Posts Tagged ‘Instructor-led Training’

KM Issues: The Management Issue

June 4, 2010

An Identity Crisis

A surprising number of team leaders and managers in ICT organizations do not see themselves as professional managers, but as individual contributors who have been saddled with (mostly unwelcome) additional duties of managing a group of people.
Little wonder then that few of these bother with developing their management skills, and then similarly neglect their staff in two crucial aspects: being a role-model for ongoing professional development, and looking after the development of those who report to them.

This inappropriate self-identification also leads to another unfortunate behavior pattern – a strong tendency to “go it alone” on management-related activities and problems rather than seeing themselves as part of a Community of Practice (CoP) across the organization (and further afield) from which they could draw advice, instruction, or resources. It is quite typical to see such a person valiantly but unsuccessfully trying to solve problems that have been encountered and mastered by other managers many times before.

One foundational principle in Knowledge Management is to avoid repeating mistakes and to take as much advantage of vicarious learning as possible. A learning Organization is one in which a mistake or difficulty leads to modification across the entire organization and an active process of diffusion of knowledge is embedded in the organizational behavior.
In this situation though, managers would be learning in isolation and little or no diffusion of learning would take place laterally, and would range from aspects of managing upwards, reporting and setting KPI’s, as well as best practices and how to manage staff.

A manager who sees themselves as primarily a Software Engineer or a Project Manager is unlikely to regard a manager in Customer Service or IT Infrastructure as a likely source of information, and would fail to recognize the degree to which their roles as managers were similar.

In several cases I have seen duplication of effort on things as simple as acquisition of contractors or reporting of results or issues.
This leads to duplicated effort, wasted opportunities, and increased costs – and even worse, unattached and underperforming staff.

The Current Approach

Where this situation is recognized as a significant problem by the senior leadership team, management training is often used to rectify the problem – with varying and often poor results.

The costs are usually high for Instructor-Led Training (ILT) – which often involves off-site courses or at least significant disruption to the business when managers are on training courses.
Because of this it is common for only a subset of the managers to go on training and for training to be restricted in scope or duration, leading to low transference and poor retention.

Management training is also often poorly suited to the real operational environment, and may lean heavily on fads like “adventure team-building” or outdated psychological models like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Team-building is usually only successfully transferrable where the activities are strongly correlated to the actual working conditions – so unless the business environment involves armed combat, building a team with paintball exercises is highly unlikely to have any lasting effect or any significant degree of transference in the workplace.
Likewise, learning about “character styles” usually has little relevance to the operational needs of a manager other than simply being aware that people aren’t all clones. – Which one could safely assume they already knew!

Unfortunately the training (even where appropriate to the business environment), is often piecemeal and of a short duration, and the effect is transitory and slight simply because it fails to connect well with the corporate mission or be used enough to be retained sufficiently.

Finally, this kind of training often fails to gain traction because it is unlikely to be seen as a priority or as relevant by a manager who regards management as something they have to “do” as a distracting sideline, rather than as “what they are” and their core responsibility. If they don’t see themselves as management professionals, then why would training in management be seen as significant and much more than just another unwanted and unwelcome distraction from what they perceive as their “real job”?

A Knowledge-Centric Approach

To successfully address the problem the first and most significant step is a cultural one – senior management have to make it plain that the most important role of a team leader or manager is to enable and empower their teams, and that any other duties are secondary. No amount of training or reward or punishment will be effective unless the executives make this point clearly, plainly, and forcefully – and unless members of the SLT take ownership and lead by example, nothing positive will be achieved.

The second step is to build the environment for the development of a CoP for professional managers and to provide infrastructural support for them to interact with each other, and to exchange information in order to build best practices and standards that are specific to the organization and industry.

Part of this is to deploy training as a blended model with ILT bracketed between eLearning fore and aft to reduce costs and to get better value from ILT, and to add a layer of in-house training that mirrors the generic training and provides specific context for each competency element. For example: If the generic training calls for standardization of KPIs, then specific and assessed training must be provided that explains the context in the organization as well as the specific KPI’s that would be used in that organization – simply providing and testing comprehension of generic material is entirely insufficient and will lead to low transference to the job.

