When those not in L&D or Training are overseeing your learning system

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When your car needs repairs, who do you go and see? Likely a mechanic who has the knowledge and expertise (you hope) to solve it. When you have an issue with your lights at your home, who do you call? An electrician, who has the knowledge and expertise, oh and skills to solve it.

Your computer doesn’t work, who do you call? Someone whose skills and expertise can fix it.

In fact, in your day to day life, when there are problems with your electronics, car, bike, plumbing, pool, yard sprinklers, even marriage challenge – you go to an expert, someone who has the knowledge, the skills and expertise to work thru it, and ideally resolve it.

What you do not do, is go and select the person walking down the street. Nor do you ask, Jen, who has a green thumb, but no experience in landscaping design. You may say, well, I will just watch YouTube and figure it out from there. If you have zero skills around your specific vehicle and the latest computer chips in it, are you going to trust a “car expert” on YouTube to solve it?

What if Mollie, the head of customer service is designated to provide learning to all the employees, because the head of HR just fired err laid off the entire L&D department, including the person overseeing it? Oh by the way, Mollie has no experience in effective learning or training, never worked in either job or knows any modalities. Kirkpatrick? Nope. Gagne? Does he still play baseball for the Twins? Training techniques – that work? Sorry, no time to search past the first page of Google, plus how do I know this information is relevant?

Wait, there is Steve. Steve runs marketing, and he is buying a learning system for his area, but sales will access it too. No worry, Sandra the head of sales knows a thing or two about sales training. She was after all, a former sales rep and had to train new sales people.

Neither of them though have any actual L&D experience – no background in organizational development. Yet, no problem, because this is part employees, and sales training is more about the customer. Yet, for effective customer training, even sales training, you want someone with an actual background in training to oversee it. They will or should know various training methodologies and ideally have at least a foundation around instructional design, or learning/training approaches that achieve results for your customers, and even your employees.

Okay, okay. HRIS is overseeing the learning system. You see, there isn’t an L&D department, OR wait, the person who runs HR, has decided that since this is a technology system, it falls under HRIS. Maybe somebody who is in charge of IT, and who oversees various systems at your company, believes that the learning system should slide under them, and the people running it – overseeing it, are in IT.

This occurs every day. Not once in a blue moon, but frequently. You may say to yourself, what’s the big deal, I mean they just need to add employees to the system, run a few reports, and that’s it. You may think, that someone in HRIS, can wing it with creating “courses” in the learning system, assign roles to various managers, and some other items, because it looks easy enough, plus they have technology experience, with the HRIS platform.

That thinking is creating a disturbing trend, that while vendors see it, they actually do not see the bigger problem, nor what they need to do with the system to offset it.

The Trend

20% – as in Twenty Percent. That is the estimate I have come up with based on a sample of folks who oversee learning systems. Sure it is based on a certain sample size, but any data you see is always based on a sample size that is indicative of the total whole.

20% of the people who are overseeing the learning system, at your company, association, business, organization, entity, whatever, who ZERO learning or training experience or background. They have ZERO knowledge around effective e-learning, very unlikely to know the term WBT (web-based training) why it was created, what are the benefits of it, versus say F2F (Face to Face) instruction (on-site). They do not know that classroom management or classroom, means the physical classroom, and not a virtual one.

They are not aware of what are the benefits of self-paced e-learning versus assigned learning They are not the experts in learning or training.

However, they are the ones who are in charge of the learning/training of your employees, customers, combo and members.

Whom to blame?

I’m not blaming them. It isn’t there fault. It is because someone, somewhere at your company, decided that the person in HRIS, or HR, or IT, or Marketing or Sales or Product can handle this role, fine and easily. Who cares about actual background in organizational development for L&D, I mean, who even knows that that really means?

Who cares about training, and its impact on customer education – which correlates to higher retention of customers? We make a good product, they will buy again, and those videos are fine. We do not need anyone with a background in training.

Why have an L&D or Training department? HR can handle it all.

These folks, these individuals who made these decisions – and are very likely the head or second in charge of the respective departments/divisions, would never in a million years higher someone to fix their plumbing, who has no background in plumbing.

They wouldn’t want to send their kids to a school, where the teacher’s background isn’t in teaching. I mean, what do they really need to know? Just hand out a text book, read from the blackboard, or better yet, use a learning system. OH, wait, Zoom!

You might think I am overreacting, but, the folks who are taking the brunt of it, isn’t the person who decided this was a wonderful idea – it is your employees, or customers or members.

Tie-in to the Learning System

Okay, this is going to get a bit tricky.

Vendors are seeing this trend. They may be dealing with it right now. But, what they are not seeing is the entire picture and its impact on their system, and have they develop the system, provide additional assistance, expand their overall strategy to offset this.

What do folks ideally want?

Ignore the use cases here. Focus on someone who lacks learning and training knowledge and expertise who has been tossed into the fire, at no choice of their own, and may have other duties – you know the ones they were hired for, too.

