Article: L&D essentials – when it’s not the learner or the trainer …

‘It’s not your trainers or your learners – it’s you’ is a tough message to get across. But sometimes it’s the L&D professional’s most important job.

Something’s not right – missed targets, inaccurate data entry, customer complaints – whatever it is, it needs fixing. Obviously they need a course, because they’re doing it wrong. Call in L&D to do the fixing.

So you develop a course based on the needs analysis, and deliver it to good feedback. Off they go back to the workplace … and nothing changes.

You get called in by management who want to know what’s wrong with the planning, the training, the learners – and you. You’re under the spotlight, now. Explain yourself.

This is where things can get sensitive because you know the problem’s not the material, the trainers or the delegates. The problem’s what happens when they try to apply. The learners are fine. The training was fine. It’s just that the culture, attitudes and support aren’t there yet. That new knowledge and great intentions mean nothing if managers won’t or don’t know how to support new ways of thinking and behaving, or allow some experimenting and the risk of making a few mistakes.

Imagine parents have bought a hard-working teenager a set of driving lessons from a skilled instructor – but she fails the test.

They’re angry with their teen for not working hard enough. They’re angry with the instructor for poor teaching. The one thing they haven’t noticed is … they never let the kid borrow the car.

There’s nothing wrong with the learner, the instructor or the course. It’s just that the learner was never given the opportunity, the support or the time to practice.

Any organisation needs to be able to look at itself and ask just where does that change need to happen? So often it needs to start with the leaders and managers – who often think they’re the ones getting it right.

That’s where the L&D pro has to bring out all their skills. It isn’t just about the training – you need to be able to hold a mirror up to their assumptions and help them to see what’s really going on.

So learn about the business, its customers and competitors. Understand its vision and goals, and what might be getting in the way of achieving them. And get to know the people and the personalities and what makes them tick. Your deep understanding of the business and your interpersonal, coaching and influencing skills are just as important as your L&D skills.