Podcast | Getting The L&D Basics Right For More Impact

Gary Stringer
January 10, 2024
January 10, 2024

Inspired by his great article on getting the basics right before embracing new technologies, Paul Matthews returns to the podcast to discuss how we do that for more impact.

From the fundamentals of problem discovery to driving successful behaviour change, working well with stakeholders and much more, this is a great reminder before 2024 really gets going.

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00:00 Introduction to Paul and the episode
02:33 Defining impact in your organisation
09:31 Discover problems before you act 
17:57 Understanding your L&D brand
25:21 The importance of listening
30:40 Basics of good behaviour change
38:49 Who do problems affect and how?

Six lessons on the fundamentals for more L&D impact

1. If we want to drive impact, we have to start with clarity on what it means for us.

“We often talk about impact, but what do we mean by it? For me, impact in an organisation is change that has an effect on that organisation, and clearly, we want a positive impact rather than a negative one because it can go both ways.

“So for each initiative or whatever you're thinking… or even for your whole entire L&D strategy, you need to be defining what you mean by impact.

“Because until you can define that, you don't really know where you're going. And the second thing is… how will you know that impact has actually occurred?”

“Then you need to get agreement from the various stakeholders on those two things. And this is your fundamental, what is the impact and how do we know it's happened?

2. Impact is also about what we see, feel and hear - not just numbers.

“What sort of conversations will you hear if the culture changes in the way that we want? How do other people say they are feeling as a result of the changes?

“I think it's really important to get the distinction between, well there's a set of numbers, but actually.. how do people feel about all of that?

“Because a lot of business impact that's required is often cultural. And that isn't necessarily just wrapped up in numbers.”

3. Other stakeholders often decide whether your L&D is successful.

“Ultimately the people who will decide whether your initiative was successful or not are those who are the recipients and stakeholders in it. And you need to be thinking, well, how are they defining success, and how are they measuring success?

“And if you think they don't have a measure, You are wrong, they always will. Because the only reason they're going to come and ask for a program in the first place is if they have some sense that things aren't happening as well as they could be.”

And if you’re dealing with multiple stakeholders, they’ll probably have different measures of success. Which is why we need to start with clarity around the problem and impact across our stakeholders.

4. Join someone in their problem space for a while.

“So you can really try it on for size. Have them describe the problem, what they see, how it makes them feel… what thoughts go round and round in their head as they think about the problem, where they see the blockers - be them as much as you can be for a while.

“Stand in their shoes as far as you are able. And then you've got to say, okay, I've kind of got that. Now come back into your own shoes and reflect on that from your own perspective.”

The goal is to understand the problem and its boundaries, and then look beyond them - into the non-problem area. This is where the solutions are. Those boundaries often mean people are stuck in their problems, that’s why our role is to take them or the problem out of it.

“A good consultancy tool is you join them in the problem for a while… and then you jump out but drag them with you so they can see the problem from the outside. So you take them up and join you as a second fly on the wall effectively.

“And from that distance, people will very often look down and say, Oh yeah, it's obvious that this is what I should be doing. But it would never occur to them in that space because they're inside their problem.”

5. Understanding what your L&D brand looks like is pretty easy…

“The way you actually can judge your brand as an L&D function is what people come and ask you for. If they think you sell blue widgets, they're going to come and ask you for blue widgets. They'll never ask you for a red one. So what they come and ask you for is what they think you do.”

6. Behaviour change is rarely an event-based thing.

“Behaviour change is a process that requires time and activities over that time for it to start getting embedded and become sustainable and habitual.

“So, even if you've got a really simple instruction to change behaviour, like use the yellow broom, not the red broom, even that needs a bit of practice, especially if using the red broom was habit.

“People will reach for the red broom out of habit when they're distracted. So it's about doing it often enough.”

So, if you’re aiming to replace or upgrade on an existing habit, it’ll never be solved by an event like a training course - it needs time and repetition, until it becomes the way we do things around here.