Training should always be the last resort for any organisation. Now that may sound like an odd statement, particularly coming from someone who is the head of learning and development but it’s true.
Why is it true? Because in this modern, fast moving world we need to empower people to learn. They need to be helped and enabled to find the information they need, to act the way they need to act, to find the right solution, to learn a skill they need to learn….Instead of thinking in terms of training, we need to think in terms of enablement.
Wikipedia likens the word enablement to empowerment. It also talks about ‘patterns of interaction which allow individuals to develop and grow’. Patterns of interaction, for me, is about the acts that we do that empower and enable individuals and organisations.
If you think about what training represents, it’s imparting knowledge or a skill. It’s a very formulaic process and it’s obviously very useful in certain situations and for certain types of learning. But it’s an old learning model.
Let’s look at it in the context of financial services, the industry I am in. The Financial Conduct Authority is one of our regulators and it used to be very prescriptive in its expectations of what people had to do. Training was great for imparting the required knowledge standards. The world has moved on hugely however. No regulating body can keep up with the constant pace of change. We can’t govern everything any more – the world moves too quickly. So we’ve had to flip everything on its head. We’re having to make the shift from telling people what they need to do to empowering people and allowing them to use common sense. We have to provide them with enabling tools. Trainers have gone from telling people about the process and how to follow it to a much more scenario-based approach.
This isn’t just happening in the workplace either – it’s happening in schools as well. Think about the book Flip your Classroom. It talks about how classrooms should be used for exploring. Any learning environment should be about exploring, questioning and challenging, as opposed to imparting knowledge. The imparting knowledge piece happens outside of the classroom.
We have five generations working alongside each other now, all with their own expectations and needs. They expect a variety of methods and delivery mechanisms. There’s a huge depth and breadth of need. Often people treat their learning needs as a shopping list. Now I’m really against catalogues and you won’t find one in our internal management system. You can search for subject matter, of course, and it will give you courses, learning resources etc, but people cannot find a shopping list within the regular management system. There’s a reason for that.
You need to provide people with tools for them to truly understand their needs. These diagnostic tools come in many shapes and forms and they enable people to understand what it is that they need, how much they need of it and how deep they need to go. These tools help them make the right decisions, also taking into account issues such as how much time they have, their personal circumstances etc.
Of course, sometimes there’s a genuine training need and that’s when we, as HR professionals, can really show our strategic power. It’s all about proper diagnosis and questioning in order to get the right outputs. We have a Learning Support Request process that captures really useful information that we can use and show individuals and the organisation.
It’s also important to educate the organisation about enablement. Our Learning Support Request helps there because we have the data to show them – here’s what you’ve asked for, here’s what has been turned into training, here’s everything about a process update or tool…
I’ll give you an example of how enablement has really worked on an organisational level. Our right to work checks weren’t as robust as they could have been and the knee jerk reaction was: “We need to train every recruiting manager on the right to work.” When we looked at it and diagnosed the issue, actually the output we needed was a tick box guide, a tool that managers could use at the point of need to check a person’s right to work. That’s us taking a training request and giving the organisation the tool that was needed.
The other big thing regarding organisations and enablement is the phrase ‘access to knowledge is the new super power’. It used to be ‘knowledge is power’ but it’s shifted to this new phrase. Timely access to knowledge is so important. There’s a constant volume of stuff going on, from a product perspective, from a systems perspective, from a regulation perspective, from a market perspective…so organisations need just in time learning. We have a tool that fits behind the system, which people can access at the point of need.
There’s a lot more I could say about enablement, but I’ll stop on this last point: when you try to create enablement, everything has to align to the organisation’s values set. Everything we say or do needs to be hooked to the values set. That is important.