As an L&D leader, do you ever feel that you could be achieving more, but you feel trapped by the concrete expectations that your stakeholders harbor?
Then you’re in the right place for advice and insights as we share an inspiring story of how one L&D team broke down barriers to shift their training mindset to go beyond learning metrics, all in the name of performance orientation.
In this L&D Podcast episode, my co-host, Guy Wallace, and I sit down with Teemu Lilja and Fredrik Peterson Herfindal to speak about their pivot to performance at Swedish telecommunications company, Telia, and how this has led to incredible business impact.
Read on to hear about Teemu and Fredrik’s “aha moment” that led them to focus on performance outcomes, their six-step analysis methodology to impact business rationale, and a concrete example of performance orientation in action.
So, what was Teemu and Fredrik’s “aha moment” that led them to shift to performance-led L&D?
As Teemu explains, their strategy before pivoting to performance-orientated L&D was largely focused on traditional eLearning and classroom training.
“We either did two-day classroom training or eLearnings that had pretty low engagement,” he says. “If we really wanted to go big, we would have learners do eLearning before attending our two-day classroom training.”
Following these trainings, the team would measure how many people attended and what they liked about the content and the trainer.
“We did this because that’s how we were taught to do things. In reality, all we were doing was gathering people in rooms, trying to fill their heads with information without any kind of plan or strategy for applying it back on the job,” says Teemu.
Teemu and Fredrik had their “aha moment” in 2019 after listening to the L&D Podcast, and as Teemu explains, the timing was perfect because it happened at the same time they began to question their role as a business partner and what that really meant for them.
“We were delivering training that everyone seemed to like or even love, but what were we actually bringing to the table? What impact did we make? The answer was nothing, really,” he says.
“We started to evaluate our processes and the outputs we produced, and the business outcomes of our efforts. That made us understand we had to change our mindset.”
We were delivering training that everyone seemed to like or even love, but what were we actually bringing to the table? What impact did we make? The answer was nothing, really.
And because they wanted better results, Teemu and Fredrik motivated themselves to make the pivot, helping them future-proof their L&D strategy.
For more practical recommendations on how to approach performance-led L&D, check out our four-step playbook.
There was no internal or external pressure on Teemu and Fredrik to pivot, but they had noticed a worrying trend affecting L&D teams in tough times.
“We were a big team,” explains Teemu, “when companies are doing well, leadership puts money into learning and development. But when things are difficult, L&D departments are often one of the first departments to be cut. We needed to show some hard evidence that we were not the department that should be cut,” he says.
Expert tip 1: Performance-led L&D is the ticket to demonstrating impact on your business. But as Teemu explains, “you will need to do it yourself because no one will ask you to.”
So, how do Teemu and Fredrik carry out the analysis required to impact performance?
As Fredrik explains, their analysis methodology is about finding and shaping the rationale behind the desired performance outcomes.
Where do you start? First, you need to understand the rationale behind your stakeholders’ training request.
The analysis journey begins, Fredrik explains, with their stakeholders submitting a request for training.
“The first conversation is crucial to get right because usually stakeholders already have a picture in their head of what the problem is, and they’ve already come up with a solution like a workshop, a training, or an eLearning,” he says.
You need to steer the conversation from that training request to one about business problems and performance outcomes. Teemu and Fredrik use a simple and easy-to-use template called the Program Performance Path from the Brinkerhoff methodology.
Expert tip 2: Teemu recommends that you have these conversations with stakeholders and target groups, and even though they’re expecting you to take an order for training, you need to steer the conversation to problems and performance outcomes instead.
Next, Fredrik explains that they dig into discovery and find out whether it is an actual problem and if they can make any impact.
“We make the process data-driven and measurable. We want to know how to prioritize the desired performance outcomes and how it's connected to the business strategy,” he says. “This is important because we know that if it's not tied to a business problem we can directly impact, the training won't make any difference at all.”
We want to know how to prioritize the desired performance outcomes and how it's connected to the business strategy. If the request is not tied to a business problem we can directly impact, the training won't make any difference at all.
Next, Teemu and Fredrik map out the groups of people they want to influence with their intervention.
“We ask detailed questions about the target groups, which is brilliant because that's usually when our stakeholders realise that they don't actually know themselves , and that is enough for us. From that, we will say, ‘Yes, Miss or Mr. Stakeholder, we will look into this, but we'll need to talk to the people doing the work before we get started’,” he says.
