An X-CLO’s Perspective on Workflow Learning

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In this episode Bob Mosher welcomes Rob Lauber, X-Chief Learning Officer, now Advisor, CEO and Founder at XLO Global, LLC, to discuss how the real goal of any business is solving the organization’s true challenges, while increasing employee performance.

Bob Mosher (BM): This particular episode is in our Strategy Matters series and we could not think of a better person to join us. He is one of the more strategic gentlemen that I know in the L&D space and one of my heroes in this world, Mr. Rob Lauber.

Rob Lauber (RL): Bob, great to be here. “Hero” is a really big statement these days. So, I’d put you in my category as a hero as well.

BM: Thanks Rob. Why don’t you give us a bit of your journey in getting into this space and what you’ve done in the L&D area and we’ll go from there.

RL: I’ve been in L&D for about thirty years now, actually just passing thirty years so kind of frightening. Anyway, I started as a stand-up trainer delivering sales skills training five days a week, forty weeks a year at a conference center south of Atlanta.

From there, I moved into instructional design and worked for Coopers & Lybrand; I then went over to Bell South and worked there from 2000 to 2006. I was at Yum Brands from 2006 to 2014 where I got the chance to lead the global learning and development efforts across their three brands; KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. And then I moved over to McDonald’s, the dark side or the bright side depending on who you were in that conversation, when I did that in 2014. And I led all the learning and development strategy for McDonald’s from 2014 until I retired in October of 2020.

Now, I’m doing my own thing, hanging my own shingle here in quasi-retirement or the next chapter of my life, I guess I would say. I am currently consulting five start-up businesses actually, helping a few businesses with learning strategy and learning transformation.

BM: Excellent. Well, my friend, it is an amazing journey, I’ll tell ya! Rob, I think one of the things I’ve always enjoyed most about our talks in my time with you and listening to you when you spoke once before is you’re probably one of the more pragmatic CLOs I’ve ever met and therefore the learning solutions I’ve watched you architect over your career—I know, surprise!—have been practical. And effective. They speak to performance. Which is obviously what this entire podcast is about.

So, let’s kind of segue a bit into this. You were never enamored by technology and I’ve never seen you chase a trend. Every time you’d open your mouth to talk about your work it would be like, “Well, the business has the following needs.” Tell us a bit about workflow learning and your thoughts around it because you have a really pragmatic view of how it’s played a part in your journey in all that you did.

RL: Yeah, it’s funny because I mentioned Cooper & Lybrand and my 15-month stint there and how influential it was. During those months I got to work with Gloria Gery, who most people on this podcast may or may not know. If you don’t, you should research her, because everything she was working on in the early 90’s is—

BM: Now!

RL: Right? She was just literally almost thirty years ahead of her time in terms of thinking and action. So, we were working in a “human resources outsourced benefits call center,” basically, I would say today. And Copper & Lybrand—PwC now—at the time was toying with setting up an outsourced call center that could handle four or five clients at the time.

And someone would call in and say, “I need to know what my 401K balance is.” This was before the pervasiveness of the internet and what Gloria came in to do was really about “How do we just answer that question as simply as possible?” And when you looked at the peoples’ desks at the time, there were literally five computers and five screens on the desk. And a phone. And the phone call would come in and based on what client it was, you turned to that computer. And you think about that from a scalability perspective. It was wildly inefficient.

And at the time incredibly difficult to execute. And, you know, it was not a sustainable solution. So, what I worked with her on was figuring out how we put a front end over all that that simplifies it so that folks that came in could easily answer the most common questions without having to do a ton of research. And that was really my first experience with what today we’re calling learning in the flow.

It’s all about how do you simplify a task, or how do you design the workspace of the workplace in such a way that people don’t really have to learn—but the answers become readily and easily accessible to them. And for me, it was pretty profound because the conversation was about how do we eliminate the need for training?

