A lot of employees view L&D as a box-ticking exercise. In this mindset, onboarding and learning is just another HR task to be completed. It isn’t seen as being connected to the day-to-day reality of business, and it isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.
So, what can you do to change this perception? How can you get people to pay attention to L&D and see their training as an integral part of your business operations?
That’s exactly what Jeremy Lane, Director of L&D at Electronic Components Distributor TTI, has done. Recently, I had the chance to chat to Jeremy about how he changed people’s perceptions of L&D, and how other companies can learn from his example.
We kicked things off by talking about a key concept for L&D at TTI: operational legitimacy.
A great L&D approach should reflect the reality of daily business operations. As Jeremy explains, his hands-on background in the company has helped him to excel as L&D Director by giving him a window into what people truly need to get ahead.
“Operational legitimacy is a big piece of what makes L&D work in any organization,” he says. “As a global distributor, TTI has a lot of intricate homegrown processes and systems. It would be tough for an HR person to lead this training with no operational background.”
“At TTI, the learning and training is in the business. It sits within each business operation department, which is where I’m based too. That’s where I started my career - in purchasing and inventory management. This allows me to bring credibility and legitimacy into conversations around training and improving performance.”
This doesn’t just help Jeremy to design L&D experiences that match TTI’s business needs - it also makes him a more effective source of advice, information, and guidance. “It goes a long way when people know that I’ve been there and done the job myself.”
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Sometimes, getting people excited about L&D can be a tall order. For Jeremy, one of the most important parts of creating employee buzz was to change the fundamental perception about what L&D was for. This required a mixture of branding, patience, and honesty.
“We had to re-brand, and try to change the perception of L&D within the organization,” says Jeremy. “We wanted to shift people away from the idea of having ‘schoolmasters’ where we only run training whenever someone makes a mistake. Instead, we wanted to start with a clean slate and emphasize learning as a resource for people to get better and improve their skills.”
“We wanted to shift people away from the idea of having ‘schoolmasters’ where we only run training whenever someone makes a mistake."
As Jeremy explains, shifting these perceptions took patience and effort. “We went through a pretty extensive internal marketing campaign within the organization, for about a year and a half. We rebranded everything under our umbrella: the TTI Specialist Academy.”
“Now, when people see our logo for learning resources or opportunities, they know what to expect. It’s great for awareness and consistency, and it reflects our status as a specialist supplier and distributor of electronics.”
Another crucial tip? Facing some of the previous L&D shortcomings head-on. “Before we could do anything else, we needed to level-set with the employees,” says Jeremy. “We had to recognize some of the frustrations they might have had with L&D in the past and signal that we were taking a new approach. That was the biggest challenge we had.”
Another key priority, says Jeremy, was to give management some breathing room when it comes to L&D. “As I started to build out our L&D, I was adamant about focusing on the needs of the learners. But I also wanted to make the lives of the managers easier and more productive. This was what made my own perspective as a manager so helpful.”
As he explains, the typical onboarding process can be rather taxing on manager time and attention. “Historically, you hire a new person, they come into the new organization, and from day one the manager is responsible for the entire training burden. That’s a big ask.”
“One of my first messages in this department was to explain our goal of building an effective foundational training model, where managers are freed up to contribute their unique insights, rather than owning everything. We were able to centralize a lot of the training, and we did that through a formal onboarding program and a controlled training environment.”
On top of that, Jeremy also standardized TTI’s onboarding foundation. “Now, our new hires don’t physically join their department until they’ve completed the first three weeks of training. This lets us ease people into things, rather than just setting them up at a desk. Once they’ve completed this foundation, they start to specialize.”
Unsurprisingly, this new approach to L&D was very well-received. “It wasn’t exactly a hard sell to take a big chunk of the work burden away from managers,” jokes Jeremy. “But we really had to make sure we delivered. Now, we take care of about 80% of the employee training. It’s more manageable for everyone, and our expectations are clearer. We’re getting better every month.”
“It wasn’t exactly a hard sell to take a big chunk of the work burden away from managers. But we really had to make sure we delivered."
For Jeremy, a big part of shifting the focus of TTI’s L&D approach has been to set clear metrics for training activities, and to be clear on the expected results. “It’s something we’re continuing to discuss, because the assessment and the evaluation piece is crucial for us.”
“Now, we’re conducting surveys with managers once people in their teams have completed onboarding,” says Jeremy. “We give a bit of runway after trainees have completed their tasks, because we want to give them the chance to establish themselves and demonstrate what they’ve learned.”
“We ask a short 6-8 questions about how well trainees are prepared, and how advanced their systems and industry knowledge has become. It’s a natural way for us to measure progress, and we’ve been getting some good feedback, about 8.5 out of 10. That tells us we’re making a good impact, but we have some room to improve, too.”
As Jeremy explains, it isn’t enough to simply set an approach to L&D and let things run their course. Instead, companies need to constantly look for gaps in employee capability, and find new ways for people to learn collaboratively.
“We’re looking for manager feedback about gaps in certain capabilities, or even in overall organizational philosophies,” says Jeremy. “We want to make sure we’re tightening things up and addressing every possible learning area as effectively as we can.”
These constant adjustments help L&D to stay current, and make sure employee training reflects the reality of work at TTI. “At a practical level, getting feedback from managers allows us to know exactly where we need to focus our training,” says Jeremy.
“This way, we can get our arms around any major gaps, including revisiting any subjects we might have missed. It helps people improve over time, no matter which part of the business they’re in.”
Thanks again to Jeremy for taking the time to share his experiences with us!
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