ElNet Sydney Workplace Learning Congress - Flipping the Conversation


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My ElNet Sydney Workplace Congress 2014 preso "Flipping the conversation: from compliance to performance" - on how you might reframe a typical client kick off conversation to focus on performance outcomes and long term business impact rather than short term (checkbox) compliance.
NOTE: does not include all videos from the original presentation.

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  • Today I’m looking at conversations – in particular, those initial conversations you might have with the business (if you’re an internal L&D person) when they first approach you with a request for training or ‘learning’…or equally, if you’re a vendor – and an organisation approaches you with a request to design or develop some training / learning / eLearning.

    How these conversations often proceed –> usually with meeting short term compliance requirements in mind - and how we might be able to pitch or frame them in a way that lead us to discuss solutions beyond just training, that may have a greater long term impact on business outcomes.

    [Contact me on twitter @tanyalau or LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/tanyalau]
  • Over the years as an elearning ID – both working for an external vendor, contractor and internal elearning specialist, I often receive eLearning requests or briefs that look something like this.
  • Typical kick off conversations often sound like this.

    Video transcript:
    Me: “Ok, so let’s find out a little bit more about what you want…so you’re looking at
    developing [reaffirm the request]…
    Client: “Yes – we’re just rolling out this new system and need to get everyone trained on
    it. Everyone’s spread out so it’s not going to be practical or cost effective to do
    classroom training – so that’s why we want to do it through elearning”
    Me: “Ok, that’s a pretty common problem. So the target audience ….<ask about audience>
    Keep going with structured questions….fade out video

    Structured questioning focused on teasing out requirements for the requested training solution:
    Reaffirming the request
    Content scope
    Tracking / LMS…etc…
  • Typical outcome might look like this….

    20-30 minute self paced elearning module + assessment
    Mandatory completion
    Hosted in LMS
    Status tracked and reported on

    > short term outcomes met; impact on performance and business goals unclear
    Result is squarely focused on just the ’10’: formal training

    The 20 and 70 may happen – but either ineffectively (e.g. ‘20’ – may consist of someone turning around and asking their team mate)…or because the employee themselves are resourceful enough to seek out their own performance support tools.
  • A better outcome – for longer term business impact might look like this:
    Pre-training/elearning -> comms / awareness to prepare people for the change
    Elearning / training -> focused on task based skills practise / scenarios (‘10’) – scenario based opportunities to practise
    Post-training/elearning -> easy to access quick reference guides, demos <performance support: 70>
    -> system ‘champions’ <distributed expertise, social support: 20>
    -> ongoing monitoring, targeted performance feedback <: 20>

    Focus on longer term outcomes & impact on performance and business goals – beyond the initial training event;

    <buffer the “10” (formal training) with “70” (embedded, post training performance support) and the “20” (embedded social support and targeted performance feedback)
  • Initial kick off conversation is where:
    Expectations are set
    You can use questions strategically – to source relevant information
    You can take opportunities and create opportunities to reframe the solution.
  • To change the typical outcome, we need to ‘flip’ the typical conversation.
  • Let’s take a look at how you might be able to reframe a kick off conversation for an outcome with longer term business impact (NOTE: these videos are fictionalised accounts of real conversations I have had over the course of my experience)

    -> Start with an open question – ask the client to provide context and background to the project. This opens up opportunities to follow up with questions clarifying the business objectives.

    ->In most kick off conversations, the client will be keen to talk about the solution. Steer conversation away from solution talk upfront and back to clarification of business objectives. You’re not in a position to discuss solutions until you know what the problem is.

    -> Probe to get specifics on the business objectives – you’re aiming for measureable, time focused objectives. Something you and the client can go back to in 6 or 12 months time to gauge success.
  • Video transcript:

    ME: So, you’re asking people to change their day to day behaviour here? What do you think are some of the key challenges are going to be for people, to make this change?


    CLIENT: Well the first thing they’ll probably struggle with, is working out where to save the record– the network folders are really very different to what people are used to. Most people create Project folders and save everything for the project there – in fact the first question I had from IT is “where do I save Projects?”, because most of their work is project-based.