BM: Yeah! And that kind of runs in the face of L&D though, right? I mean, this is why I love having this conversation with you, Rob, because so much of it is about preserving training, if you will, or how much we have to train them up on, or there’s so much that you really should know before we ever let them do anything or get near anything. And so what do you say to those who say, “Well, is that really training? Or learning that you are describing?” Or is there a need for it in the context of what you are describing in the experience you’ve had when you’ve implemented solutions like that?

RL: Yeah, this is where the pragmatic side of me comes out because I think the piece for me is it’s about performance, right? And I’ve used this throughout my career to think about. How do I be the contrarian to the practice that I lead inside my business? So, when people come in and say, “I need training,” they are saying, “We want you to build a solution.”

BM: Right!

RL: And so the impulse is to say, “Sure! Let’s go!” As opposed to, “Well, what’s the problem that we’re trying to solve?”

To hear more from Rob on pushing the L&D boundaries, how to measure success, and why he keeps all the options on the table, listen to the full episode.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

Developing Leaders in the Workflow

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In this episode hosts Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson tackle soft skills, specifically leadership, as research shows senior executives are currently spending just 3% of their workday thinking about the future. 

Bob Mosher (BM): I am ecstatic today to be joined by my dear friend and mentor and business colleague, Dr. Con Gottfredson to talk soft skills and leadership. One of the most common myths we get about performance support is, “Oh. It’s procedural. Oh, yeah. We see all this procedural stuff. The old days of embedded technology and software. I get it. I can see why an EPSS would be helpful there. But there’s no way that performance support can be helpful with supporting soft skills.”

Let’s run at this one in a powerful way because it is ridiculous that we have that misunderstanding. Where do you think that comes from, Con?

Con Gottfredson (CG): Well, I think many people’s initial thought about performance support is that it is a job aid that helps you do something.

But goodness gracious, leadership is anything but soft. And we do know that leaders have tactical work that they have to do and that’s crucial for us to understand, because that work can be documented as tasks. They are just principle-based tasks, not procedural.

BM: Well, and I think this is where leadership training falls short. Just look at how many competency-based leadership programs there are—it’s not that we don’t agree that leaders have competencies—but the problem is that for such an important role, for such a crucial training program to any organization, this is one that I think leaves its learners lacking, or wanting maybe more than any other program. Leaders exhibit competencies through performance. Through behavior.

CG: Right! I can’t imagine a leader walking out of a course on being approachable and then going, “Okay, I’m going to be approachable right now.” Being approachable has to do with how you are in the context of the work that you do. Just like all the other competencies out there, they are applied in the doing part of leadership, not in isolation.

BM: “Soft skill” implies “soft and squishy” by its nature. “Soft skill” implies that, to your point, it’s not a hard skill. Let’s get away from “soft skills” because we don’t call the other area “hard skills.” The other area is—I get it—procedural based. Why can’t we call leadership “principle based?”

CG: Right! And frankly, leaders also do procedural work. And sometimes there is a task that is both procedural and principle based. So, from a world of instructional design and all of that, it doesn’t break apart so clean as “Ah! This is a soft skill and this is a hard skill!” No. It’s, “We do it all.”

BM: You know what, Con? Because we don’t understand the workflow of a leader in a lot of organizations, one thing we hear a lot is that they get mired in the procedural stuff and they never do get to lead!

When they go to leadership trainings, it’s about the cerebral stuff. It’s about the principles they should be exhibiting. It’s about the competencies they should internalize and do. But then they go back to their desks and they get caught up in forms and feedback, in scheduling and hiring, and so on because the organization hasn’t separated processes and procedures of being a leader from the values and competencies they hope they exhibit. And they make them do this huge, quantum cognitive leap between the principles of leadership and the reality of leading in the workflow. And so, our RWA fits here, Doesn’t it? Rapid Workflow Analysis fits in this context.

CG: Well, frankly, most of the work that we do for our clients is in “soft skills”, in that principle based work. There are very few projects that we work on that there isn’t principle-based support. And I think people have not had a lot of experience in developing the instructions for applying principles in accomplishing work. And that’s where it gets a little difficult.

