First We Educate Ourselves, Then We Educate OthersFirst and most important, L&D departments need to know their own business. We need to clearly understand how we accomplish results and then show how results lead to business success. Second, we need to educate other business functions on how we support them. We need to speak our own language (of performance) and show how our efforts fit into the achievement of organizational goals. Unfortunately, addressing the first requirement is a huge challenge for most learning departments. Why? As an industry we have few practice standards and even fewer quality control (measurement) practices. As I work with learning groups across different industries (Pharma, Healthcare, Finance, Insurance, etc.), there are common misconceptions. Those false beliefs center around the correct activities and most effective methods to use in the learning function. Those beliefs also reveal an inability to understand the way learning departments provide value to their organization. In the minds of many, the instructional design profession has been watered down to mean simply gathering content and delivering it to an audience. The focus has been on content rather than results.
Without a way to measure our outcomes, the science behind effective learning program design has been poorly executed. Designers lack a way to identify the effectiveness of their design decisions.
What Steps Must We Follow to Change the Perception of L&DFor L&D professionals to educate others in the organization on our expertise, we must first “get our house in order” and define exactly what we do, how we do it, and how our outcomes enable performance improvement for both employees and the organization. We need to standardize best practices in design, measure results, and use our skills to improve our own practice. Then we can work to create, measure, and report results with a confident and repeatable standard. With our newly understood competency and outputs, we can communicate with our stakeholders using our terms (performance objectives, behavior requirements, and organizational outcomes). This will allow us to work with other departments to achieve common goals. We will be able to track our performance, diagnose results, repair issues, and communicate learning results with our business partners.
Fixing the Communication Gap Gives L&D Equal Partnership with Other DepartmentsWe bridge the communication gap through education. Educating others on our terms and how our learning outputs create solutions to business performance problems gives us an equal partnership. Just as the finance department provides spreadsheets to help departments manage their budget, L&D provides skilled employees to help departments improve the productivity of their people. Highlighting the connections between the learning and the application of learning on the job enables us to engage managers in goal setting and supporting the learning progression. If we understand the results of our learning design and show how learning advances (or does not advance) through the organization, we gain the cooperation of business stakeholders. In reality, learning professionals already use the “language of business.” But if we want our professionalism recognized by others, we need to understand our own practice. We need to understand what we do, how we achieve results, and how we support the business. Using our own terms, we need to communicate our expertise and explain our role in the business success. We need to show the professional activities (analysis, design, and development) that we use to achieve results. We need to show how we:
- Use expertise to analyze a performance problem and determine if learning is the right solution.
- Meticulously design programs with performance objectives that target specific job outcomes.
- Master adult learning principles and instructional methods to design effective learning solutions.
- Show how those methods help participants learn and achieve the job performance levels required.
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