TJ interviews: Harvard Business Publishing's Diane Belcher

Written by Jon Kennard on 24 July 2019 in Interviews
Interviews

We interview Diane Belcher from Harvard Business Publishing.

Reading time: 5 minutes.

What training can L&D teams offer line managers to help them prepare employees for the future of work?

In a recent survey in partnership with Degreed, which examined over 700 professionals on how today’s employees are approaching learning it was found that learners are very self-aware. The survey revealed that 85% of them know what their skill gaps are, and 82% know what skills they need to advance their careers.

But they don’t feel nearly as confident that their managers understand their skill gaps: only 61% believed their managers know what their skill gaps are. Combine that with only 26% of respondents noting that they sought advice from their HR, training, or learning team, you have a real opportunity for L&D to improve the connections among managers, employees, and L&D.

For starters, managers need to make opportunities for feedback as accessible and regular as the learning opportunities. Most managers today are still relying on the annual performance review.

But more consistent check-ins, in-the-moment feedback, creating job plans, and recommending resources for learning can really help managers not only close the gaps but become active participants in the development of their employees.

In what ways is L&D becoming outdated?

Let’s start with the good news: Employees are spending time on learning on their own. That’s a great thing for both organisations and L&D. L&D isn’t necessarily becoming outdated. This conversation is more about 'yes, and' when it comes to learning at organisations.

managers need to make opportunities for feedback as accessible and regular as the learning opportunities.

There is a lot about how learning has traditionally been done—occasional, structured, L&D-led—that not only works but also is needed for organissations to succeed in a complex business world. But what is becoming clear is that learner behaviour has changed, and they’re expecting learning opportunities that meet those needs.

To continue pushing relevant training programs, L&D teams must take notice of how integrating these learner behaviours will benefit their organisations. This type of mindset shift will help L&D programs to capitalise on the engagement of learners and reduce the risk of becoming 'outdated'.

What kind of learner-driven L&D experiences help to address individual skills gaps?

Providing quality content and guidance. Even though research demonstrates that the workforce is actively engaging with learning, it doesn’t mean that individuals don’t want assistance.

Activities like articles, books, videos, podcasts, etc. – learning tools that are more personalised and self-directed with every day access – are being used and accessed much more frequently than some of the tools provided by organisations’ L&D/HR teams.

 

61% of survey respondents cited that aligning learning to their gaps would be the most helpful for them and 48% said they could use help with assessments to find out where they need improvement. So L&D teams have an opportunity here to create even more value for their organisations by ensuring that employees are getting the most from the learning they’re already doing.

To do so, L&D needs to think about learner-driven experiences that consistently encourage and engage learners. That means experiences that:

  • Make learning efficient and effective
  • Keep employees engaged in the learning process
  • Keep learning top of mind for people
  • Encourage individuals throughout the organisation to make learning a habit
  • Enable people to retain what they’ve learned and keep applying it at work

How are leaders today evaluating training success?

Impact measurement is still a sticking point for a lot of organisations. 24% of organisations are measuring the business impact of their L&D initiatives, which is up from 19% in 2016.

But overwhelmingly the main route to impact measurement is via the satisfaction survey. That said, L&D organisations are not ignoring the need to measure impact, and they’re starting to think about it in different ways.

One of the ways in which L&D is thinking about impact is becoming more data-driven. That concept is especially important when you start to implement some solutions that take advantage of these more learner-driven behaviours. Data becomes a key driver in understanding learner behaviour as well as evaluating the success of your programs.



Here are a few ways you can help L&D think about data:.

  • Identifying needed skills: Measuring the disparities between how managers are rating their employees’ skills versus how employees see themselves helps us identify skills gaps and better decide where we need to provide more learning resources..
  • Understanding learner preferences:  It’s important to know the preferences learners have around content type and format. If we understand which content garners the highest ratings, where learning tasks are most likely to be completed, and over what time frame, we’re in a better position to provide the right resources.
  • Tracking program health: Data that provides the number of active users and new adopters can show that you are creating the behaviours needed for a culture of learning. Another interesting health check is looking at how active the program-related social interaction is. How many people share content is a good proxy for how engaged your learners are, and how valuable they find the resources provided. Understanding program health provides the insights you need to decide where and how to expand your program.
  • Engaging new learners: Health check information can help guide your marketing decisions. It can tell you how your current marketing is working, and where you should be doing more. For example, you may want to reach out to new learners who’ve just come on board and offer suggestions on what to delve into next.

Any additional tips on ways companies can empower the workforce? 

With employees taking more of a DIY approach to learning, it is imperative that L&D provide guidance that will enable employees to effectively take control of their learning. And employees are looking for that guidance.

There are solutions available that provide learners with daily learning feeds focused on their own interests—as well as the interests of those they follow—and the ability to join groups and make their own recommendations, while also giving L&D leaders opportunities to help them master skills through curated pathways.

Predefined and customisable learning pathways can be personalised to address key business issues, providing the organisation the ability to pinpoint specific skills and areas for growth.  

There’s a real opportunity here for L&D to lead the charge to leverage skills they already have to provide guidance and insight into how employees can close their skill gaps and move their organisations – and their own careers – forward.

 

About the interviewee

Diane Belcher is managing director of product management at Harvard Business Publishing.

 

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