I remember a project. We had done a Rapid Workflow Analysis. We had mapped the workflow. And we had these principle-based tasks. And the team that I was working with said, “There are no steps!”

And I said, “Well, okay. Suppose I’m brand-new and you’re going to train me in this, what’s the first thing that I do?” And they told me. And I said, “That’s a step!”

And then I said, “After I’ve done this, what next?” And they said, “Well, you would do this.” And I go, “That’s a step! It’s a principle-based step.” And they got it.

BM: Let’s broaden this a bit before we go deeper. Sales training. Principle based.

CG: Yeah!

BM: A lot of soft skills on how to handle objections, how to make your pitch. And the reality is, just maybe, Con, a lot of sales reps fail at becoming good sales folks because we don’t take the principles of selling and lay them out in a tactical way in which they can take those and put them into a sales process—in a way that’s meaningful and deliberate for them.

CG: Yeah, and you know, Bob, for new leaders, they are especially in need of tactical help so that they can lift themselves above that, as experienced leaders are able to do. Most experienced leaders have figured out the tactical stuff. They’ve learned how to delegate. They’ve figured that out and are therefore able to free up higher order processing and thinking that leaders need to have the time to do. That’s where all leaders need to be, and we need to help them be able to step away from this more tactical work with a digital coach—an EPSS.

BM: Tell me more about this journey of competencies. They have roamed the leadership landscape forever. There are organizations that sell them. There are organizations that have competency models. And again—I want to make sure we’re careful here. We’re not saying that we do not feel that leadership is not backed by, and supported by, competencies. Candidly, any job is supported by competencies.

CG: Absolutely! They certainly need to be taught. There’s nothing wrong with teaching those attributes, or those competencies, and focusing in and helping them learn how to express those and so forth. But, they also need context. They need to be able to take those competencies and in the context of their work be reminded of those competencies to have them reinforced in the context of where they make sense.

Every project that we have worked with where there are competencies involved, we identify the tactical work that the leader does and then we map them to the competencies. And that informs us as we write and develop the steps, the principle-based steps of any given task associated with leadership. Because we tie to those competencies. We want to reference them. And then, if they are struggling—they have a “quick check.”

This is when you get that feeling of, “Well, that didn’t go well.”

You then pull up a “quick check” and move through it and I identify where you went wrong. That ties me to the competency, or the competencies, associated and then I’m able to go in with performance support and access and remind myself of those principles.

BM: Let’s be sure that we review what you just said because this is a critical part and another myth of performance support. And that is—unless it’s embedded in the moment, pops up on my screen, appears on my mobile, or embeds in software at the moment of application—if it can’t meet that immediate need, then it’s not performance support.

We’ve learned through the help of another colleague, Allison Rossett, that the journey to support is not one of only immediacy in the moment.

Because adults can process, plan, and also remediate—there really are three phases of where performance support steps in—particularly in leadership.

CG: Yeah!

BM: There’s the “Planning Before.” Minutes before a performance appraisal. These types of things that we know are scheduled and will happen, such as an end of year review.

Of course, there’s “During” if that’s possible. But often leadership is face time. It’s very “in the moment.” There’s an intimacy to it where performance support may not be applicable.

But “After,” in remediation, when a moment goes bad, or you did something just okay and you want to get better—it’s here where the digital coach comes into play. Just after that moment ends and I walk away, my ability to refresh, associate, remediate, and get better the next time I do it is powerful. So “Before,” some “During,” but also “After” are places where things like a digital coach and performance support can support those in leadership in a remarkable way.

CG: Yeah! And Bob, what you just described is a continuous improvement plan. If I can plan and go in and then do it, and then check myself against that, and then find the feedback and the remediation that I need, I’m on a journey of continually improving.

BM: So, performance support. Soft skills. There’s potential here.

