How to Change Learning Culture: Convincing the Naysayers

We hope you’ve found our blog series helpful so far in setting out an approach you can follow in the creation of learning programs to address a business goal. This approach is different from simply churning out courses to put content in front of the learner, and instead involves taking time to really analyze the business goal and how it might be achieved. This is a much more time-consuming process, but worth it for the results that can be achieved.

Responding to 4 Common Stakeholder Objections

More time spent in analysis means a lower output from L&D in terms of content created, which may be a metric you’re measured on. It also can mean difficult conversations with business leaders who come asking for a course but who aren’t prepared for a conversation about business and performance goals.

It’s a cultural shift and one that may be challenging. You’re going to have to convince the naysayers in order to get them and everybody else behind this new approach of investing more time in analyzing L&D initiatives. Let’s look at some common objections (within your department and the broader business you serve) and how you can respond.

1) The business isn’t ready. They just want me to churn out courses.

You can’t expect the business to be the driver for transforming L&D. They’ve been used to the way that L&D has worked for years, and that’s the way they’ll expect it to continue to work. It’s your responsibility to make the case for change in L&D and your responsibility to change expectations.

One way to make that case is to start collecting data and look at the evidence. We’ve argued in this blog series that unless learning programs are designed with a clear plan of what people will do differently to achieve the business goal, then that goal will not be achieved. Can you collect some data around the impact of a few courses developed with a content dump approach to show that’s the case? Can you compare the performance of people who completed the course with those that haven’t?

Or even better, can you pilot just one learning program that includes proper analysis following the BALDDIE method? Remember, there’s a lot you can do with basic metrics and data. So start small and continue to add data as your program progresses. And as you collect more data, you can iterate on your program and make necessary adjustments. If you can show a positive (and data-driven) example of a training program that really has had a positive impact on performance, you will get the business’ attention.

Developing good relationships with business stakeholders is also key to this. Build bridges and get their buy-in so you can work together to bring about this vital shift in how you work to make people better. (See The Secret to Fostering Office Relationships for advice on how to do this.)

2) Are you saying that all the learning content and training we’ve provided until now is not effective?

We have to be careful how we phrase the answer to this one. Really, what we’re saying is that content and training previously provided have not been as effective as they could be, and that we’ve identified an approach that can significantly improve the effectiveness of training. It’s important to implement this approach as soon as possible so our training can be as effective as possible going forward.

This might be a difficult conversation to have. But most people will be able to recall the last time they completed click-next e-learning content covering topics they already know, or attended instructor-led training that didn’t seem relevant to helping them do their jobs better. Deep down, they know that there has to be a better way.

While buzzwords such “big data” and “analytics” are living their best lives across organizations, consider leaning on the new-and-shiny angle of this approach. This may help reduce assumptions that prior training was useless or poorly executed, and instead shift the conversation to: We did what we could with what we had, and now we can do even more.

As technology and tools continue to evolve and our access to these tools and information grows, capitalize on the newness and successes of others while it’s still relevant. Or make sure you have your story ready a few years down the line when your stakeholders come to the conclusion themselves and you get served with: Wait, isn’t that what people were doing three years ago? Where were you?

3) This approach is too time consuming and expensive.

It’s absolutely true that this evaluation-based approach is more time consuming and expensive than simply taking content and turning it into an e-learning course. Determining the right business goal, researching what people need to do to reach that goal, and evaluating at every step all take time and effort. There’s no question the BALDDIE approach means you’ll be able to generate less learning content than you might have done previously.

The question you need to ask is: What really is the goal of the learning team. Is it to generate as much content as possible to fill up the LMS, or is it to help people to become better at their jobs? If it’s the latter, then taking an approach to ensure the learning program works is absolutely the right approach—even if it means less content.

One learning program that has an impact is considerably more valuable than 10 programs that don’t. In fact, you could argue that content that isn’t designed to have an impact is actually harmful because it wastes learners’ time and distracts from the real learning opportunities they might otherwise find. Quantity of courses produced is a very bad success metric for an L&D team. Rather, you should be focusing on the quality of your courses.

You also can think about more efficient ways to respond to requests for content where you just need to put something out there to satisfy a request, while not taking too much time away from developing effective learning programs that will drive business change. Here are a few suggestions for quick wins when you’re asked to satisfy requests for content:

  • Curate existing content that’s either publicly available or available from generic content providers.
  • Record a quick, informal video interview with a subject matter expert with a smartphone or screen recording.
  • If you suspect the topic is something everybody already knows, create a quiz that assesses if learners already have that knowledge rather than creating the whole course right away.

These kinds of “scrappy” solutions can be really valuable—especially if you can create a culture where people are empowered to create them for one another. If you can achieve this and at the same time shift L&D to be a premium service for driving real business change, you’re onto a winner.

4) What about self-directed learning? We can’t define business goals for every website our people visit!

Absolutely. The approach we outlined in this blog series relates specifically to “push” learning. When there’s a business goal you want to achieve, use learning to help make people better in a specific way. This is an important function of L&D and one that’s not going away.

At the same time, we’re fierce advocates of the sort of “pull” learning facilitated by learning experience platforms and social learning platforms. Many times, your people know what they need to learn and they just need a little help from L&D to find or get access to good content to meet those needs. Like developing learning programs to address business goals, supporting self-directed learning also is an important function of L&D—and something we cover in our Blended Learning series and Learning Ecosystem series.

Up Next: How to Design Learning That Works

In our final post in this series, we’ll recap everything we’ve covered and share some thoughts on “What’s Next?” after you’ve implemented BALDDIE in your organization.

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And the learning measurement survey says...

There's a disconnect between L&D and the wider business. Find out more and read our fourth annual survey report with LEO Learning that provides an evolving picture of L&D’s relationship with measurement and business impact—including real-world examples and extended commentary.

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