    ME: So – it’s a change in mindset, people need to change the way they think about the folder structure, as well as a change their behaviour - changing where, and how they save records?


    CLIENT: yeah… I mean, I think it’ll be fine once they get used to it, but it could be tricky at the beginning. People generally have a fear of change. If we can reduce
    the fear through the training –take them through step by step, and include an assessment to confirm they understand.

    ME: Well…we can certainly design the training to try to reduce that initial fear – for example, by using simulations to give people opportunities to practice saving common types of records in a ‘safe’ environment…and, this helps people to become familiar with what they need to do. But, you know, if the key challenge is getting them to change their day to day behaviour and their mindset towards saving records – elearning – or any training- on its own may not necessarily be enough.

    -> Focus your questions on the specific behaviour change required to achieve the business objective, or for the organisation to become ‘compliant’. At the core of every compliance requirement is behaviour change- organisations can only be ‘compliant’ with regulatory requirements when their employees are able to act on what they know, not merely demonstrate what they know. Identifying this behaviour or performance outcome is critical to developing a solution that will actually meet the business objective.

    -> Ask probing questions to find out as much as you can about the nature of the behaviour change required. It’s not demonstrated here in this discussion but it may also be very useful to go to the work environment of the target audience to see the environment for yourself, and talk to them to get direct insight on their daily challenges, fears, motivations and any other factors that may be relevant.
  • -> Acknowledge where and how the ‘10’ (formal training) might play a role; but take time to explore the ‘70’: workplace support needed to change the behaviour / achieve the performance outcome – beyond the initial training.

  • Speech notes:
    -> USE data or examples from your prior experiences to build a case for the ‘70’ – workplace performance support post-training. Data or examples could come from a diverse array of sources, including: previous projects you have been involved in, evaluation (level 1) feedback from employees in previous training rollouts, your own experiences of undertaking formal training, or as a facilitator/trainer/instructional designer.

    ->Spell out the limitations of formal learning approaches (e.g. content in LMS vs easily accessible performance support) using examples to back you up

    -> Reframe the discussion: from training to performance support (or informal/social – the balance will depend on the specific requirements of the project). For systems rollouts performance support should generally always be an integral part of the solution.

  • -> Make the most of any existing resources the business may have already created – identify, use and adapt existing resources for performance support
  • -> Explore the ‘20’: what social / informal support could be harnessed or developed – this is essentially about facilitating a social environment that can help support people in the target audience to change behaviour / achieve the performance outcome. Probably the easiest way of addressing this is to first look what support is available in the target employees’ work environment now - >> social learning is not new. It’s already currently happening every day (e.g. every time an employee turns around to their team member to ask where to find a document or how to do a task they are utilising the social / informal support network around them).

    -> This is about looking at how we can utilise existing social support to help target employees achieve the required behaviour change or performance outcome. This might involve identifying suitable people within the target audience’s work environment (e.g. their manager / supervisor)…or if none currently exist in the target environment for the required behaviour / performance outcome, identifying suitable people in the environment who may be able to play the support role (e.g. assigning ‘system champions’ to provide support). They may need some additional support or upskilling, plus manager buy-in to successfully fill the social/informal support role. We can help the business provide this support (e.g. ‘train the trainer’ upskilling)
  • -> Position comms and change as part of an integrated learning approach – targeted comms delivered pre and post learning can support a ‘campaign’ approach to the learning intervention. Pre-learning comms can help support employees to be more receptive of the change and learning intervention; post learning comms can help support and embed behaviour change (> directing employees to performance support and social / informal resources that can provide ongoing assistance post-training).

