L&D Podcast recap expert panel
Training & Learning

The One Question Driving Our Expert Panel's Pivot to Performance-Driven L&D

So, you want to actively make a difference in your organization and more reliably affect performance, but you’re unsure how to get those conversations with stakeholders going? 

You’re in the right place.

When I was running the UK learning and development department at Disney, I asked my mentor what I could do to ignite business conversations with my stakeholders rather than learning conversations. He said: ask them “how’s business?”

And that was the answer. It’s amazing the conversations you have when you are not talking about learning and you are shifting perceptions of yourself and your value.

Such conversations arose in the seventh episode when Guy Wallace and I asked our expert panelists Anne-Marie Burbidge, Dawn Snyder, Sebastian Tindall, and Steve Villachica how they go about asking ‘how’s business?’ in their performance-orientation spheres.

Read on to hear advice from our expert panelists that includes an approach for your first pivot to performance and the plausibility of retrofitting courses into performance solutions–look out for little pearls of wisdom along the way.

First, Anne-Marie Burbidge, Associate at OpenBlend, speaks about getting your stakeholders to make that pivot to performance with you.

3 tips for convincing stakeholders to pivot from learning

As Anne-Marie explains, it’s best to start small—you can always scale up with data and evidence later. She outlined her advice in three parts.

1. Start with the data

First, Anne-Marie would encourage people to start with the data they currently have. What is the current state and what do you want to change? And if you’re not doing anything yet, identify where you want to make an impact. “Because it's much easier,” she explains, “to demonstrate progress or demonstrate impact if you know the point at which you started.”

2. Empathize with your stakeholders

Next, when it comes to convincing stakeholders, ask yourself what they need to hear from you. Put yourself in their shoes. Starting with something that is less risky is easier for getting the person on board than trying something different. Once you have your data, you can reassure them.

3. Go for it, then do it all again

Finally, give it a go. “If you're gonna fail,” says Anne-Marie, “fail fast, iterate, learn, build, keep going, and go again. You can go around that cycle several times in the time it takes you to scope out design, roll out, and get feedback on a training solution.” 

So, build as you go and use those stories as your successes which you can use to convince stakeholders.

Anne-Marie’s little pearl of wisdom for pivoting to performance: “Just make a start somewhere, and have a go, because if you wait for permission you'll talk yourself out of it. So, find an ally, find a small thing. Be a little bit braver.”

Looking for even more expert insights? Find out how L&D leaders at Amazon, WhatsApp, Klaviyo and more are driving growth with the right L&D strategy.

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Just make a start somewhere, and have a go, because if you wait for permission you'll talk yourself out of it.

Our next panelist Steve Villachica, Associate Professor of Organizational Performance & Workplace Learning at Boise State University, had some useful recommendations on how to establish buy-in when tackling your very first pivot attempt without a portfolio of completed work.

How to get performance buy-in without a portfolio of work

As Steve explains, growing your sources of business intelligence helps you find opportunities that are ready for that pivot to performance.

Steve’s first approach is to cite your own work including your organizational intelligence efforts and the collection of similar efforts. For example, this might be along the lines of ‘So, we’ve never done it here, but our competitors at ABC did something similar. Here's what they did and how we might be able to do something similar.’

Grow your sources of organizational intel.

The next approach is about making decisions about the level of risk. If this is your first pivot to performance, consider focusing on something that is minimal risk; or make the hard decision to do something with higher risk. Sometimes people are more willing to try something risky!

With the options gathered, you’ve got to work with your stakeholders, let them be a part of that decision-making process, and pose their options to them. Let them know you’re on their side whichever option they choose. 

Steve’s little pearl of wisdom: “Grow your sources of organizational intel.”

This is great stuff, I hear you saying, but how can you approach the issue when stakeholders don’t necessarily want you to create or deliver the perfect experience or program?

Our next panelist, Sebastian Tindall, Head of L&D at Vitality, outlines his approach to guiding stakeholders towards the perfect experience.

Related: Steve Villachica, How to Put Your Performance Improvement Plan to Work

Finding the problem to facilitate the perfect solution

For Sebastian, when people ask you for training, they are asking you for a solution. “They're seeing you as an outlet for a training solution,” he says, “but they aren't seeing you as a department that can support the diagnosis of issues.”

Here’s how Sebastian goes about solving the problem.

1. Diagnose the root cause

If you can position yourself as a function that can diagnose the root cause of a problem you are adding more value to the task. Your stakeholders have identified a problem and said, ‘Let’s get L&D to take a look and find out what the problem is.’

2. Get the conversation rolling

In Sebastian’s experience, finding the problem is asking the following questions: so you want training, what do you think that training will solve? What is the problem? How have you quantified it?

“The conversation can just snowball from there,” he explains, “and there are a million ways to deal with that—you can practice it every day and get better at it as of now.”

3. Prioritize pressing business problems

“As L&D professionals,” says Sebastian, “and particularly as strategic leaders, we've got an organizational responsibility to make sure that we're investing our team's time to generate the maximum value.” As a result, L&D teams need to ensure that we prioritize those pressing business problems. If we find those problems then the conversations will quickly flip as well.

Sebastian’s little pearl of wisdom: “Explore what works for your context in your organization. Speak to fellow L&D professionals, take key learnings from these conversations and use them to experiment in your own organization.”

Speak to fellow L&D professionals, take key learnings from these conversations and use them to experiment in your own organization.

So far you’ve managed to get buy-in from your stakeholders and you’re ready to start building the perfect program. But can you retrofit learning solutions like courses and e-learning to become performance solutions?

The answer is revealed by panelist Dawn Snyder, CEO & Managing Principal at Dawn Snyder Associates, sharing her expertise on the importance of gap and performance analysis.

Factors to consider in retrofitting courses into performance solutions

In Dawn’s experience, retrofitting isn’t really different from remodeling. “If you're going to make changes in anything,” she says, “I’d try to capture the value of things that are already done and working.”

When retrofitting, Dawn has found that you need an analysis to understand the gap in performance and the cause(s) of those gaps. In contrast, when you start afresh, you’re solution neutral because it allows you to take advantage of the efficiencies of finding the lowest cost solutions and putting those in place first. 

Dawn advises that you be very clear on the purposes of retrofitting and understand what has changed since the programs were built. “If you've inherited programs that you may not think are effective,” she explains, “I would start with some really good analysis work that can help you justify additional efforts to expand the depth or breadth of the solution.”

Dawn’s little pearl of wisdom: “You have to understand how organizations measure success,” says Dawn, “how performance is measured, and how you can find existing data or create measures that will help you bring your insights to the table.”

Related: Dawn Snyder, Driving Faster Learning with the Right Performance Approach

You have to understand how you can find existing data or create measures that will help you bring your insights to the table.

Thanks again to our panel for sharing their insights and expertise in their pivots to performance! Keen to hear more about measuring the impact of L&D? Check out my session with Kevin M. Yates on how to answer the question, ‘Did that training really work?’ 

Want more peer insights on transforming workplace learning? Sign up to become a member of the L&D Collective, and check out our other #CLOConnect interviews with top L&D leaders on driving growth and scaling culture through Collaborative Learning. Or you can subscribe (below 👇) to our weekly newsletter to receive our latest posts directly in your inbox.