Giving eLearning upfront drives better preparedness for ILT and more conformity of their level of knowledge when they are in the ILT sessions, and therefore allows learners to focus on the higher-value parts of the ILT sessions and derive more benefit from the investment.
eLearning afterwards achieves better retention and participation, and raises the transference rate of material to the job.

In addition, it is important to build social networking components such as blogs, discussion forums, and tweets around the training. This drives participation and allows the learners to interact and learn from each other – thus setting the stage for on-the-job interaction in future.
Managers that have cooperated and exchanged ideas and perspectives during completion of the course materials are more likely to do so as part of their daily work, and to view each other as sources of useful information and guidance.

A community of mutually-supporting middle-management is a vital part of a company that is built to last, and no CEO can afford to have a management cadre that is unaware that they are meant to be professional managers!

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Matthew Loxton is the outgoing director of Knowledge Management & Change Management at Mincom, and blogs on Knowledge Management. Matthew’s LinkedIn profile is on the web, and has an aggregation website at www.matthewloxton.com
Opinions are the author’s and not necessarily shared by Mincom, but they should be.

Knowledge Management Issues: The Corporate College is dead, long live the Corporate College!

April 9, 2010

Job-security and Corporate Training departments are both dead, and that’s one part of the new millennium that takes some getting used to.

The Ivy(ory) Tower of Corporate Education

For those of you who can remember the 80’s, most medium to large sized IT firms sported flashy in-house colleges – sometimes even accredited to confer diplomas and degrees. Some had sprawling campuses, catered dining, and mass accommodation.
One that I attended for three months at a time had several mainframes in fully-equipped computer-rooms just for training. Every Friday the dinner had live entertainment, and often a massive ice-sculpture as part of the seafood buffet.

Oh, those were the days!

Then the commoditization wave hit and other forces gusted up, margins dropped, and suddenly the lights of corporate academia started to flicker and blink out.

The trouble was that it was expensive to run a college, and although everyone agreed that a well-trained workforce is desirable, when tough times arrived it was difficult to justify the overhead.
The colleges first got pillaged of their budgets and staff, and next got folded up completely.

It was a typical scenario: the trainers first got put onto billable training hours, and then got turned into consultants and became road-warriors.

Another problem was that taking people out of their day-job for up to weeks and months at a time to attend courses costs a lot of money too, and it is very difficult to juggle calendars to accommodate days of away-time for study. Getting people together does of course have benefits beyond just training, but these intangibles are very difficult to put on a balance-sheet and tend not to rate very high when budget time comes.

The final straw was that although they could measure retention (embarrassingly low), it was excruciatingly difficult to show on-the-job improvement as a result of training, and keeping the training fresh was a nightmare in logistics and cost.

The need for a highly skilled workforce didn’t go away however, and a crucial determinant of corporate survival remains having talented and skilled staff – and since things change often and fast, a need for ongoing training.
On top of that, people who keep abreast of the innovations and concepts and methods of their domain, tend to be the innovators and be highly productive – So while the corporate college and “training department” have died, the need for training did not.

The Corporate College Returns

The corporate college is coming back, though just in a ghostly virtual form – In the new millennial corporate college, there are no instructors and there is no college, and the student is a self-motivated seeker.

The days of the level-I student who needed to be sat down and taught in a classroom style are mostly over and gone – few firms can afford people who need to be taught. Instead the pressure is on acquiring and keeping staff that at least can get on with learning at their own pace from materials they are given (Level II), but increasingly the drive is to have staff who seek out learning opportunities and materials (Level III).
It is fast becoming a condition of employment that the individual is at least a Level II learner.

The learning opportunities available are increasingly in the form of self-paced eLearning provided from a variety of large course-vendors who have development budgets that run into millions of dollars per year and use the latest techniques.
These (somewhat cheesy) modules are often several times more effective than class-room instruction in knowledge retention, and are usually served in suitably palatable chunks that can be accessed via the web and 24×365.

Blended with selected Instructor-Led Training (ILT) and in-house practical instruction, eLearning makes it possible to not just provide Just in Time Training, but also to make it immediately relevant to the daily work.

The Corporate College is back, and it brings with it Employment-Security and an opportunity for the self-directed learner to flourish.
The student becomes a learning-participant.

Notes:

1. A typical scenario is that a single eLearning course of 4hrs equates to a full day of ILT, and where ILT yields around 10-15% retention rate after 60 days, eLearning can get 40% with no repetition, and because it can be used in an ongoing fashion, retention climbs to up to 90%.

