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9 Frequently Asked L&D Questions about Creating Learning Journeys

Three hundred L&D professionals recently joined The Ken Blanchard Companies for a 60-minute online exploration of what works when it comes to creating learning journeys for today’s future workforce.

In this online session, Blanchard solutions architect Britney Cole shared three keys to learning journey success:

  • Start with who instead of what. Create end-user “personas.” Don’t see people as their roles—see them as individuals with needs, wants, and desires. Identify what’s relevant to them.
  • Stay obsessed with the end user. Focus on what learners need to say, do, think, and feel. Look beyond the event to how you can continue to drive behaviour change and create new habits.
  • Know what success looks like ahead of time. Be prepared to demonstrate tangible value to both the employee and the organisation.

At the end of Cole’s presentation, she held a Q&A session with the L&D professionals in attendance. Here are 9 questions from that session, with Cole’s responses.

  1. How do we weave an organisational learning journey when there are already stand-alone programs, each with their own success metrics and specifics?

This is a really common situation, especially when you are using a variety of partners to develop and deliver programs. This is where finding the “red thread” becomes so important. Try to find meaning—such as your company’s strategic objectives, leadership competencies or behaviours, or success profiles. Consider creating a theme that ostensibly ties these things together, with the beginning of each program or workshop making an overt connection to that theme. Finally—here is where the “grout” comes in—what are you doing in between each of those programs? What communications are getting sent to and from the learners? Can you make sure it’s not just the pre-work/post-work from the vendor that’s getting sent, but something from your organisation that helps it all make sense?

  1. What would be an effective way to keep the learner’s supervisor or team informed?

Build a communication plan! Pull a page from the content marketer’s playbook and create weekly emails that share what the learner is doing. Add conversation starters or even build a side-by-side manager guide to provide activities that best support the learner on the journey.

  1. How do we inspire/influence a leadership team that may not recognise the value of a full and complete (i.e., end-to-end) learning journey?

Sometimes you have to do the upfront work and show the vision. Create one or two personas. Build a one-page learning journey. You may even need to scope the investment and share how that investment will provide a return based on research. It’s also possible the leadership team doesn’t fully understand what you mean by “learning journey.” It’s your responsibility to communicate what/when/how.

  1. If we have thousands of people, how many personas do we need?

A persona is a depiction of a series of segments; e.g., location, age, role, tenure, experience, goals, and needs. Typically, 4 to 6 personas can represent a population, covering 80% of your learners’ needs, desires, and constraints.

  1. What other items could we add to a persona?

There are a lot! Motivations, fears and concerns, previous learning experiences, and previous roles or jobs could all be additions. Don’t make the persona have too much, though, or it could feel overwhelming. Include just enough descriptors to help you make decisions on what to design, what to include, and what to consider as you build your human-centric journeys and solutions.

Also, don’t put too much thought into a person’s age or generation. People are people—they generally want the same thing, such as the need to connect and work alongside others. While age might give a clue to tenure, experience, or technological savviness, don’t design a program simply on someone’s generational segment.

  1. How do we measure the success of a learning journey?

Like any learning program or training, start with the end in mind. What does success look like? What needles are you trying to move? For leadership development, you may want to improve engagement of both leaders and employees—but engagement is primarily a talent metric. High engagement tends to be a leading indicator for higher productivity (higher sales, output, etc.) and improved retention (financial savings through spending less on recruiting).

Consider the story you want to share—that story is what you will show as “proof.” This is likely to be a combination of all levels of measurement:

  • Did they like it? Use NPS-type questions.
  • Did they learn anything? Use knowledge checks.
  • Are they adopting these new behaviours? Conduct a 60-90-day survey on how they are applying the skills on the job.
  • Did it make an impact? Look at performance from the time they started the journey to where they ended (or at 6-12 months in), or compare performance of a group that went through the journey to one that didn’t.
  • Was there a return? See how much you spent on training and how much you saved.
  1. Do you have any advice on imbedding learning plans with work plans or goals?

This is where L&D professionals can go from building disparate and irrelevant learning programs to creating experiences that actually influence business results. I would recommend you take a peek at common goals and individual development plans that are submitted by the segment/leadership role you are designing for. If you don’t know what the common goals and plans are, you won’t be able to integrate or imbed.

This also might be a chance to better understand who you are solving for. Interview your high performers to learn what they are doing to achieve the best performance and outcomes for the organisation. This can help orient your design point and even help you determine what custom elements you would need for your journey—some tasks of the highest performers may be very specific and contextual to the role or job. 

  1. How much self-assessment is too much?

There is too much self-assessment sometimes, isn’t there? This is where personas can be most helpful. Look at one and ask yourself “What does someone with this persona really want to know?” Try to identify what would be most important for that audience to know, and what is the most actionable. Don’t assess for the sake of assessment. Make sure that as a result of the assessment, people have the opportunity to change what they say/do/think/feel.

Consider why Buzzfeed quizzes are so popular: they are short, yet insightful. Blend some in-depth self-assessments/diagnostics with some quick-pulse quizzes. This way, you can address everything—but the learner won’t end up with 10 different reports about their personality or leadership style.

  1. When doing virtual training, do you have a favourite platform that allows collaboration and full interaction?

All of the mainstream virtual platforms (e.g., WebEx, Zoom, Adobe Connect) have merit. Skype and Microsoft Teams also offer opportunities to collaborate and interact. I would say rather than selecting a tool, design an experience that 1) uses a platform’s tools to their full potential and 2) contains a tool people can use on the job, if possible. You may inspire someone in a virtual training session on the use of chat, annotations, and breakout sessions and they’ll want to do that as they lead their remote teams. But if they can’t replicate it on the job, it could cause frustration.

About the author:

David Witt

David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast CompanyHuman Resource Development ReviewChief Learning Officer and US Business Review.

First published on Leaderchat
27 February 2020