Announcer: Welcome to Training Unleashed. The show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference. Now here are your hosts, Cordell Riley and Evan Hackel.
Cordell: Hey, guys, welcome to Training Unleashed. Thanks for coming back. I know everybody is busy at this time of year. This show is going to be a little different for us. It’s one that I am really excited about, got my business partner here with me as well. Evan, I know you are excited about this and how are you doing this morning?
Evan: I am doing fantastic. And I think is going to be the most fun I’ve had doing the show. So I’m looking forward to it.
Cordell: I agree with you. And I know one of the reasons it’s going to be fun for me and you’re probably thinking the same way too as we have a lot of our friends and colleagues here with us we have Crystalle Ramey who leads up our L&D Group. We have Dan Black who leads up our Learning Strategy Group. And we have Lee who leads up our Technology Group. So with all of our friends this is gonna have to be a great show.
So as we were thinking about this one. And one of the things that we thought we like to do obviously, L&D learning development spaces, a space that we all occupy and love passionately. But typically at this time of year, you know people are starting to think ahead about what do they want to accomplish personally, professionally in their business, and we thought we’d maybe spend a few minutes kinda thinking about some of the things in the L&D space that we are kinda seeing out there and share some tips. You guys all onboard with doing this?
Crystalle: Yeah, that sounds great.
Cordell: You cool with me maybe starting out with the one that I’ve been thinking about?
Evan: All right, go ahead.
Cordell: Yeah so one and this one is probably my passion when I think about training, learning development, you know, and all of those great things. And this is one that even though it’s a trend, it probably should not have been a trend but it is and I think it’s really a great one. And that is aligning training with business goals, you know, not just doing training for the sake of training, checking the box. And don’t get me wrong, I certainly know that there are compliance things out there that have to be done but really thinking strategically about what is it that I’m trying to do inside of my organization and how can training have an impact, if it can have an impact.
We all know that training is not always the answer. But, you know, thinking about what can it do to help me move forward? And as I was thinking about this, you know, I kinda see two sides to the equation. So I’ll talk to the presidents, the owners, the CEOs of businesses of corporations out there and as you are thinking about this, think about how you make training as part of your culture. Know is a part of your mission statement your vision statement about how are you going to get to that next level? Does training have a seat at the table? You know, so you got all your VPs of marketing, VPs of optional, all those things. There is training in there. Think about training that way.
My VPs of training, my directors of training, people on that side. Think about yourself as a business consultant. So you’re a part of your organization, but what is your organization trying to do? What’s the business plan? What are the key metrics that they are trying to move? And how can training have an impact? Go out and read your annual, quarterly report, look for trends that you are seeing inside of your business, can training have an impact there?
So think about being that consultant. Also start with the end in mind. You know, you know what you are trying to do, how can you align training with those business goals? And the last one I’ll leave you with on this one is level one, two, three and four, we all know about those. Think about that level four, that’s probably the toughest one to get to. How do you measure that return on investment? Did the training really do what you were thinking about? I know I’ve said a lot there again this is one I can be passionate about guys. So, thanks for allowing me to go down that rabbit hole a little bit but, you know, aligning training with business goals I think is so important. Who wants to go next and share something they’ve been thinking about?
Dan: Cordell, I think you are right on point with that aligning the training with the business goals and making sure that you have the desired results in mind. And so, my kinda trend that I’m seeing and I’m happy to see just with my experience, you know, just across different industries is this focus on who the learner is before you start to focus on what the result is that you are trying to accomplish aligning that this year to your business objectives.
And so, it’s this tendency to move more towards the design thinking type of approach to developing your learning solutions, your learning interactions, and how you are putting those things out there. Now, this type of design thinking has been in the product innovation space for years. If people look think about companies like IDEO who have been around for 40 years in designing things like our coffee cups, and our mouse’s, and all of those things that are really based around human-centered design.
You know, how is this internet-enabled thing going to interact with an individual? You know and that’s bled over into a marketing space in the early ’90s, and now, it’s here in the training space. And I wouldn’t say it’s terribly new in the training space but it is new as a massive push in the training space. Where do we have this learner-centered design thinking? Who is that learner? What is the behavior that you are trying to see change? And then how is that change gonna drive results?
As far as the strategy component of things, you know, rather than a few folks sitting in a room trying to decide what their audience needs to know almost creating a framework in a vacuum. Now, there is a trend towards in getting the people who are the actual targets of the information in the room, and extracting from them what they need to know, and diversity of perspectives.
So all of those tools and techniques that you’ve seen used in other spaces as it relates to design thinking right now starting to be used more commonly in our space around that I think I even saw a design thinking class at one of the local colleges from a business development perspective as it relates to learning. And in 20 years, I have never seen something like that.