CG: More than potential. It’s what we need. There is so much waste going on because we stop short of application. We train leaders in these wonderful principles, these crucial principles of leadership, and then we leave it to them to figure out how to implement that in their day-to-day work. And we can’t do that. We shouldn’t do that.

We have an opportunity here to extend what it is that we do in the name of developing leaders into the flow of work; to allow them to be able to know where and when they can apply those principles or those attributes that we’ve identified as crucial in the leadership process.

BM: I couldn’t have said it better and I’m not going to try!

Listen to the full episode for Bob and Con’s full conversation on developing leaders in the flow of work.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up to date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

Content Management 2.0

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In this episode hosts Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson discuss what went wrong with Content Management the first go around and how we can harness the needs of today to build correct, and usable, content management processes and systems—that work. 

Bob Mosher (BM): I am incredibly thrilled and excited to be joined by my dear friend and co-host, Dr. Con Gottfredson on a very timely topic.

This is something that goes back in our industry for what seems like forever. We’ve talked about content management as long as I’ve been involved in the business. But particularly, with Covid, the reality is not just the collecting of the content, but also the dissemination, the maintenance, who creates it, who owns it, and what’s your governance around it. All of these things have come to light in a really remarkable way as we try to support learners in a Moment of Need, like never before.

So Con, let’s pull back here a bit and level-set. This—in my opinion—is a word like “performance support”, and others, where the definition is all over the place. So, could you tell us—what is the discipline, in your opinion, that is learning content management?

Conrad Gottfredson (CG): Bob, you’ve said it right. It is a discipline first and foremost. And learning content management is that discipline, or that set of practices, that we follow to manage our content along its entire lifecycle to keep it current, certainly. But more than that, to keep it vibrant and meaningful. We also must manage it in such a way that it doesn’t control us, which is where we’ve  gotten these days as we’ve stepped into the workflow and pushed the horizons in terms of what it is that we need to do to meet the performance requirements of organizations at all The 5 Moments of Need. It has brought us squarely back to days gone by!

We made our first pass at “Learning Content Management 1.0” with reusable learning objects, where we made all the wrong decisions, all the wrong choices, and stepped back from it.

So, content management is everything that we do to manage content through its lifecycle. And a learning content management system (LCMS) is the technology that helps us do that. All of that is different than a learning management system (LMS), which is a system that manages the learning deliverables that we build with that content.

Knowledge management is just a bigger world. Content management is a subset of knowledge management. Learning content management is a subset of content management. We’re just narrowing down in terms of our focus.

BM: Brilliant. And we’ve talked before, Con, the danger of anything like this is methodology or this discipline, in this case, begets technology.

CG: Yeah!

BM: Just because you own or have purchased one of those acronyms doesn’t mean that you’re going to have the discipline that is content management. And one of my favorite expressions is, “If you don’t study history, you’re bound to repeat it.”

So, let’s take a step back Con. You mentioned a moment ago that things went awry a bit in the first go-around. Let’s  balance ourselves as we look forward by understanding where we may have made some mistakes in the first go-around. What do you think are some fundamental lessons learned out of those initial efforts?

CG: Well, one of them is that we didn’t step back and ask the right question up front, “Why are we doing this?” The goal back in Content Management 1.0 was reuse. But we were looking for reuse in all the wrong places. Now, we’re in a better place because we’re talking about supporting people in terms of performance.

And as we take this broader view of our role in insuring that people can perform effectively on the job— providing them with solutions that not only help in the initial learning of things but in that transition to where they need to transfer that information to the Moment of Apply, the Moments of Solve, and into the workflow. That broadens the world to where we can find reuse everywhere.

But it’s not just about reuse. It’s about keeping content current, making sure that the solutions that we have remain vibrant and meaningful. There’s just so much more to the management of content than just finding ways to reuse.

We’re working right now with a global organization on their content management strategy. And they have a lot of pain points in their world of developing content. And certainly, we want to address that, but the real justification for content management isn’t solving the problems within the learning group—it’s solving challenges for the organization.

