The ever-growing list of things that L&D need to consider is long – longer than ever before. Learning strategies, business alignment, new technologies, analytics, budgets and stakeholder engagement really are just a few of the things we need to tackle.
However, while we’re out proving great ROI, influencing our stakeholders and delivering on new, stimulating strategies, we are running the risk of forgetting about the most important person in the learning equation – the learner.
Bear with me as I know this may sound crazy, but the reality is that, in the drive to deliver the best learning possible, we’re seeing many L&D departments are actually slipping further away from their learners. We are forgetting that they are human and losing that emotional connection with them - with that thought comes a scary future.
It can be easy to do, thinking we know our learners well enough to deliver what they need, taking business objectives into consideration at all times and delivering strictly on those and assuming that we know what people want. But, recently, when I have asked L&D managers when the last time was they really spoke with their learners, most couldn’t answer. So why is this a problem, and how can we overcome it?
Let’s think about culture. Most L&D departments are working hard to develop a pull learning culture within their organisation, with the ultimate dream being learners who are excited, driven and achieving results that benefit the whole business.
However, creating a library of solutions, or a fantastic blended learning programme, doesn’t mean engagement. Even if you have some learners pulling learning in exactly the way it was intended, do you know what they really think about it? Are you truly in the loop about how people feel about learning, deep down?
Would you buy from a company that didn’t offer a product you wanted? Or one that didn’t create their product with the consumer in mind? Would you take your car to a garage if they didn’t speak to you when you arrived, or didn’t let you know when it was ready to pick up?
Creating emotional connections is so important, and in L&D we need to embrace this fully. This doesn’t necessarily mean going out and getting to know thousands of people individually, but it’s about thinking of your people every step of the way.
Do they feel forced to do the learning? Perhaps they feel it’s irrelevant, or boring? On the other hand, they may love some of it and thoroughly enjoy participating – but if you don’t know for sure then you could change something that works or leave something that doesn’t.
Asking the Right Questions
We have an opportunity to bring our people deep into the fold of learning and gain their trust. And this isn’t about engagement tactics and tricks. It’s about asking the right questions and truly listening to the answers.
You need to think about what you really want to know from your people. If you can’t answer that, find some of your most engaged learners and some of your most disengaged learners, and spend time with them.
Ask questions about the learning they’ve undertaken, where they look for it, how they found your solutions and how it helped them in their role and development. But most of all, ask why. If we don’t have a good understanding of the why, we can’t fix long term challenges. We don’t have the knowledge and understanding to continually develop our offering effectively.
Learners are the key to your success, and if you can not deliver the solutions that they need and want whilst showing them how much you are invested in their development, you’ll start to gain trust.
As we all know, with trust comes respect, and it’s hard not to participate in something that is created with your needs in mind and that is coming from someone you respect and trust.
Use your voice, get people talking, understand their emotional connections to learning and the solutions you provide. This is the only way to keep your learners at the heart of your strategy and get them excited about what’s around the corner.
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Want to know more about developing emotional connections with your learners? We look at this further in our webinar, Create Your Ultimate Learning Culture, where we use marketing tactics to build engagement.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
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