A large portion of any modern organization, costing an estimated $350 billion, is learning and development (L&D). Ironically, however, L&D itself still has a lot to learn. A successful startup, which is likely to comprehend the astonishing velocity of change in today’s professional landscape, is the only one that knows how to adapt as effectively as anyone else. You won’t advance very far if you don’t continue to learn, adapt, and retrain.
The failure of learning and development departments might happen for the same reasons that startups do.
What attributes, in today’s post-Covid environment, define a successful business? Selling hand sanitizer or equipment for video conferences as a side business? Well, perhaps, but the most pertinent query is: What mindset does a business require today? Because the most successful firms today—regardless of the industry they serve—share one characteristic: they are among the quickest learners.
It’s not exclusive to Covid. Both the workplace and daily life are changing quickly in the fast-paced environment in which we live. Even in the next five years, the abilities required by the workforce of today will change. But how can you ensure that your company has the tools necessary to support employees’ rapid learning when you don’t even know what they ought to be learning?
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The department of learning and development, which has long been in charge of retraining or upskilling your employees, has the key to the solution. There is only one catch, though: L&D must alter in order to be genuinely effective in these quick-paced times. It must adopt the startup’s ethos of agility and growth-drivenness. Not just any startup, either. After all, a cautionary message for L&D experts is one of the main reasons why many firms fail.
Do you still recall Quibi? In a nutshell, it was major news in late 2020: a brand-new mobile streaming service with a nearly $2 billion budget. Short-form videos that viewers would pay to watch were its expertise. How come Quibi failed? Considering that it was a solution to a hypothetical issue. It occupied an odd space between for-profit streaming services like Netflix and free social media sites like YouTube and TikTok. Nobody actually required or wanted that specific market gap to be filled.
The similar trap is encountered by many L&D teams. A startling 75% of managers expressed dissatisfaction with their company’s L&D, according to one survey. Only 12% of employees, according to a different survey, really used the training-related skills they had acquired.
With a $350 billion global budget, L&D doesn’t seem to be tackling the correct issues; by the way, that’s enough to support 175 Quibis! Fortunately, the answer lies in lean learning, which involves doing more with less. This is a whole new strategy for L&D that is brutally geared toward achieving an immediate, quantifiable impact. It draws inspiration from flourishing companies and has the potential to change how your staff members pick up new skills.
Finding the issue that needs to be resolved is the first stage in effective L&D. Next, outline your approach.
A mindset known as lean learning. Action, continual improvement, and outcome are its three guiding concepts.
Action entails the necessity of swift action. Nowadays, things change so quickly that businesses don’t have time to sit around creating resources that are properly calibrated and minutely detailed. Often, it’s more crucial to offer a solution right away, even if it’s imperfect at first.
This brings up ongoing development. Lean learning and development (L&D) refers to continuously improving based on feedback so that you can iterate closer and closer toward the ideal solution.
How can you determine which option is the best? by gauging the result. Knowing exactly what outcome L&D wants is a requirement of lean learning so that you can provide proof of its effectiveness.
What is the first step for a Lean L&D team, then? Remember Quibi’s costly error: the first step is to identify an issue that genuinely requires solving.
Imagine that you work as an L&D specialist for FiveADay.com, a fictitious company that distributes fruit to corporations. Sales contacts you with a request for training because they aren’t meeting their goals. Saying “OK” and sending the team to a training session would be the traditional L&D response. Right, the issue is resolved. Yes, if the only issue is that sales have requested a training. But what about the real issue facing the company—those failed goals? Wouldn’t it be preferable to delve deeper and learn what’s happening there?
For instance, it’s possible that the workers might be excellent salespeople but lack sufficient product knowledge. In that instance, a resource regarding product knowledge—an entirely different approach—is what L&D genuinely needs to offer. To pinpoint the precise problem, you might need to speak with the salesmen personally.
You may now create what the author refers to as the Learning Canvas, a straightforward design that depicts your L&D approach. Write down the issue you’re attempting to resolve and your client, in this instance the sales team. Put your value proposition, such as increased sales, in the center of your diagram.
Draw the outline of your problem-solving strategy around the value proposition. This contains the particulars of the additional knowledge that salespeople must possess, as well as the essential tools they will use to acquire this expertise. Take note of the participating parties and, most importantly, the metrics you’ll use to gauge the effectiveness of your plan.
Include an estimate of the associated expenditures and the desired outcome at the bottom of your diagram, such as an increase in sales conversion of a certain percentage.
You’re in a wonderful position to start tackling the problem once you’ve thought everything through.
L&D’s goal is to match each learner with the most appropriate resource at just the right time.
A natural follow-up question is, “What kind of solutions are we actually talking about here?” If classroom instruction isn’t the solution, then what is?
The truth is that there are no constraints.
Open learning resources are one type of answer because they already exist on the internet and have the potential to have a significant effect on your team with little effort on your side. How often do you read industry-specific publications? Do you make use of existing documentation for the tools and platforms used by your team? And do you recommend that your staff members sign up for informative podcasts, blogs, and newsletters?
Alternatively, there are collaborative resources that facilitate information exchange. Using a system they call “g2g,” Googlers are able to learn from and teach one another. It’s a fantastic approach for making use of the knowledge that already exists within your company. Wikis are another wonderful option for collaborative work online. And if you do decide to enroll in a training program, look for one that is cohort-based so that participants may form a learning community and provide mutual support.
Also available is the slightly more conventional approach of coaching and mentoring. Finding the right people to serve as coaches and mentors within your business may encourage growth and development.