It’s making sure that the organization has the content that they need, in the form that they need it to be in, to enable their workforce to use it in all the ways that they need it to. It’s when we step back and look at that role, then we can cost-justify that investment.

BM: You touched on this a little bit, but how does designing for The 5 Moments impact the need for content management? How does it broaden it, to your point?

CG: Historically, our view has been just on the Moments of Learn New and Learn More.

But it’s the Moment of Apply when people can perform effectively on the job, if that doesn’t happen, what good have you done? Why even manage anything if you get to the end  and people can’t perform effectively on the job?

BM: You know, it’s interesting too, Con, because I think back to the early days and meta-tagging, which is still an element of this, clearly, was more about role and the knowledge that the content represented and so on. The 5 Moments adds, I think, some important layers around the tagging of that content. For instance, the 5 Moments themselves. Content types and objects can be used for Solve, like an FAQ, very different than an eLearning that is used for a Moment of New.

CG: Oh, yeah!

BM: It’s really interesting to see how we can start adding a new dimension of learner need, learner context, to the way content is managed and tagged versus just my role in the company, my job in the company, the region I live in— these more standard metatags and so on. And of course, the content is about sales, or whatever. Those are all still fundamental, but I think The 5 Moments of Need adds a whole new dimension to that, as to how you look at content.

CG: It sure does. And the focus historically has been those values that you’re talking about—those metadata values that have to do with “Help me find it!”

And if that’s the only thing you’re going at, you’re going to miss it. Because there’s a whole measurement side around how effectively the content supports doing of the work. When you step into The 5 Moments, you step into measurable business impact and that requires unique kinds of metadata beyond that metadata that we use to simply find something.

BM: You know,  I love that, Con. Frankly, an “Aha!” I just had is that it’s one thing to find it. It’s a whole other thing to use it.

For Bob and Con’s full content management discussion, listen to the full episode.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up to date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

From Order Taker to Strategic Partner

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In this episode Bob Mosher and Meghan Castillo, principal learning experience designer at HubSpot, discuss how she is shifting her team to be more focused on developing solutions and training by those experiencing and performing the roles, rather than taking orders from a higher level, who may not know the true challenges. 

Bob Mosher (BM): I am extremely honored to be joined by a dear colleague and friend, Meghan Castillo of HubSpot. I am so impressed with Meghan’s work, her dedication to the craft, and the way she has taken on 5 Moments and workflow learning in such a remarkable way. Meghan, please give us a little bit on your background in L&D, your team, and a little bit about how you got started with The 5 Moments of Need.

Meghan Castillo (MC): I’m thrilled to be here with you today. Like you, I started off as a teacher, upon graduating from Michigan State University, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do and thankfully, I had a few friends that worked in our Migrant Student Services Program, which had a facilitation role open at the time.

I taught the high school equivalency program for the subjects of math, reading, and writing both in English and Spanish to a diverse set of adult learners and am really thankful to have started off the foundation of my career in that role.

From there, I packed up all my belongings into my Volkswagen Jetta, drove down to Houston, Texas, and got into global international consulting from a Learning and Development perspective. I built out a lot of training programs, design, development, and got into the facilitation as well so embedding accelerative learning and experiential learning into a lot of those programs. It also helped to open my eyes to many different industries, different cultures, and different business drivers across the board.

From there, I went to PepsiCo for about a year and a half where I got much more into the e-learning design and development side of things.

All of these experiences have led me to where I am today, the Principle Learning Experience Designer at HubSpot. Here, I primarily focus on building out remote inclusive experiences across the board. The 5 Moments of Need has truly changed the way I look at things, the way I approach the business, and the way I’m able to do my job in a much more efficient and effective manner.

BM: Wow! You’ve had a remarkable career. Can you talk a bit about the mind shift you mention? Everyone believes in performance, everyone got into this to do that. That’s the ultimate goal. It always has been, but boy, I’ll tell you to truly design from that perspective—it’s really different. Can you walk us through this journey of performance versus knowledge?

