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Making the Pivot: Forging a New Path

29 Sep Making the Pivot: Forging a New Path


To make the pivot and start tackling the reality that learners were actually encountering in the trenches, I focused more and more on driving real business outcomes while using my skills to add value.  I stripped away all learning-professional language and just immersed myself in the learner’s reality. In an attempt to accelerate my progress, I traveled the globe and worked with clients.  Most of the time I worked with customer-facing, revenue-generating teams who have zero-patience for “training speak” anyway.

Training, Enablement, Human ResourcesOver the past 5 years, I have worked with small HR and learning teams to define courses. I have worked to lead large transformational efforts to radically redesign on-boarding for 110,000+ people. I have been lucky enough to coach HR and Learning Leaders to align to their executive teams, and I have had the honor to work with the newest training facilitators to help them hold their own in the classroom. I have been sad seeing a client who gets fired from a project for not managing stakeholders and I have seen learning visionaries attempt super-human efforts to fight for a modern learning experience for their learners to the detriment of their own personal health. And I have become upset when leaders rooted in the “old way” quit their jobs as a matter of principle, only to stay unemployed for months because their skills were seen as outdated and non relevant.

Clearly, I was in a bit of a weird spot.  Making the pivot wasn’t comfortable, but I pressed on. On one hand, I saw the impact of focusing and doing what really mattered. On the other hand, I saw people lose their jobs (learners weren’t learning and training functions become expendable). I also saw literally millions of training dollars go to waste. And I had to come to grip with the fact that I’ve actually contributed to the irrelevance in the past. (I feel like I need to ask for forgiveness or something!).  There are some big companies out there that spend a LOT of money on training.

All of these inputs helped me accelerate my re-learning to distance myself from the old way and embrace working in the new — to get through the keyhole to the other side.

Learning to Break Free

Making the Pivot isn’t easy… What I learned through the process of making the pivot is how wired our industry is. While many training leaders understand the need to work with executives, they can’t translate that understanding into action because they struggle to understand the executive lens (and high expectations and scrutiny) on Training/HR. For example, right now, in many organizations across the globe:

  • It’s highly likely that executive teams understand that their customers have changed.
  • And because their customers have changed, those executives want their employees in marketing, product groups, technology, and operations to work differently.
  • These same executive teams look to product teams to create more relevant product portfolios, marketing groups create more relevant messages, and ensure operations teams change how they support critical roles, while asking IT leaders to become more “business-centric”. In short, they’ve asked every function to elevate their value contribution.
  • And now, those executive teams are turning to training (and HR) leaders and demanding they change too.

In a large part, training leaders and teams are digging their heels in…
I bump into them all the time…. and we have friction.

In today’s world, no longer can training and development leaders lean on paradigms and research based on 50 year-old theories in order to justify what they’re doing – and continue to do what has always been done. Those who do that will end up being outsourced as a non-core function (which, by the way, is the largest revenue stream of the world’s largest publicly traded training company [GP Strategies]. A company that is currently having fantastic revenue results – coincidence?).

If you are in the training space, let me ask you a few questions:

  • Have you ever employed approaches and methods that didn’t work? What did you do? Did you change your approach?
  • Have you seen training outputs and deliverables become stagnant and unused? What did you do to address that?
  • Have you seen the course’s lack impact? Did you change them based on understanding learners better?
  • Have you been able to draw direct correlations between classroom materials and helping employees work in ways that actually matter to the company’s customers? If not, what have you done to tackle that?
Engage in the conversation!

I am interested in your thoughts on this blog. If you’re someone who has made the pivot PLEASE contact me. I’m building a community of people who embrace the new reality instead of fighting it.

My hope is by sharing my experiences; we are all able to engage in a meaningful and productive dialogue about the future of training – our companies depend on our ability to get our collective head out of the sand and use our awesome skills in a new way.

Thanks for participating.