2. Cost of ILT typically runs to $900-1,200 a day per person, whereas eLearning licenses go for under $700 per seat per year. If one calculates a typical staffer meeting corporate training goals of 10d/year, the difference is $8,300 per person for a less effective solution when using ILT. Seen a different way, for the price of one person’s ILT, you can provide 13 people with as much learning as they can do in a year

3. eLearning does even better when surrounded by web2.0 social media, and introduces an element of timelessness in which learners can see the contributions of previous learners, and current activity can draw back previous participants.

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Matthew Loxton is the director of Knowledge Management & Change Management at Mincom, and blogs on Knowledge Management. Matthew’s LinkedIn profile is on the web, and has an aggregation website at www.matthewloxton.com
Opinions are the author’s and not necessarily shared by Mincom, but they should be.

AIIA eLearning breakfast

February 27, 2010

 

I attended the AIIA eLearning breakfast session this week, and came away with a small list of action items, one or two new contacts, and one of those “d’oh” feelings.

Firstly, thank you to Jill Price from SkillSoft for MCing the event and for undertaking to find out who that person was from a university who asked if universities could play a role in eLearning for companies, but vanished before I had a chance to tell her “Hell yes, when do we start”.

Mark Cook, Senior Business Partner at Suncorp Human Resources covered Suncorp’s “Agile academy” and how senior execs took eLearning as a personal challenge. One notable snippet was how execs at Suncorp advertise internally what eLearning they are busy with, and announce a monthly book title.

Cost avoidance was also high on the agenda as a means of describing the value of eLearning, and one of the more interesting metrics was Carbon footprint and reduction due to eLearning.

Lindy MacPherson, National Manager – Organisational Development and Human Resources at Data#3 Limited emphasized the competitive employment market and how skills shortage was a critical success factor for businesses.

Lindy emphasized the need to set specific learning goals: in Data#3 employees are set a target of 5 days learning per employee per year. On joining, all staff are given an eLearning license and are expected to demonstrate continuous use.

Key to this are the managers who are not just accountable for this target, but also participate actively in mentorship.

Besides some impressive metrics on course usage and hours spent on learning, Lindy also described how the business units have learning programs set up for staff, and how blended learning is used to tailor their career development or migration .

I was impressed by the use of eLearning as part of induction in the service centre – it is surprising how many organisations still do only ILT that repeats easily-recorded learning material for every session – often with a small number of attendees. To balance the costs, some companies wind up delaying induction in an attempt to fill seats rather than taking the plunge and using eLearning – which would deliver a far more satisfactory outcome at lower cost.

To keep staff interest up, Lindy described monthly info sessions and various competitions – haven’t we all tried variations of these?

By far the biggest item for me personally, and a current pet project of mine is use of eLearning as Pre and post ILT augmentation.

Materials can be provided pre-course to prepare the learner and have them properly prepared for (expensive) ILT courses, whilst post-course eLearning can cement the concepts, give practice, and greatly extend retention.

Why this isn’t a no-brainer in all organisations mystifies me.

Sandra Smith, Executive Director, Strategy and Development at CITEC emphasized the importance of having senior staff act as “Learning Evangelists” to drive a spirit of ongoing professional development. Like Mark, Sandra also has a kind of corporate college environment in the form of a “School of Excellence”.

Big on Sandra’s agenda is the need to align learning programs with strategic KPIs and to make sure that eLearning is relayed to business outcomes. This ensures that the cost of training delivery is justified (and more importantly of pulling people from their day job).
This is where pre and post eLearning augments and improves ILT outcomes.

Sandra also boasted some impressive utilization figures, this time focused on hours per person and total hours spent on eLearning

Other topics that came up during the sessions were the need to blend eLearning with Coaching and Mentoring, and professional and vendor certification needs.

All in all a really worthwhile Friday morning.

My to-do list:

–          Look into establishing a Corporate College based on a zero-budget volunteer model

–          Get the certification module for Moodle up and running with forum activities included as part of new-hire induction framework

–          Go to the mat to get a policy minted that there be no attendance of or delivery of ILT or external training without pre and post course elearning

–          Push hard for a policy that anyone attending external courses or events should create eLearning artefacts to share the knowledge

–          Do more marketing of eLearning


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