The Australian Institute of Training and Development(AITD) lined up a very full agenda for their national conference (7-8 June). This, along with attending a pre-conference workshop and my role as Master of Ceremonies on Day 2, kept me very busy.
My key question
The key question I took into this conference was, “What are learning professionals doing to align their work with business strategy and demonstrate their value as business partners?” While I gained insight from several speakers, some important shifts that need to be made were missing from the agenda altogether.
Alignment of L&D to Business Strategy
Business alignment was one of the themes in the panel discussion I hosted on transforming learning in your organisation.
With Day 1 MC Chemene Sinson, and panellists Marie Daniels, Anne Le Blanc & Tony Dunford
Tony Dunford from Westpac noted that Australian learning professionals are not recognised as valued business partners in the same way as in the United States. Many US organisations have a Chief Learning Officer and see Learning and Development (L&D) as a key contributor to change across the organisation. He suggested Australian learning professionals need to deliver more strategic solutions and help business stakeholders to prepare for the future. Marie Daniels from Bayerrecommended using business language and aligning initiatives to business metrics. Anne Le Blanc from Telstrahighlighted the importance of anchoring the work of L&D to business strategy and putting effort into gaining the endorsement of business leaders for your work.
Learning and Agile
Renetta Alexander from Bank of New Zealand(BNZ) presented on their Learning team’s journey to Agile. Their strategic approach creates high value for the business. Thinking and working differently is necessary to remain relevant in rapidly changing organisations facing increasingly complex problems. The BNZ team used tools from the business domain to re-examine their role. One such tool is the business model canvas pictured. This helped them apply business thinking and language. They adopted Agile work methods, including ‘sprint cycles’, to get closer to their internal customers and create value more rapidly. More widespread adoption of business models and Agile approaches will build the credibility, impact and value of learning professionals.
Bakers Delight Measures L&D Impact
In a session titled From demonstrating impact to having impact, Justine La Roche presented a case study from Bakers Delight. The title encapsulated her opening point; evaluating learning initiatives should help leaders make future decisions. This is well worth incorporating as a criterion for any learning evaluation strategy.
I especially liked her advice to “think evidence not proof” – establish reasonable expectations with decision-makers about evidence that will demonstrate success. In my experience it can be difficult for business stakeholders to clearly state how they will know if a learning initiative has had an impact. Learning professionals need to be able to guide a discussion or discovery process to determine what success looks like and define indicators, metrics and evidence.
Learning in the Field
Gina Brooks, from Training x Design, tackled the challenge of defining business success in her presentation What business really wants from training. A client was receiving poor customer feedback. They wanted to turn this around by creating a ‘premium’ customer experience. Gina took business leaders on field visits outside of their industry to find out what ‘premium’ meant. She helped them identify the behaviours that would create this experience for their customers. While not a traditional L&D activity, getting involved early in defining the business solution helps ensure the learning initiatives will impact performance. It also builds relationships and establishes credibility for L&D within the business.
What was missing?
I would have liked more on how learning professionals can be better business partners. Let’s invite some business leaders to the next AITD conference. I would like to hear about the major challenges they are grappling with and discuss how learning can help address these challenges. It would also be valuable to have a manager co-present a case study and talk about the experience of working with their L&D team.
Learning professionals are starting to adopt a performance mindset. They need tools and skills to accurately identify issues underlying performance gaps and design appropriate solutions. This could be a full day workshop.
There was a pre-conference workshop on Data Analytics. However, this was not followed up with a session on the main conference agenda. Kudos to the AITD for introducing this course to their ongoing training calendar.
In her closing address on the future of training and learning, Wendy Perry talked briefly about automation and artificial intelligence. This would make a great conference theme! I would like to explore how L&D can use them to detect and diagnose performance gaps and learning needs. I’m certain they can also help us deliver solutions, support, continuous learning and efficiency. At the very least, the subject warrants a keynote address.
Continuing the Conversation
Thank you to the AITD for creating a rich learning opportunity for delegates. Let’s keep the conversation going at the AITD’s ongoing networking events and on LinkedIn.