MC: Absolutely, Bob and it has been a huge mindset shift for me that I’ve been going through over the past few months and truly—truth be told—over the past few years. So, the lightbulb moment for me was while attending one of your conference sessions; I knew that we were taking orders, designing as quickly as we could, and really only responding to those requests and not truly partnering with the business to get to the bottom of those business objectives and really understanding the learner’s perspective.

So, from the traditional way of doing things, I knew that it just wasn’t hitting the mark. I started to chase performance support and really try to understand conceptually what The 5 Moments of Need looked like in practice and what “great” looked like from that moment. And it’s really been a journey ever since.

BM: I love your “What great looks like.” I really love that quote and the challenge you went through in getting what I think are also fairly straight-forward concepts. But making that cognitive shift to doing it? The “Aha’s” that come along with that? You mentioned having some struggles or some challenges as you came in and out of that. What were some of the more fundamental or pivotal “Aha’s” that you got as you started to make that journey.

MC: It’s a typical trap that we all fall into—building for the content and the knowledge and the understanding that we want to infuse into our learners. But it’s really the shift around aligning and focusing on that performance. There are so many mindset shifts around that.

But one really major one that was so helpful not only for myself, but for our stakeholders, was that of Train Transfer and Sustain—the methodology and the visual around this to really truly make it clear that all of our content that was existing, everything that we were focusing on really fell within this Train area, and was only “covering” the knowledge, the information, focusing on the classroom, focusing on those “one hit wonder” or those experiences that had a beginning and an end and didn’t truly move into this space of where learners were having to apply this knowledge, which inevitably, as we know from going through the content, learners were having to unlearn and then relearn once they left our programs—to really put that into the perspective of the actions that they were going to actually take in role.

So it really helped for me to understand that the majority of what we had currently and still have to this day—it’s definitely a journey—was so much around higher-level, bigger ideas rather than the actual actions they would be taking day in and day out on their role. So a huge shift there to more focus on the Transfer and Sustain within their role.

BM: And it’s interesting. That’s what we have to do. Right? When you have the bell curve in the room—we were taught in education—you have to teach to the middle, kind of. I’ve always had an issue with—and struggled terribly--with words like “individualized instruction,” “personalized instruction,” “tailored”—because my whole thing is, those are great things to throw out, but when 26 people, 15 or whatever, walk in my room, how do you do that? You have to kind of stay right at that level of abstraction just so everyone can participate and engage and you can reach as many as you possibly can. The individualization comes when they leave! Like you did when you left the class and tried to individualize it for yourself right away so you could also do it for your colleagues. That’s where individual instruction occurs. And for so long, I know my work didn’t go into that. I didn’t intentionally participate in supporting or helping that. Now with the EPSS, or digital coach, we can truly be a part of that without being there or feeling we must own that part of the journey as well.

MC: Exactly. And we can really allow learners to take that responsibility within their roles and their workflow. In our EPSS instance that we’ve built out at HubSpot, it covers the sales process, which is a huge initiative, and there are so many pieces to that. So, for the sake of this example, let’s say there are seven pieces. Some roles that go through our sales onboarding process, which is  a significant amount of time investment in terms of those different roles—they may only be covering that first piece of that sales process.

They’re spending so many weeks out of the workflow and it’s really around implementing that performance support, designing and enabling it for them to be able to use some of these aspects in role instead of expecting them, for example, to go back and review a long eLearning or a lengthy slide deck when they are actually needing to apply that.

We’ve been embarking on, of course, the mission of taking a lot of that content that’s already been developed and putting that into those bite-sized performance support pieces in a way within our EPSS that’s easy for them to navigate to within two clicks, ten seconds, to ensure that they’re able to get access to that at their moment of need. But it’s been a change as you alluded to earlier within our L&D team to wrap our minds around this change of mindset, this change of how we’re designing, how we’re re-utilizing and repurposing our content.