    -> Encourage the business to develop a relationship with the internal comms team (if you have one). It is ultimately the business’ responsibility to make this happen; although you can provide advice, encouragement, help facilitate it, and collaborate with comms on messaging to ensure it is consistent and integrated with learning.
  • -> Probe the business to identify how the business objectives will be measured – this then becomes the business impact measure you follow up with them on in 6 or 12 months time, to gauge success (Level 3 & 4 evaluation)

    -> Leverage the business’ previous experience and knowledge of what works in their business environment / work context to identify appropriate ways of measuring success and appropriate performance support strategies

    -> Open up the conversation (& be open to new ideas yourself), share, and exchange ideas –> converse collaboratively to develop holistic, solutions with long term impact.
  • Cathy’s post – covers strategies for a kick off meetings to avoid creating an info dump> very much about redirecting the conversation to understand the situation (define business objectives, requirements)

    Christy Tucker – scripted a conversation to show how you can ‘sell storytelling’ to a client – in common with Cathy, covers business objectives and evaluation too.

    Ryan Tracey – on shooting home made ‘DIY’ video on a smartphone

    Jason Van Genderen – excellent tips and tools for “DIY” video - pocket film maker cnet series
  • Having a strong Personal Learning Network (PLN) to share ideas, experiences & get support makes change a lot easier. Here are some places I get inspiration from via my Personal Learning Network:
    OzLearn twitter chat – monthly twitter which I help coordinate with Con Sotidis (@LearnKotch), Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) & Matt Guyan (@MattGuyan). Good discussions with a great group of people passionate about learning who want to improve and innovate in L&D

    Third Place – social & informal (F2F) meetup about once a month which I co-organise with Ryan Tracey. Meetup group founded by Helen Blunden (Melbourne), and now in Sydney, Newcastle (organised by Matt Guyan) and Brisbane (organised by Matthew Mason). Great opportunity to meet people face to face who you may only have known online previously. Fun, casual, great conversations with passionate people. Check out Helen’s post for more on the vision for Third Place http://activatelearning.com.au/2014/04/are-you-looking-for-experts-theyre-in-third-place/
  • ElNet Sydney Workplace Learning Congress - Flipping the Conversation

    1. 1. Typical eLearning request - looks like: So that we’re compliant with xyz Act/Regulation etc, we’re rolling out a new system/policy/process… “we need an eLearning module.” (Now)
    2. 2. Typical kick off conversation - sounds like:
    3. 3. Short term knowledge gain  Organisational compliance Typical outcome – something like this: 1020 eLearning module + Assessment 70
    4. 4. Skills based practise Embedded Performance support Embedded social informal support Coaching feedback  Organisational Compliance  Behaviour change Better outcome–> more like this: 10 2070 Easy to access job aids On site support Targeted performance feedback Post-training comms > support On- line task based sims Pre-training comms > awareness
    5. 5. How? It starts with the kick off conversation
    6. 6. Change the outcome: <flip the conversation>
    7. 7. 1: focus on objectives, not solution
    8. 8. 2: behaviour not content
    9. 9. 3: acknowledge the ’10’, explore the ’70’
    10. 10. 4: use data to build your case for the ‘70’
    11. 11. 5: use/adapt/hack any existing resources
    12. 12. 6: Scope the ’20’: social / informal support
    13. 13. 7: Integrate comms & change with learning
    14. 14. 8: Identify how business goals will be measured
    15. 15. Inspiration: 0 Cathy Moore http://blog.cathy-moore.com/2014/04/how-to-kick-off-a-project- and-avoid-an-info-dump/ 0 Christy Tucker http://christytucker.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/selling- storytelling-in-learning/ 0 Ryan Tracey http://ryan2point0.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/an-offer-they-cant- refuse-3/ 0 Jason Van Genderen (pocket filmaker) http://www.cnet.com/au/news/pocket-filmmaker-smart-tripods- for-stablising-your-smartphone-videos/
    16. 16. Inspiration: my PLN #OzLearn twitter chat – 2nd Tues each month https://twitter.com/OzLearn Storified chats: https://storify.com/OzLearn LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/OzLearn- 7449728 Third Place – informal L&D meetup http://www.meetup.com/Third-Place/ Helen Blunden on Third Place vision: http://activatelearning.com.au/2014/04/are-you- looking-for-experts-theyre-in-third-place/