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Dear L&D Professional, Here's Why You Won't Get to The CEO's Round Table!

 Dear L&D Professional, Here's Why You Won't Get to The CEO's Round Table!


I attended a Leadership L&D conference last week, and met with amazing L&D professionals. I found that this is one community that is passionate about what it does, irrespective of the industry it come from. I also validated my belief that L&D professionals are part of a rare breed. They like to continuously upgrade their knowledge not because they want a better job, or a promotion. They do so because they are genuinely interested in knowing more, and are interested in helping their stakeholders (internal/external clients) in the best way they can. 


If everything's great, why do I have a depressing title for this blog post?


Its simple... I observed that many of the attendees were not completely connected with the business they serve. They are more connected with L&D as a field. I know that this is a rather sweeping generalisation. So let me elaborate....


The conference had some interesting formats, where subgroups discussed various topics of interest. Some of my group members expressed helplessness when dealing with business or operations people. No effort is good enough, and business always comes back saying that the training team did not do a good job. The words used were "We asked them what they wanted, got their approval, did a fantastic job in delivery, tested and proved knowledge/skills gained.. but they are still not happy". 



Therein lies the problem. In order to be on an equal footing, it is not good enough for L&D professionals to ask business what they want. Reality is that business frequently does not know what it exactly wants. Therefore, it becomes important to first understand business' high level strategy, and then break it down into actionable L&D tasks. If L&D professionals can do this, the situation can be reversed. Their conversation with business would be "Here's what we should really do. Based on your strategy we should be doing ABC and here's the plan...". 



Many L&D professionals are trained on the ADDIE model (or its variations). This model teaches how to ask the right set of questions as a part of the instructional design process. This again, is an incomplete model because it does not teach L&D professionals what they should start with i.e. Strategy. Doing a specific job role's task analysis, audience analysis or other parts of Addie creates a narrow focus on specific training initiatives. This is definitely applicable at junior L&D roles. But when L&D professionals rely on this model at senior roles where companies expect them to be more strategic, it does not work.



Another aspect is the ability to speak to business people in terms of business metrics. One of the attendees (Mr. X)  in the conference mentioned that his internal client (a software business unit head) was unhappy with the new hire training. Mr. X said that every metric was met. The feedback scores were great. The training throughput was excellent. Knowledge levels of new hires were thoroughly checked etc. What Mr. X did not do, or could not do, was speak to the business head about business metrics. All he had to do was ask questions such as what are the new hire error rates at work as compared to earlier times, has there been an improvement in overall software delivery schedules, is employee productivity of these new hires better, what is the rate of customer complaints, how is your schedule adherence etc. An answer to these questions might show the business unit head that the new hire training initiative is actually doing well. Perhaps these metrics are not being being tracked by the business head. So asking these questions is a way to tell him that it needs to be done. 


So my observation in this conference has been that the L&D community is under-leveraging its capability. L&D professionals can definitely make a much larger impact within their organisations if they were much more clued on to strategy and business metrics. That's the way to get to the CEOs round table.


Profile of Auhtor: Ravi Venkatesam is Operations and L&D professional. He is currenlty CEO at OnTrac - an award winning training company.

Published with permission