It's been a journey! But it’s been helpful to take it in baby steps and not come into it and say, “We’re going to wipe out absolutely all of our training we’ve done.” That’s not the case. We’re just going to repurpose a lot of that and pull from it and redesign so it’s more action oriented.

BM: I’m so impressed with your diligence, your passion, and your receptivity to being a true learner yourself. I think those that adopt that mindset are then able to bestow an effective level of guidance to others. You‘ve just been so remarkable. Thank you Meghan.

For more on Meghan’s work at HubSpot, listen to the full episode.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

Shifts & Pivots: What the Pandemic has Taught Us

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In the episode, Trends: Shifts & Pivots in L&D, Bob Mosher discusses specific trends we’ve been hearing, seeing, and experiencing in our current and ever-evolving professional landscape. 

This post is a collection of a lot of information we have gathered over the last nine months. Since the pandemic hit, we have been honored to be a part of hundreds of conversations with learning and development professionals from around the globe discussing how this shift has affected the L&D industry as a whole.

Here, I will share two of the five ideas that we have come across; the full five ideas (listed below) can be heard in their entirety in the podcast episode.

1.   What we’ve learned overall as we’ve looked across the landscape of what is L&D and what  we have heard from several leaders across the globe.

2.     The learner and how they’ve pivoted.

3.    What have we learned about how to develop, design, and deliver the information  that has been profound and impactful throughout the pandemic.

4.    Shifts in roles and responsibilities in the learning field. There have been a couple of things that have emerged, some which have been around for a while but also new ones that have emerged out of this crazy time.

5.    Virtual learning and how has it changed the way we look at instruction. Clearly, it was the tip of the sword when we entered this back in March.  Since then, many organizations have stood up some remarkable virtual solutions.

Let’s start in general terms. I don’t know how old many of you are, or how long you’ve been in the industry, but I remember the days of 2008 when another horrific financial crisis hit our world. Of course, this is a humanitarian crisis with the effect of the pandemic.

But when the financial crisis hit back in 2008, to be honest, our phones stopped ringing in L&D. We took this on the chin when finances were thin. Unfortunately, and we’ve talked about this before, we were not positioned as a need—as opposed to want, or nice to have—resource. And many of us, frankly, were on the wrong side of the ledger paper. We got cut, so to speak.

The—if I can use this word—“exciting” side of what we’ve seen with the pandemic is that it has shown how many organizations see us very differently. I’ve talked to a number of learning leaders. I’ll give one example in particular, of a leader with well over ten years in the organization as a senior leader.  He had never spoken, personally, with the C-suite person in his company—ever.

But his phone actually rang within days after the pandemic hit. It is very telling that when a C-suite member thought to circle the wagons, he wanted to get things in order and was looking out into “how to survive in this,” L&D was top of mind.

Friends, that’s a remarkable opportunity. Here are the two words that came up almost unanimously when talking to others in the industry, “opportunity” and “acceleration.”

Opportunity from the standpoint of “Here we are now. We have a seat at the table. We are one of the first resources they are going to.” And they are not talking about courses. There is a significant shift in the “ask” from “courses” to “performance.”

This is a very different asks than we’ve been asked before and it opens a whole other set of opportunities. For one, a different conversation, and secondly, a different deliverable, which we’ll talk about in a bit.

Acceleration. As a dear friend of mine said recently, he used to deal with a bureaucratic vacuum when it came to technology. What he meant by that is that there was void which was made up of walls and barriers within organizations—frankly, IT being one of them—that we had to wait on, walk through, get the buy-in from—to get technologies into our ecosystem.

Well, look what happened with virtual technology. Many of us were asked to stand that up in weeks, if not days. No bureaucracy. Get it through procurement, get it through whatever part of IT we must so that this thing can work!

This is an amazing time for technology and learning. And so is your opportunity to get an EPSS in there, an LXP in there, and a content management system in there is greater than ever before. People are very receptive.

But—you must pivot on serving a need. You must pivot on associating that buy and that spend, not with just having one of those platforms but —back to number one, opportunity—what performance issues are you going to solve?