So happy to see that trending and I hope it continues forward because what I feel is that when organizations focus on who their learner is and then what result that they want it to be, they can really, really sort of achieve great things and develop something that has a massive impact.
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Cordell: Dan, great points. And, you know, I think you and I have known each other for some time but I’ll share this with the rest our audience here. I stumbled into training back in 1999. I did not study training in school, “So Cordell, you are good at this. I want you to go on be the trainer.” So I stumbled into it. And I used to just go out and start building things. To hear you talk about that who and that process of getting the people in the room that you are going to build, it is very powerful.
So I thought as you witnessed it in the last four or five years that we have been working together, it is a game changer, it is powerful. So I can imagine now really just jumping in and start building things without that, knowing the “who” in that diversity perspective. So it’s a great thing to bring up Dan.
Crystalle: And that’s why we like to use the analogy in the development process of, you know, building a house. Are you gonna go out and just start building your house without having a vision of what you want that house to be? No, you’re going to start formulating ideas, you’re gonna then once those ideas have some coagulation to them, then you are gonna hire an architect and that person is gonna map out a blueprint, make sure you don’t get the wiring cross with the plumbing that could be shocking. I got to give that one to Dan.
Dan: [inaudible 00:07:59] like that.
Crystalle: That’s all Dan right there. But and then you build the house. So, learning experiences is the same thing. You don’t just build it. How do you know it’s even gonna link to the end result or connect with the learner if you haven’t done the necessary steps upfront? So I love this conversation.
Cordell: Yeah, great point, Crystalle, great add-on, great add-on. Lee, what about you my friend?
Lee: Yeah, I definitely agree Cordell. You know you have the business goals and the training aligned, you are empowered at that point to create metrics around those things that, you know, you can you have your host of analytics and reporting that you can use to measure progress against those and make data-driven decisions, right, that people can be comfortable with, because, you know, when you’re based on data, you are backed up, then those decisions can themselves be fed back through that process as you develop new goals and align training with those.
Crystalle: I think what’s important also is, you know, as a learning organization, it’s important not to forget about how your learning experiences are gonna integrate when you are learning technology. That’s the most critical piece. That is the venue that allows the learner access to those components. So if you don’t think about that end and also and that you have your business results but if the learners can’t get to it, then it’s all for not. So having that tight integration with your strategists all the way through to your technologists in learning is super important.
Dan: Very cool. I’ll throw in sort of the big trend that I think is happening. And that is the ability with technology to create training plans for individual people. So in the past, it was sort of one size fits all and that particularly because training was dominated by live training. Now we have eLearning, which, you know, obviously, blended training we are all big blended people which we should be, but the idea that you create individual training plans for individual people. And that you are looking at the individual as opposed to just simply looking at the massive group.
And to me, this is a very positive, positive trend because then people are taking their time doing the things that are right for them and not wasting their time doing things that they already know. And that’s making training more effective. And it’s also making people more interested in the training, because what they are doing in training, they see value in as opposed to feeling like it’s work or repetitive and I…
And that’s a great point making the training relevant. I think there is another trend that we all know about but we probably wanna maintain the positive spin but I’m still gonna say it, it’s a dangerous trend. And that’s the trend to focus on the shiny new button or to, you know, just perpetuate myths in the learning and development space as it relates to humans. I know Crystalle I see you smiling down there, because you and I talk about this constantly. And not to pick on micro-learning as a very effective tool in certain spaces but sometimes people see something like micro-learning and they go, “Everything needs to be micro-learning, this is how Millennials work.”
Evan: Dan, you gotta add virtual reality learning, too.
Dan: Yeah, well, yeah, all of them are tools to go back to Crystalle’s analogy of building a house, right? You can’t just say, “Well, I’m gonna build my entire house out of plastic. I’m gonna build my entire house out of wood,” because it’s the newest greatest thing. I mean we were all sharing a study done by Harvard Business School, where they showed that when you’re just using one technique, you are not going to get the impact. Well, unfortunately, and just you’re gonna waste a lot of money without a lot of results. In order to have that impact, you need to go back to that first statement that we’re all talking about and that’s who that learner is, and what are gonna be the best tools. I mean, I know Lee and his team they all cover different types of technologies to get information out to the learner.
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Cordell: Dan, you said there was gonna be an…I mean I don’t think that was a negative, I think that was sound advice. And what I hope people heard from that and it’s certainly what I hear every time we talk internally is that we’re proponents of all of these things when they are used in the right context. What are you trying to do? And can micro-learning or whatever this shiny penny might be, can it give that desired impact? So I think it’s sound advice that people should be hearing because something comes out but we just run and say, “Okay, we gotta do what we gotta do it.” It doesn’t really have the impact that it’s gonna need? And is this the way my who learn my audience? Who I get the who selling? Who there we go, where did that come from? Because this is where they learn all of those, right? But mostly advice Crystalle, I meant your chump at the business on this one I know this is one of your passions.