Wow, that’s quite a lot! There is a wealth of information available; nevertheless, a library isn’t necessarily the ideal parallel because of the static nature of libraries. The goal should be to develop a dynamic learning environment that is always changing and growing.
Various people have different requirements, thus it’s important to have a wide range of materials available. When it comes to anything as nuanced as education, there is no cookie-cutter solution. Taking a glance at a worker’s employment history can give you a good idea of their level of experience and knowledge, as well as the areas in which they may be struggling. You may also just ask them, of course. Instead than telling employees what they need to know, a “pull” approach to L&D allows them to take the lead. You’ll need a mix of push and pull strategies to solve the problem completely.
It is therefore important to provide the appropriate individual with the necessary tool. However, there is still one more “right” you need, and it has to do with timing. Make sure your learning solutions occur at critical junctures for optimum effect. This is when the knowledge is most likely to be appreciated, because it is needed. The “aha!” moment, or realization of the full potential of the product, occurs during actual use.
Your learning solutions are more likely to be effective if you follow these steps. Don’t take our word for it though. You must measure everything. Whether it’s through a rise in revenue, a boost in productivity, or simply a slew of satisfied employee feedback forms, education should have a discernible and measurable effect on the bottom line. Measurable outcomes and useful criticism are the keys to making your educational materials even more useful in the long run.
Learning solutions don’t have to be all-inclusive; just start with anything that will provide “minimal valuable learning.”
Nobody succeeds the first time; this is true for both your workforce and you, the L&D team.
Because of this, it’s critical to update and modify your learning ecosystem as you receive feedback and assess its effectiveness. Additionally, it explains why it’s acceptable to begin simply with a minimally worthwhile learning product.
This expression has its origins in the startup community. Think of Airbnb’s founders posting a picture of their loft room on a bare-bones website as an example of a minimum viable product, which is the first iteration of many innovative products. Release a version of your product if it can effectively convey and deliver its main benefit to customers, then start gathering feedback. Its flaws, as well as any shortcuts you may have used, may all be incrementally fixed as you gain more knowledge.
This concept of minimal useful learning is the same. Given the speed at which work is done nowadays, your company usually doesn’t have months to wait for employees to pick up new skills. Instead, you must move quickly. It might not appear as good as you’d like in an instructional video you shot on your phone with poor lighting. However, doing it in a single afternoon is definitely worthwhile provided it covers the information that people need. When you understand how its content has to be improved as well, you can refine it further in the future.
There is even a formula for determining which resource will be the most beneficial and influential to create. On a scale of one to ten, rank each possible educational resource in the following categories: How useful do you believe this resource will be in terms of impact? How confident are you in its ability to deliver? Additionally, how simple is it to create and distribute this resource?
These three numbers multiplied together will give you a score out of 1,000. Put the highest scores first, and you’ll soon be on your way to making the most impact.
But as you already know, that’s just the beginning. Keep an eye on the results of your new resource, and every time you receive feedback, alter your strategy accordingly.
The resource should become more learning-challenge fit with each iteration. When your learning resource meets the difficulty it was created to address and enhances your company’s performance as intended, you will know you have reached this stage.
Allow startup ideas like sprints and marketing to motivate you to pick things up quickly.
An L&D team must decide which problems it is trying to solve, implement solutions fast and effectively using a minimal viable product, and refine itself iteratively using metrics and feedback, just like a startup. However, there are a few other lessons that L&D may take away from startups, which we’ll go over in this last chapter.
The first is the sprint, a tech-related word you’ve probably heard before. A sprint is when you allot a certain amount of time to concentrate on getting something done, like creating a new product, as rapidly and effectively as you can. But you can also engage in a learning sprint.
Put together a group of individuals who can create the resource you’re pursuing. The L&D team will collaborate to develop the solution while the sprint master takes the initiative to keep the team on task. The challenge owner is the one who has the finest understanding of the specifics of the issue; they will direct the team toward its resolution. A learning sprint can be a particularly quick and efficient way to put helpful resources together through constructive cooperation and iterating through ideas.
Is there anything else L&D can learn from startups? marketing strategies. This may seem strange at first because you aren’t actually trying to sell anything. But message remains the central theme. People are skeptical about the efficacy of traditional L&D, as was said right at the beginning, and frequently with good cause, so it can take some work to convince them to try your new strategy.
You might even consider it a rebrand. Maybe you should completely revamp how you inform employees about L&D. Consider your L&D brand’s core principles, origin, and even name. This will assist you in crafting a compelling narrative about the work you conduct.
Try influencer marketing as well. You don’t need to become an Instagram sensation because you’re aiming for business professionals. However, you can gain knowledge via influencer culture. There will undoubtedly be individuals in your company who the other employees admire and respect. If you can convince people to use your L&D resources, whether it be through a video message, an email, or the sporadic comment on social media, you’ll be well on your way to improving perceptions.
There you have it, then! These days, learning and development could stand to learn a few things, and startups, the ultimate authorities on quick learning and growth, have a lot to teach.
L&D needs to adjust to the constantly evolving modern workplace, and it may do so by learning from successful companies. Fast solutions are prioritized in an agile, lean approach to learning and development; these can be improved repeatedly following a quick rollout that connects the right resource to the right people at the right time.
Here’s one more useful suggestion. You are aware that Lean Learning is only effective if the outcomes are being measured. Aim for a triangulation of both quantitative and qualitative data to ensure you’re moving in the correct direction. Exactly how you achieve that will depend on the particulars of your organization and the problems you’re tackling.
Hard figures like sales growth, customer happiness, or profitability are examples of quantitative metrics. The feedback you receive from interviews and surveys is known as qualitative information, and it is just as significant. Make sure the people of your team are having fun at work in addition to meeting their goals.