I had a conversation yesterday with a colleague and somehow we got on the subject of “most useless program we ever created.” At first glance, maybe not so productive to lament about how we wasted our time, but understanding what we thought was so wrong about our efforts turned into a positive discussion on what seems to be wrong with learning & development in general.
For me, my most useless course was on “time management.” Even the title is a misnomer. You can’t manage TIME – only your actions within any selected time period. The notion that some course can magically teach you to be more organized, prepared, or not procrastinate isn’t a course on TIME anything; it’s more a lesson that you missed at age 7. And why should it fall to your employer to spend their time and resources on teaching anyone the skills that should be considered as basic and a prerequisite for entrance into their organization?
When thinking about the best way to make your new Learning / Talent System better or improve your existing one, just remember one thing. It’s all about the data!
Before I go too far on this point, let’s step back and think about the reason you want to have a Learning / Talent System to start with. For one or a combination of reasons such as competitive advantage, development and succession planning, regulatory compliance, legal requirements, etc. your company has decided that it needs to do a better job training and developing employees and possibly even contractors. Also, your company has grown to a point where it’s no longer practical to keep track of everyone’s training and development in an Excel spreadsheet. You need to have the ability to EASILY produce high value reports that provide senior management with the tools they need to quickly make critical decisions about the direction of the company. These reports must accurately present the readiness of your employees to achieve your company’s critical strategic initiatives. In short, you need a system that will provide you with the tools necessary to evaluate and develop your employees. The result; it’s all about the data.
I’ve had the benefit of surviving several LMS selection and implementation projects as a VP/Director of L&D for both mid-size and enterprise class organizations. As a prospect and eventual purchaser, I learned, albeit the hard way, some great lessons about what to do and even what not to do when going through the selection process.
As a consultant I’ve now been privy to the same process but with a bit more insight and ability to peek behind the curtain and see how the process works from the sales perspective. So, at great personal risk to some relationships with these vendors, here is an undercover expose of what the vendors won’t tell you when you’re evaluating their product.
I was leafing through one of many L&D magazines we have stockpiled in our kitchen (office – seriously, did you think I keep that stuff in my home kitchen?) and I was drawn to how many advertisements there were for training companies. Content development, content, workshops, team building, leadership, assessments, conflict resolution, and even such things as Ship Building and Escaping the Jungle (ostensibly for team performance). When do people have the time to, I don’t know – actually get any work done?!?!?!
I had lunch today with a colleague who wanted to brainstorm ideas regarding the creation of a learning strategy. I’ve had some experience with this as a Director of L&D within organizations as well as in my new role on the outside as a consultant. I always enjoy the opportunity to help a colleague but also benchmark my own ideas to see if I’m as crazy as everyone thinks or if I have some wisdom to offer. What really hit me today was the realization that we, we as in L&OD, seem to know more about successful business practices than the business leaders we support. You can re-read that if you like – it’s not an egotistical statement I’m making about myself; it’s an observation I’ve had about our profession.
I must admit I’m a closet AC/DC fan so likeminded Boomer’s may appreciate the blog title (my head is banging as I write this). Aside from the homage to a song that made Stephen King’s “Maximum Overdrive” truly rock and cement Emilio Estevez as the generation’s great actor….ok, I pushed that last one a bit too far. My point is…well, do we need managers more than they need us or….wait for it…. do we need managers at all? I know; whoosh: mind blown!!
For years businesses around the world have been struggling with their learning or talent systems. I see companies changing learning management systems like they would their wardrobe, all because of a simple frustration. My system will not do what I thought it was going to do for me. I ask the question, what did you expect your new system to do for you? And the response 90+% of the time is answered in features and functionality.
Watching the news on the latest domestic terror attack has become an exercise in self-control. Forgetting your political views, FOX is anything but “fair and balanced” and CNN has proven (thank you John King) that they are not really “the most trusted name in news.” How ironic is it that the most accurate reporting is now done on late night comedy with Jon Stewart highlighting the numerous errors and inconsistencies from news agencies across the country?