If you are one of these folks, I want to say, I get it, and yes, it is bad biz practice on whoever made this decision, but you are not alone.

That said, what is clear is that due in part to do this, the ideal is a system that is fully automated. Add the learners – the data file. Add the courses or ideally buy 3rd party content from a marketplace, and click it is in. Do the basics of what you need to do, and make sure to send reports. Look at the data, but send it so someone else – the manager to figure it all out. If our employees are telling you there are problems with online learning, and you do not have someone from L&D or Training or even someone with extensive e-learning experience with training or L&D overseeing it – and thus can read the data/metrics and tap it for its power, well, don’t blame the system.

Nor the folks who are being told they have to be the administrator, or possibly someone in marketing, who makes the business decisions around workforce onboarding and learning.

What should I as a vendor do?

There are a lot of options here, but I will hit what I see are essentials to offset this trend – which I do not believe will shrink, in fact, I can see in the next five years, an increase of three to five percent, to that number, maybe seven percent depending on the industry/vertical and the impact of the Great Resignation.

As a vendor

  • Recognize the “automate desire” – Choose your defaults wisely. Nowadays most people keep the defaults as is, and do not change them.
  • Terminology should be clear – so that anyone can understand what it means. This will require you to training your own salespeople on various terms in training, L&D and especially e-learning. For example, people with a background in L&D or Training, will know that “classroom” means F2F on-site – physical location. They will see ILT as on-site at a physical location. If it is online – webinar, for example, it is vILT.
  • UX on the admin side, should be agile and modern – simple yet strong as I say. Drag and drop, tie automatically to Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud (majority of vendors do not). Simplify the process for uploading courses/content that has already been created. One vendor provides a FTP, explains not only how to use it, but helps the customer via “remote viewing”. Hands-on is a need. And remote viewing is a common modality, when your cpu isn’t working and tech person needs access.
  • Establish managed services – I’ve talked about this in the past – this service is PERFECT and IDEAL for those who do not have a background in L&D or Training. Oh, it is a yearly flat fee, that won’t break the bank.
  • If you offer skills capabilities and your own content OR via various 3rd party partners, skill mapping is the way to go. You (the vendor) maps all the skills to the specific courses/content, so that the person who selects course X or skills Y and B (as the admin) does not have to worry which of these should be mapped to which ones. You can do it with 3rd party content, ahead of time. And if they upload their own content – your system can map it to the skills OR you as the vendor do it for them – as part of your managed services.

Biz Skills, from Biz Library, which rolls out early next year, does this – every skill is already mapped to the appropriate course or courses (which comes with the system), eliminating the “what should I do, quandary?”

Degreed which launched Degreed Intelligence, an add-on suite (fee-based) is made up of three products. One of the products, I think is ideal for this audience of non L&D and Training folks. And, what really caught my eye, wasn’t the data the product showed, rather a feature within it, called “Guidebooks”. It will appear automatically in your system, if you purchase Degreed Intelligence.

Guidebooks to me is the big WOW factor. And the moment I saw it, my mind raced with what is possible with it. From the non experts in L&D or Training side, the guidebooks are going to be great. Think of a “book” or “summary” if you will, that is a template. You can screen capture any graph in the data results, and place it into the template in various areas. You can add your own text or go with what comes with it.

You can publish the guidebooks to other formats, including directly into PowerPoint, with a click.

The two I think folks would use the most, will be the Skills Adoption one and the Skills Initiative one. But the executive summary, would be a quick one as well.

I also found that for the guidebooks some of the terms were defined, and the graphs were easy to figure out – okay some were.

The point is, it is perfect not just for someone who is not strong with this skill set and who is in L&D or Training, but also, for anyone who lacks that skill or series of skills.

Bring me in Coach

Remember this audience, not the Titans!

Recognize though that these folks will need a learning coach. Someone who knows L&D or Training. Who has those existing skill sets. For me, I would hire someone who knows e-learning (online learning at the corporate level) and has a background in Training.

Not someone in sales, who shows the system. Not a systems architect. Not customer support.

This person is someone the client, can tap into ant any time, who can assist them, from a learning/training standpoint with effective approaches and techniques within e-learning, specifically effective online learning – who knows the background around WBT (an added plus), and knows how to leverage the data to provide and more importantly, establish a successful e-learning program via the learning system.

I’d have this person as part of my managed services OR as part of the system itself – think a coach add-on for free! And it is for the length of the contract. Unlimited usage if you will.

Bottom Line

As a vendor you must take the lead – make the changes, understand what is really taking place in the market, and expand into a managed services approach and willing to add a coach, who has the background, skills and expertise in learning/training, then you will be able to deal more effectively with this trend.

You must become more cognizant and realize that it isn’t just L&D and Training buying the system or even overseeing it.

It’s now


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