Fredrik finds that getting this acceptance going forward makes starting the analysis easier because now they have buy-in from the stakeholder who understands that they can help with the problem.
In this step, Teemu and Fredrik focus on understanding the workflow, which can be one-to-one interviews or workshops with impact groups and SMEs, depending on the case.
“This step is about finding the points of need,” explains Fredrik. “Trying to understand the whole end-to-end process, and then we can show them the desired performance outcomes, describe the business rationale behind it, and ask what they think makes sense in the context of their work.”
“By involving target groups in our analysis, we create ambassadors and champions for L&D initiatives, which it's great,” he says.
By involving target groups in our analysis, we create ambassadors and champions for L&D initiatives.
Expert tip 3: Fredrik recommends that you put your efforts into the analysis because that makes you design the right things for the right people at the right time and will make everything you do measurable, taking you away from the training box.
The next step is layering the quantitative input over the qualitative analysis you’ve already done.
“We bring all the data and insights together as a story to our stakeholders and give them a recommendation that should solve their problem,” says Fredrik. “In big projects, that can look like a business case with the specified cost for resources or predictions on ROIs.”
“But usually, it's a couple of slides with what we found during discovery and what we would recommend trying on a small scale,” he says.
Finally, Teemu and Fredrik design and develop the solution as a minimum viable product, run a pilot, and measure the impact against the reference group.
“This is essentially a report that we present to the stakeholders, and then we give them a new recommendation to either scale, redesign, or try again,” Fredrik explains. “This methodology and focus on analysis not only makes us feel more confident in moving onto the design but enables us to be taken more seriously by the business because we’re solving a real problem.”
So, that’s Teemu and Fredrik’s performance analysis methodology, but is there a real-life example of how they have made a measurable impact on performance?
As Teemu explains, a perfect example of their performance methodology in action was when Telia acquired a large media company a couple of years ago.
“The sales targets for selling premium sport packages doubled in one week,” he says, “I had a chat with the Sales Director, and he gave me the first-ever mission to increase sales on a KPI that was super important to him. So, we went all in.”
Teemu and the team started their analysis and engaged with top performers, as well as medium and low performers selling these premium packages within the retail sector. They also talked with the telemarketing and field marketing units.
“We realised that we had overestimated our sales reps’ interest in sports. For some people, NHL and NBA are just two different combinations of letters. So, even if we got that extra question into the dialogue with customers, reps didn't understand the answer from the customer because the customer knew more than them,” he explains.
And so the problem was identified. Teemu and the team needed to help the sales reps start this dialogue about sports and make it easy and natural even though they lacked interest in the subject. “We knew that to get the impact on scale,” says Teemu, “we had to design this into the workflow.”
When visiting the stores, Teemu explains, all customers get a queue ticket, and when it is their turn, they come up to the desk.
“The user story was brilliant,” he says, “a customer now takes this queue ticket, and while they're waiting, they see all of these different screens with sport content, and when it’s their turn to go to the desk, they see a voting box that we designed.”
“So, the customers vote with their queue ticket on which screen they looked at while they were waiting: football, hockey, golf, etc. For example, if the customer chooses football, that gives the sales rep a reason to ask more about which football league the customer is following.”
Teemu and the team designed a performance support asset—a physical document that the sales rep shows to the customer, detailing which football leagues, continuing the above example, can be streamed on Telia’s package vs what their competitors offer.
Here’s the banger. The voting box and the performance support document as a whole had almost zero training! “I think we had 15 minutes of training for the store leaders,” he explains, “not even the sales reps, to make this activity happen. And it almost tripled sales.”
“The point here is that the sales reps didn't know more about the products, services, or packages they were selling, and they weren't more interested in sports after this activity, but they had this process to follow that was perfectly designed into the workflow,” says Teemu.
The point here is that the sales reps didn't know more about the products, services, or packages they were selling, and they weren't more interested in sports after this activity, but they had this process to follow that was perfectly designed into the workflow.
Expert tip 4: Fredrik finds that it all comes down to consistency from a leadership perspective. Stick to the plan, give the employees the right tools, and engage them to really work with the pivot to a performance mindset shift.
Thanks to Fredrik and Teemu for sharing their experience and insights with us! Keen to learn more from L&D experts? Check out the episode where David and Guy speak to Carl Binder about how he and his team redefined and evolved a groundbreaking learning model that makes an impact.
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