Stop Taking Orders; Start Being An Operational Partner!

Stop Taking Orders; Start Being An Operational Partner!
Summary: Many learning practitioners wait for operational departments to come to them dictating what type of training they need. Stop that! You're hired as the learning expert so take back control by being proactive and change this perception. Get out of your office and learn what your internal clients need.

3 Ways To Start Being An Operational Partner

Surveys repeatedly reveal that 12% to 15% of employees apply the skills from the training they receive. This means that more than 85% of employee needs aren't effectively identified before developing a learning effort.

To avoid being part of this statistic, many practitioners often seek out the latest learning technologies to engage learners. Even though there are some technologies that may help, they don’t address the root cause.

If you’re like many learning departments, you dutifully sit in your office working away developing – what you believe –are effective and engaging learning offerings. And with eLearning, your creativity blossoms thinking about all of the various ways you can get people to engage the content.

Sitting in your office limits you to identifying actual business needs. The reality goes something like this; an operational manager approaches L&D saying they need training. The manager describes the issue and quickly concludes, based on their superficial assumptions, the type of training that their people need. What they want from you is a course offered in a non-intrusive way.

This scenario makes you an order-taker, not the subject expert or solution provider you’re hired to be. It's time for you to change this perception. Here are 3 elements you must apply:

1. Get Out Of Your Office

The first thing you need to do on Monday morning is to get out of your office. I mean physically get out of your seat and walk into an operational manager’s office! Some you are cringing at the thought, but you need to learn directly from them how they operationalize business expectations.

This helps you develop better awareness for their needs, provides clarity around their purpose, and allows you an opportunity to build a proactive relationship to improving employee performance.

2. Leverage Technology

Next, leverage eLearning technology to work for you. You’re eager to bring in new eLearning technology, and guess what – your business leaders will probably support it.

But what’s the catch? You must use it to deliver value. How? By addressing two fundamental elements: one is using the technology to engage people and the other is to track and report the engagement in relation to business expectations.

One of our clients' sales team discovered their overall sales performance showed a declining trend. Working closely with the learning team, they discovered many recent sale representatives had difficulty in various stages of the sales process. In addition to the existing sales training tutorials, they developed simulated sales scenarios representatives could access on the road to overcome their challenges. The technology reported and tracked what scenarios they accessed and the frequency. This allowed the learning team to individually coach those who required greater attention.

eLearning technology is a wonderful thing. But keep in mind that it can work for you, as well as against you. When integrated well, it should facilitate and support the learning needs. When not, it’s usually a result of using an inappropriate tool or using the tool inappropriately.

3. Align With Operational Metrics

The third element is to align with operational metrics. Every operational leader must account for specific performance outcomes. They refer to these results as Key Performance Indicators or KPIs.

KPIs are relatively easy to find. It begins with a conversation with any operational manager, as I mentioned in the first point. Trust me, they will be more than happy to share this information with you.

Use existing technology tracking the operational KPIs to isolate performance trends. Identify areas not meeting performance expectations. Then, meet again with the operational manager to determine precise employee skills gaps correlating to the declining performance.

In the previous sales example, the sales director had to achieve specific sales KPIs. The learning team analyzed the last 6 months of data and was able to identify declining sales trends. They compared it to the previous fiscal period to develop appropriate and relevant learning sale scenarios.

The common theme for these 3 points is simple. Your objective is to become a valued internal consultant. Effective consultants begin every performance analysis continually asking a myriad of questions and always asking why to the previous answer. This is referred to as root-cause analysis. It's something many learning practitioners must revisit and make it a regular habit moving forward.

Do this, and you’ll be in demand as a proactive operational partner shedding the valueless perception of order-taker.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about how you can do the same for your company, please contact us. We'd enjoy hearing from you. We're always seeking topics that shake the status quo. Who knows? It may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article.

For more, please visit my recent LinkedIn Learning ( eLearning courses "Gaining Internal Buy-in For eLearning", "Increasing Engagement with Elearning Programs", "Foundations of Corporate Learning" and "Train-the-Trainer" courses designed for both recent and seasoned trainers.

When it comes to what leaders expect, don’t always believe what you hear. Recognize how leaders perceive the role of training within the organization and what they expect. They know training is essential, but it’s up to you to prove them right. This is your time to shine. #alwaysbelearning