One of your biggest blind spots as a learning leader is killing your credibility with the workforce as well as hampering your ability to deliver results. Learning and development is rarely learner-centered, for example. Once we get past the executives who get five-star concierge-like support, study after study finds that most in the workforce are not getting the tailored learning and development they so desperately need to excel.
HR and IT are not working together in ways the workforce needs, and L&D professionals are hard pressed to demonstrate the impact of their efforts on individual performance and bottom-line results. The professionals of the incoming generation, Gen Y, are demanding a complete overhaul of how you connect with them, coach them and teach them, but only about one-quarter of new managers get the effective coaching or training they need when assuming their new role.
What do your learners find outside of your company? They find that IT and training play together quite well. For example, Apple’s store has over 300,000 apps, thousands of which deliver on-the-fly tutorials plus developmental and assessment tools tailored to every need, many of which are free.
Through coaching portals, the expertise of world-class coaches and how-to gurus like Ram Charam, Marshall Goldsmith and David Allen is available for peanuts. With social networking, most everyone can reach out to peers for advice on most any how-to, and Google is now every employee’s adjunct professor.
Of course, all that carries a big caveat emptor: learner beware. The quality of any individually designed L&D effort could leave a lot to be desired. But what can’t be denied is that you have already lost the battle you’re still waging with the workforce — that, for budgetary reasons, you can’t possibly tailor enough to meet its needs.
Between one-third and two-thirds of your employees are meeting their needs by working around you.
Some examples we found:
• Raveena is a corporate trainer who confides to her trainees that because of budget constraints, much of what she provides is mediocre at best. So she sends them to free online sources outside of the company. After testing them on what they learned, she validates their certificates in required courses they never attended.
• Matt realized that he wasn’t going to stay at his company long enough to benefit from how his company evaluated his work. So he Googled “performance assessment,” rewrote his and got HR to rework their approach to meet his needs, not just theirs.
• Gary found that what L&D provided was so lacking that he built his own internal wiki and started sharing it. His wiki went viral within the company and produced critical bottom-line results, so senior management had no choice but to sanction it after the fact.
• Sean creates computer training for his company’s project management and knowledge-sharing tools. He knew that what the CIO had commissioned from outside vendors was a waste of everyone’s time. So he asked for permission to test a prototype that his team was working on. Within a year, Sean’s prototype had gone viral throughout the company and absolutely no one was using the CIO-approved pet project.
These are not isolated rogue incidents. When we conducted research for our book Hacking Work, we uncovered all sorts of activities that are happening right under your nose.
After several years of clandestine meetings with thousands of people with the promise of anonymity, we found that these kinds of workarounds are extremely common and happening everywhere. And as long as HR and IT are not worker centered, these kinds of workarounds are only going to increase.
Learners are only working around organizational barriers because it’s the only way they can get the personalized training and development they need.
Educational guru Howard Gardner has said, “So long as we insist on teaching … in the same way, progress will be incremental. But now … it is possible to individualize education — to teach each person what he or she needs and wants to know in ways that are most efficient (for the learner), producing a qualitative spurt in educational effectiveness.”
Additionally, Johari’s Window, the psychology tool created in the 1950s, states that one’s blind spot is what is known to others but not to oneself. That’s where L&D is now.
Up to two-thirds of the workforce knows what’s blind to you — that personalized, tailored training and development is easily doable. It’s time for L&D to lead by following its workforce into the future.
Bill Jensen and Josh Klein are authors of Hacking Work. Jensen is the CEO of the Jensen Group and Klein is the CEO of H4X Industries. Both can be reached at email@example.com.