Crystalle: Well, I think it loops back into what you said opening our conversation Cordell about do you have a seat at the table? Well, one of the things that will increase your success of getting a seat at the table is truly being a learner matter expert and offering the right solution or the right action to change the right behavior. And that means that you have to know everything about all those shiny pennies out there. So you know how to tactfully say micro-learning might not be the right solution here, but this would, or maybe a blend of micro-learning and this.
So, you know, just showing up to the table and being able to express how these shiny pennies will move the needle in business strategy, is what is going to build their confidence in having you as, you know, a member of that table. So I thought it was a nice circle back into your previous statement.
Evan: If I can…
Dan: And so, hold on one second Evan. Crystalle, I know that you have been in this situation but what sort of advice do you have for the director of training or the training manager who is pretty much last on the budgetary list and someone finally gives them a project and it’s micro-learning and all they wanna do is go, “See, I got budget, yes, the guys could do this,” right, because if they say no, they might not get the money, and they might not get the project.
Crystalle: I mean here is the thing, what would my advice be? We’re probably gonna do things sometimes that we don’t wanna do. I mean that’s the truth. We might have to do it. And we might have to see that it fails but those metrics become even more important then, because then you can demonstrate why despite your best advice that was not heard, I can now quantify why this wasn’t the right solution and therefore opens up another opportunity for me to say, to rescue, to save the day.
Evan: So on that rescue not, let me chime in. Building on what Cordell said and everyone here has said. The key to having a seat at the table is to truly understand the strategic plan of the company. So that you can make recommendations that will hit the ROI of the company back to what Cordell said and I think this is really important because training makes a difference. And if the company is looking to increase sales, can training help improve the average ticket, can training improve closing rights? If the company is looking to be more efficient operating and taking cost out of the process, how does training do that? How do you build the tools? And then how do you measure them?
And I’ll give a little different spin on the micro-learning. You know, I’m a big believer in micro-learning for reinforcement and a technique to use for people that already know and this is reinforcing and reminding people of learning as opposed to, they need to take a lot of competency development and instead of taking 10 courses, now they are going to take 100 courses. So if I was given that budget to do that thing, I would look to see how I could use it in the right way to help out. And say, “Okay, great. I got this micro-learning budget. This is how I’m gonna use it, so that it will be of the maximum benefit as opposed to trying to develop micro-learning to accomplish something that’s really not design.”
Dan: Hey, Evan. I got a question for you. So you’ve been CEO of organizations and what have you. So you tell your director of training, “Hey, we need some micro-learning for performance support because we need to reinforce at that moment of need what the learner has,” but your training manager knows that that’s actually not the right solution. What does that training manager need to say to you, in order to get you to understand, but then still give them the money to get the job done?
Cordell: Good question, Dan.
Evan: I’m gonna, first off for people that don’t know I ran a $5 billion business. And what probably people don’t really understand about that business is that business was built around training. And it was a 20-year, a company that I was with, it was totally a $10 billion company, we grew from almost nothing to $10 billion in 20 years at an average growth rate of 29%. And our training department was totally fundamental to our growth. And that we always looked at how we can improve business through training, and a lot of what we did was new product initiatives and things of that nature, where the training department would come in, in a very comprehensive way, and look at every aspect of training including the incentive parts and things of that nature, in addition to the training. So I as a CEO of the company would never go to the person running the training department and say, “This is how I want you to spend your money.”
Dan: All right. So this has been disbelief though for a second.
Evan: Okay, I’ll say it.
Dan: Now, you are a CEO, all right, but you are not like the best CEO on the planet, okay, who just says, “Yes, I trust you completely, you’re awesome,” right? Let’s just say you’re maybe like a lot of other leadership team members out there who are focused on a lot of different things. And so maybe the right training solution isn’t top of mind for them. They are worried about making Wall Street happier or taking payroll. Now, what does your director of training have to say to you, what do they need to bring up to you to help you make an informed business decision?
Evan: They need to bring me two proposals. One that utilizes the money exactly as I requested them to utilize it, and show me what it will do and then here is the same amount of money and this is my recommendation on how to use it. And this is what this will do. So, I need to be respected from a perspective of, “This is what you asked me to do, here it is,” and A, “Our team has been thinking about it, here is an alternative for you to consider.” So, I have not said to you I’m not listening to you and I don’t care about you, I’ve said to you, “Here is what you want, and here is what I think you need and you can decide which of these two paths that you think is the best for the company.”
Dan: I think that’s fantastic.
Cordell: That’s a great, that’s a great real world suggestion, Evan
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Cordell: So let’s do this, guys. I know that we can keep going on for another five, six, seven, 10 hours on this maybe. But Evan, you had a neat way to wrap this up. So let me go over to you.
