Learning and development departments are commonly perceived in companies as separate entities in charge of delivering training instead of a critical part of the business. Employees often dread reminders that they have to fulfill training requirements to remain in compliance. They have a lot of work to do, it can wait until tomorrow, or this report cannot wait are some excuses to postpone training until the last possible minute.
In many companies, L&D is really a group that only delivers compliance-related training and rarely breaks away from that role to offer opportunities for employees to gain or strengthen skills or even to reskill. As learning and development professionals, we therefore shouldn’t be surprised if employees dread the thought of spending an entire morning, afternoon, or day in a classroom or online hearing information “because they have to.”
Let’s meet Matilda.
Matilda is the training coordinator for a hospital. She’s friendly and outgoing and knows everyone by name. She is an expert in using the hospital’s learning management system to track compliance with training requirements, continued education hours, and license renewals. She creates and distributes the monthly training schedule and reminds employees and their supervisors of when they must take something. Constantly.
As the end of the year approaches, Matilda has noticed that employees seem to disappear whenever she enters an office or even the break room. It’s as if they expect her to remind them again about something they have to do. She is beginning to feel alienated.
Have you been in Matilda’s situation? What have you done? What can she do?
Employees associate Matilda with compliance-based training. They clearly do not see the value that learning and development adds to their capacity to do their work or to the business. For them, training is an obligation instead of something to look forward to because it is an opportunity to interact with others or gain insights on a topic of interest.
Instead of complaining, Matilda asked a few trusted colleagues to give her input about what was going on. Here are some of the comments she received.
“You are always sending reminders of what we need to do without giving a thought to our workload.”
“Everything is always scheduled for the worst times in our business cycle.”
“We often feel like school children in those training sessions.”
“We see the same people doing the same thing all the time. Can you get new people?”
“I don’t like spending a whole day on something just because we have to check a box.”
“For a change, we would like to choose what we want to learn about, or at least, when we want to do it.”
Clearly, learning and development had a negative reputation among employees. Matilda decided to examine further the current state of the hospital’s learning and development department. She confirmed that the same facilitators always delivered same topics. She also scheduled trainings based on the availability of the facilitators instead of participants’ preferences. Her department did not have a budget for non-compliance-related training, so no skills-related or developmental training had been offered for a long time. Requests for external learning events or coaching were only approved for middle management levels and above. Further, learning and development’s section in the hospital’s intranet only had information about upcoming mandatory training, and very few employees spent time there.
Equipped with the feedback and results of her analysis, Matilda made a business case for her manager to revamp how learning and development supported the hospital. She made the following suggestions.
Whether your company already has a learning and development department or is in the process of forming one, here are some recommendations for establishing (or re-establishing) department personnel as experts who contribute to the business.
Published in ATD LINKS, November 19th 2019