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Missing The Mark: Learning Must Step Up... Or Step Out

When Learning Fails To Deliver Business Impact
Summary: Many practitioners continue to miss the mark and miss opportunities to show learning can make a measurable and positive difference. Don't believe me? Here are some recent real-life examples.

When Learning Fails To Deliver Business Impact

Learning practitioners no longer get a pass. That's it. I said it. Stop playing the victim in the eyes of operational leaders. No reason exists to say training can't make a tangible impact on business results.

Recently, I was at a franchise of a well-known, worldwide fast-food company. While I was enjoying a coffee and burger, a manager and new employee sat in the booth next to mine. To my good fortune, I found myself privileged to overhear a one-on-one training session with an eLearning module. A peek behind the curtain of a famous company.

It quickly went downhill from there with the manager saying things like, "We just need to get through this eLearning stuff", "Don't worry about a lot of this content, it's boring and not relevant but I have to go through it", or when handling customer complaints, "Just try to smile and get rid of them as fast as possible, they can be a nuisance."

Consider the negative consequences that may occur? Imagine if there was a food poisoning outbreak at this restaurant because they "just needed to get through it"? It would impact the chain as a whole. What about the insincerity when dealing with customers? This location may lose this customer returning and bad word-of-mouth among those they know.

Suffice to say, none of this is what I was expecting from a leading fast-food company. It deflated me and, probably because I'm a learning practitioner too, it was a sad moment and lost the opportunity to develop this new employee into a learning champion.

Another example is my and my wife's recent trip to Santa Barbara. We met some friends who insisted that we visit two wineries for tastings. In both instances, employee Learning and Development made a difference at each winery but not for the same reasons. In both instances, we were customers, but we are also learning practitioners.

Naturally, wineries depend on customer discretionary income. This means the clientele have choices. They can choose to spend money at a winery or a variety of other discretionary income activities.

At the first winery, a young lady who was recently hired served us. She explained that she had recently started her job and would do her best to answer our questions. Not the first impression we expected from a reputable winery. We made selections with Kayla's limited assistance. As she poured, we had questions about the wine. Regretfully, the answers Kayla offered were at best, incomplete. Kayla’s lack of attention, experience, and knowledge left us unsatisfied and left us regretting spending money at this winery.

Subsequently, our friends took us to a second winery exceeding our expectations. The experience fulfilled expectations of visiting a winery. We purchased tastings as well the three of us purchased wines for a total sale of close to $500. This is our result of the knowledge and skill of the servers. This clearly shows the positive business impact a learning environment offers. If you like to read more please read: Raise A Glass To Learning.

The final example is Boeing' recent issue with their 737 Max 8 plane. From credible sources, Boeing designed the 737 Max 8 to be similar enough to existing 737s so it could keep the same “type rating”—meaning, as the Seattle Times reported, that pilots who already flew 737s wouldn’t have to be retrained on a new plane and airlines would save a lot of money [1].

What was not clearly disclosed to buyers was that Max 8 is different from the previous 737s. As a result of the significantly new design, Boeing introduced the MCAS system to manage the new design requirements.

Boeing decided pilots didn’t need any new training to understand MCAS. In fact, they didn’t even mention the system in flight manuals. Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the American Airlines pilots union, told Quartz that the training prior to the Lion Air crash for pilots qualified to fly the 737-800 amounted to “an iPad lesson for an hour.” [1]

According to The New York Times, regulators determined that pilots could fly the planes without extensive retraining because they were essentially the same as previous generations. So rather than hours-long training sessions in giant, multimillion-dollar simulators, many pilots instead learned about the 737’s new features on an iPad. Pilots at United Airlines put together a 13-page guide to the 737 Max, which did not mention the MCAS [2].

Each of these examples represents the many missed opportunities where learning could have made a significant difference in the outcomes. Unfortunately, it's sad that in a world where the most valuable business resource is information and knowledge learning practitioners continue to believe their leaders don't value what they offer. Your leaders see tremendous value in learning. Your leaders expect Learning and Development to step up.

As the saying goes... be the change!

Please, share your thoughts and feedback with us. We’d enjoy hearing about your efforts, and who knows? It may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. And please, share your thoughts. Remember, #alwaysbelearning!


[1] A string of missteps may have made the Boeing 737 Max crash-prone

[2] Everything you need to know about the Boeing 737 Max airplane crashes