I read someone’s rant this morning (not mine – other people DO rant) about how upset he was that a national restaurant chain placed tablet devices at each table with games (for a charge of course) geared towards children. He was very upset about this being forced upon him and evidently forgot that he had the ability to form the word and sound of a “no” if he didn’t want his child to use the device. His rant centered around a generation of entitlement where we coddle our young and there are awards for just finishing something.
I’ve been a big proponent of how using a LMS can help a Learning Department deliver on its goals. Actually, I’ve been such a supporter that I left an iconic brand to gain experience with LMS administration. So I speak with some amount of experience when I pose the following question to all of you considering the purchase of a Learning Management System… are you sure you really need one?
Truth be told – limiting me to 5 of anything is like telling a junkie that he has can only have 1 fix this week. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about which 5 to list. The most important? The most often overlooked? Alphabetically? I’ll go with my gut and just list the first 5 that happen to pop into my head – so feel free to add to this list based on your own method of organizing your thoughts.
1. They are a reflection of your performance too – that’s right… is your team underperforming? Hmmmmmm, who is the common denominator I wonder? Perhaps someone threw you in the deep end of the management pool and never bothered to teach you, oh I don’t know…how to manage people? Maybe the lack of performance or your inability to accurately assess stems from you? Ouch – that had to leave a mark.
It's been brought to my attention that I am now a vendor and not a true internal practitioner. In one career move all my experience, opinions and knowledge have suddenly become irrelevant as I have been “downsized” from several social networking communities. I didn’t realize how quickly I would go from colleague to vendor or that the moniker of vendor held such a terrible stigma. Well – I mean for me anyway.
Admittedly I've always "disliked" vendors, more for their stereotypical "pushiness" than anything else. And I've always enjoyed the safe zone of various communities that ban these (now me) folks from selling their wares. Now, with the tables turned - I didn't realize that I would no longer be able to share my lessons learned or my industry knowledge within various communities. Call it Karma or Payback - I know the irony is palpable.
Dear Abby died last week. For those that remember her acerbic wit you may understand why she holds a special place in my heart. What you didn’t know was that when I was a young Marine overseas we wrote Dear Abby to complain about how people back home forgot about us – which by the way ended up with us receiving thousands of letters from available young women back home. I miss Dear Abby.
In honor of her departure, I thought I’d share some of the “mail” I have received and answer some questions. So – here we go:
I read a posting last night that asked the age old question, “Does money motivate employees?” After the vein in my temple subsided (full disclosure I didn’t wait, I began my response immediately but did some thorough editing afterward) I typed back, “why in the world is this still a question?” Every HR poll in the history of HR polls has laid this question to rest. Money does NOT motivate employees. In fact, I’ll go one step further and state that money actually can DE-Motivate people. Don’t believe me? Well, stick with me a second and see if I can persuade you…
I recently read an article that had a similar title and it kind of put my brain into a spiral. It seems every HR/Talent “expert” is racing to make their predictions (must be a New Year thing) about the future of the workplace. Since 2007 we’ve heard about the so-called “War for Talent”. Actually I first heard about it at a workshop given by Learn.com; now Taleo – I mean Oracle… well, at least as of this writing. The U.S. Labor Department is also adding some firewood to this fire by telling us about the impending retirement of the Baby Boomers (how lucky the economy tanked and we delayed THAT exodus right?), the increase of millennials and the rise of the Hispanic population as the majority demographic.
I’ve often considered the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law very applicable to Learning Management System sales. And feel free to replace LMS with Talent Management Systems, Employee Performance Management Systems, Applicant Tracking Systems, Human Resource Information Systems, etc… the point is that most software vendors are very quick to tell you what you want to hear. When first time buyers ask questions like, “can we automate our performance review process?” the immediate sales response is often an unqualified “YES!!!” Unqualified being the critical word. (and yes I realize my example was that of an EPMS, not an LMS – thanks for noticing).
I've often joked that change is good, as long as I’m the architect and not the recipient. As Talent professionals we’re often called on to espouse the virtues of adaptation. Most often because we are the change agents trying to educate, align and solicit agreement. We’re often found leading the charge up the hill, trying to broker, negotiate and even plead for partnerships and user adoption.