Evan: Yeah, I just thought that we’d end everyone with one training tip for the season. And my training tip is to create budget for training as a percentage of revenue. And I like as a general rule of thumb, and this is definitely does not apply to every business but to just use this theory of 1% of revenue for training. And that to look at that 1% as how it will impact sales, how it will impact margin, and in terms of increasing margin or reducing costs but to have a number and that number and have a budget for training because so many companies literally do not…they might have a training person or two but they do not budget for training. So that’s my big tip for the year.
Cordell: Thank you, Evan, I like that. For mine, make training fun and interactive. Those are just two things that I just believe so passionately in. And Dan, I’ll go back to your “who” when I do train the “who’s” that have a fun interactive session, seem to enjoy it, and they always seem to get something out of it.
Now, that’s not saying that it’s not objective revenue and you are not trying to kind of drive real world results. You still got to have the objective that you’re trying to get accomplished. But if you can make it fun, get people to laugh, it kinda breaks down silos, it makes the environment much more conducive and interactive. I really do believe that people learn best when you can get them involved and actually do things that can be done in a strike of light that can be done online, that can be done a lot of different ways. But fun interactive training I think is something we should all strive for ourselves. That’s my tip. Who wants to go next?
Lee: So I’ll go ahead, Cordell. My advice for the new year would be to not just train your learners but to also solicit their feedback, keep them involved in the process to the point where they feel like they’re actually part of the improvements that might be made or part of the overall training plan. Keep them engaged, do your evaluations, do your surveys, and gauge against that.
Cordell: Very cool. Thank you, Lee. And, Crystalle?
Crystalle: Thank you. I feel like a lot of our advice has been very strategic which I love and endorse. I’m gonna speak specifically to the directors of training, and their teams, their development teams. And what my tip would be would be to dismantle the assembly line. Have, you know, learning matter experts who understand how to build a course from the very concept of what the metric is all the way to evaluating that metric and everything in between, from the design to the development. Don’t separate these functions because what you may end up with when you have multiple people in that line is a different result than you intended. And that doesn’t benefit the organizations that you serve and most importantly, the learners that you serve.
Cordell: Crystalle, that made me think about investing in the team. I think people really need to have that as part of who they are and how they are going to invest in their team. So if you are in a training role what are doing to keep your skills sharp? What classes are you going to? What workshops are you attending? So make sure that people have a focused effort on investing in that team also is one of the other things that I…
Evan: Why don’t we take this moment for Crystalle to share the saw meetings that we do, and why we do them, and how it helps because I think this relates to this whole conversation?
Crystalle: Sure, I’d love too. So for our team to Cordell’s point, is you know that old adage that, “The cobbler has no shoes,” where we as professionals often find ourselves as we are so busy trying to enrich the others lives through training for us specifically, that we forget to train our selves. So taking one of Stephen Covey’s principles on being effective, the saw, sharpening your saw is very important, taking time for yourself to hone your own skills and have fun doing it and building things helps you become more efficient and a better expert in the learning profession.
So what we do is every quarter, we allot a certain amount of time for everyone on the team to build something that’s not project-related, that’s something fun, and gives them an opportunity to practice a new skill. And then once a quarter, we have a saw showcase, in which everyone in the company is invited to attend and then we just show off what cool things we learned and what we did. And it could range from harnessing a skill you already have but you wanna take it to the next level or learning something completely new. And I find that it’s just very motivating to step away from the work and it’s inspirational to inject new skills into your daily work and inspired work means inspired learning.
Cordell: Thank you, Crystalle. Dan.
Dan: Those are fun meetings those are my favorite ones every quarter because you get to see just the designers and developers come up with the neatest things. So as this is your point. And for me, I guess maybe my point is along the lines of investing in the team. It is really easy for organizations to think of the training function as a skill or a profession that is just developed naturally. In fact, frankly, most of time, there is a lot of education and communication and Cordell to your point, right, we just fell into the director of training probably because you are really good at explaining things, right?
And the next thing you know some folks are dove in right into that role and they are managing thousands of people and they’re doing what makes sense and unfortunately, while this is not necessarily an overly complex thing to do it’s really easy to get wrong. And typically, if you are doing what makes sense you’re probably not doing it the most effective way. You’re certainly doing it a way but not the most effective way.
So do invest in the team. And then when we start to look at even down to the smallest element to smallest grow out from an initial grow up to big projects go back to those three questions that I always like to ask. What are we trying to accomplish? How might we, not how could we or how should we but how might we do that? So that we can ideate around that and really get a lot of good ideas introduced to your perspective.
And then once we come to a couple of solutions don’t stop there, go what else, right? And have that cycle of conversation which does not have to take long, half hour, an hour with the right people in the room, so that you can get some really good ideas out there, toss out the ones that are commonsensical ideas and then really focus on the ones that are going to make the most sense and leverage your training dollars to the highest known impact.