve now got a flexi-desking arrangement. The training department of old was disbanded; our classrooms are now open resources for any person in the organisation to use (and not locked or belonging to the training department); and we have no cupboard space to store printed workbooks. Slowly but surely, the entire business will be using laptops for a completely agile workforce but it has meant many of our old training ways have been challenged and certainly printed learning materials is one of the victims.
The discussion was around “what happens to our printed participant workbooks when there is a lack of cupboard space?”
Meanwhile my mind was just screaming, “GET RID OF THEM! WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE THEM?!” But I kept calmly quiet.
I have kept only two participant workbooks of the many courses and workshops I have participated in my life. The only reason I kept these particular two tattered and dog-eared workbooks (which were from my Navy days) was because they were abundant with resources that I have continued to apply years later in the workplace. What were they?
Performance Analysis and Experiential Learning.
No wonder, I have kept them – they are still as critical today as they were back then!
Everything else…. TQM, leadership theories, health and safety, myriad of computer application courses, presentation skills….into the rubbish bin. In the next year, I can see some more being filed in this manner – first of all would be the Kaizen workshop.
The discussion at our team meeting was debated and admittedly I enjoyed it because it was the first time I had seen the Learning and Development team actively contribute to a joint problem solving session. The ultimate consensus was that as L&D practitioners, we were to consider how we used our learning materials and whether we could explore new options that didn’t rely on printed paper or binding workbooks.
Although we have some way to go to go fully online (mainly because we don’t have enough data points to have people use their laptops), I’m thankful that the team didn’t see a use for printed material and were open to exploring new options.
Through this discussion, the question was asked, “how do we record all the informal learning that occurs in our workplace?”and at this point, I threw out a teaser and talked about blogs to have people reflect, write and share their learning using the tools within our organisation such as Yammer.
I didn’t go into further detail in this forum for fear of people instantly criticising the idea in this large forum. (I have noticed that in large groups, ideas are instantly quashed by people who don’t understand the concept so I kept it minimal).
Blogs are a new concept and you can see from their quizzical faces, they don’t understand what they are; or how they work.
But I have sown the seed and now it is up to me to pilot or model it in 2013 so that they can see the possibilities and apply them to their own courses.
One of the bigger challenges for me in 2012 was to influence others to see new possibilities on the way we design, develop and deliver learning solutions to our business clients. What I see as exciting and relish the opportunity to apply new technologies, tools and processes to my work, is not the same with others and I have to respect that people have a different experience.
Some want to get on the journey with me, others simply want to be left alone to do what they know in the manner that they know it.
The challenge is not to outpace and leave everyone behind; but to be slightly ahead and continually encourage them to get to your level – and hopefully, even overtake you. Then, you can focus on the others behind you again.