On the darker side, another general thing we found is that our current landscape has been exposing some cracks in the dam of our offerings. Training is not enough. A lot of workers are looking outside of our offerings for ways to serve and help themselves. We’ll talk about the learners in a minute. They are being remarkably innovative.

Now, friends, I’m not diminishing the importance of training. But what I am saying is—and I love this word—learners’ needs are very “raw” right now. They are feeling very desperate right now and that breeds receptivity, but it also breeds a level of scrutiny like we may have never seen before. The door is open—opportunity—but at the same time, we are exposed on an enterprise level around the effectiveness of how we engage, and what we build, like never before.

This is a remarkable time to shine and come out of this [situation] in a completely different place than before but at the same time, we have to be careful about just offering the same old thing to what is a very different world.

And lastly, clearly, there has been financial and budget implications but the interesting thing again—unlike 2008—is it’s not so much just an across-the-board cut, or furlough as we’re calling it today. It’s very discretionary and organizations are being careful. So, the degree to which L&D can be positioned as being vital to the organization and proactively help organizations meet the challenges of the day, be productive, support their workforce remotely and other things, the more valuable we’ll be seen.

Now let’s get a little deeper into some specifics. Learners. Let’s start with the most important people in the world, of course, right? Those who we serve. How have learners been pivoting?

I want to touch on four different things that have been talked about quite a bit, and I just love this first one. When the pandemic first hit back in March, April, May, we were clearly back on our heels. We were very much in survival mode. But what we’ve seen is a transformation—so many learners have gone from this survival mode of “What am I going to do?” to one of, “Darn it! I’m going to pick myself up by the bootstraps. I’m going to get my job done. I’m going to remain vibrant. I’m going to be a critical part of the organization. I’m going to be heard and prove my worth even though I’m at home.”

They have stepped up in some remarkable ways. Which has led to my second point, which is that many have become more independent in their ability to support themselves. And guess what! They’re also looking in new places for resources. We have a much more aggressive and impatient learner than ever before.

Back in the days when eLearning first hit, we called it “just in time.” We called it “on demand.” I think many would argue it may not have been. It might have been easily available. But I don’t know if learners would call it “on demand.”

Well, friends, we live in an on-demand world like never in my lifetime. And so, when you get up every morning and you have demands that hit you right in the face, you become aggressive and you become independent about finding those solutions.

So, the opportunity is, are the services and deliverables we offer what they are finding? Have you done some analysis on the resources that they are using? And not just of the options we offer, but have you done some open analysis of what resources in general help get them through the day?  We’d be surprised when we find out the amazing resources learners have both made themselves, that need brokering and aggregation, and the information they are finding outside of the normal means. As we emerge from this, we can be in the forefront in aggregating, curating that information in powerful ways like it’s never been done before.

Many don’t like our initial approaches to virtual instruction. Now, I’m going to get a mixed bag of reviews on this and I get it. A lot of them are remarkably thankful that we stood up our virtual offerings so quickly, but candidly, the honeymoon’s over. The wave has crashed on the beach, and there is some disillusionment and fatigue, with virtual instructor-led. In many ways our learners are looking for us to innovate and re-invent virtual instruction. And guess what? That work will  also have a profound impact on the classrooms we return to.

And finally, I don’t know about you, friends, but we’re hearing that more and more are just emotionally shot. This is difficult on every one of us. I don’t know if in my thirty-eight years of professional life that I’ve ever heard of lines of business asking for empathy content…Empathy content! Emotional intelligence content. Sure, there’s soft skills, and leadership, listening skills, how to get along and how to handle a difficult situation. Those content areas have been around forever. But the words being used today are emotional words. We must be cognizant to the pressure, the emotion, the stress, both at work and at home, that our learners are under. If anyone can do it in our enterprises, we are the most empathetic group I know in recognizing that and helping organizations work through it.

Download the full episode to hear the list of shifts and pivots in its entirety.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up to date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.