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Nov 2019

2019 L&D Innovation and Tech Fest – Kineo’s key takeaways

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Shaping the future of learning

Missed out of the Sydney L&D Innovation and Tech Fest last week? We sent Kineo’s own Lead Learning Designer, Jonathan Klynsmith, to suss out the top tips from the trash and share his key takeaways and inspiration with us. Enjoy!


Integration is everything

If there was one key takeaway from the event, it’s that integration is the hot topic in learning design right now. How does training integrate with an organisation’s people management? How does day-to-day work practice get captured in a meaningful way, and help identify more training needs? How do we make sure people are treated as people, with all these endless systems?

I think this speaks to a desire for simplicity and consolidation. How do we treat a learner as a person in their workplace? How do HR teams?

The two key factors making this a pressing issue:

  1. Each generation of worker is progressively more tech-savvy than the last. But this actually means they have a higher expectation that UI’s will be intuitive, and systems will be clear and straightforward. Dated systems that bury functionality in menus are going to suffer.
  2. We’ve had about thirty years of constant growth in HR and L&D systems. A lot of these systems are touted as broad, all-encompassing solutions, but most companies (Kineo included!) only use them for one or two specific niche purposes.

One of the other takeaways that kept coming up was the value of listening as a learning developer. This doesn’t just mean the learner’s verbal language, but listening to the cultural environment they work in, the stresses they have, the way the industry they work in operates.


Session one: Delve into your data

Secrets to Technology Success (Stacey Harris, Sierra-Cedar Systems)

This wasn’t the session I wanted to be in, but it was the one I ended up in (I got pointed in this direction when asked for the Optus L&D case study.) The speaker was Stacey Harris, the VP of research at Sierra-Cedar systems. Sierra-Cedar perform continuous research with different organisations and their HR systems to see what works and what doesn’t.

Really, this was a big dump of information about how HR want to view training – as integrated into the people management as possible. Integrate everything, seems to be what they want. Providing good training means understanding the people doing the training. And understanding the people is a role best suited to human resources within a department. Holistic HR will treat training as just one facet of people management.

This sort of aligns with what we’ve been thinking with persona training: we need to understand who we’re building content for, to make it effective.

Sierra-Cedar had concluded that there were five key actions taken by successful organisations:

  1. Don’t try to do everything at once, training-wise or systems wise.
  2. Focus your efforts and assess if it went well before trying something else. 
  3. Regularly review and update HR systems.
  4. Regularly update your integration strategy.
  5. Invest in HR, and Invest in a culture of change management.

The point underpinning all of this was the importance of having accurate, good data. If you don’t have data you can trust, you can’t trust the actions that you take, or the conclusions you draw.

Session two: Using your influence

Don’t Lose The Human In Your Workplace (Sharon Draper, The Consciousness Project) 

Sharon Draper was quite nervous at first, by her own admission, but warmed up and ended up being quite animated. I liked it! I thought this session would be focused on something more design-centric, as it was tagged as falling into the L&D category - but it was mostly about the importance of maintaining mental health.

Good lord, speakers love to break things down into short lists of steps. Ms Draper argues that to successfully influence your workplace, good organisations will:

  1. Have the courage to connect with their employees. Be honest about the challenges people have, be honest about worker’s strengths and weaknesses. Be authentic.
  2. Communicate with empathy, not just verbally, but non-verbally too.
  3. Build trust in leadership. This will boost morale, confidence in the organisation, and help attune people to one another’s needs.
  4. Empower a person’s agency.
  5. Build rapport and build resilience, and
  6. Model the behaviours.

Good advice for leadership.

However, one of the early statements she made was that effective teachers would “focus on influence, not on outcomes.” I thought that was interesting: nowadays we design training very specifically towards learning outcomes and behavioural change, but if we’re attempting to make behavioural change (hard to do in the compliance world!), we should focus equally on influence.

How do we influence learners to do the right thing in our training? This line of thinking starts to veer towards ‘nudge’ learning (maybe). We have a few takeaway printables, but maybe we should design and plan some campaign learning. Maybe we should do learning experiments internally, before seeing how we can turn them into a product.


Session three: A Kineo Case study on blended learning and listening

Future Leaders Now (Garreth Killeen, Reece Group)

I sincerely thought it was one of the better looking case studies I saw during the conference. At the end, I found out it was developed in partnership with Kineo and Totara, which gave me a burst of pride. You can view the case study here.

While some of Reece’s actual content is straightforward in itself (5 minute video, short assessment, rinse, repeat) – the surrounding functionally presents a pretty comprehensive foundation for a learner.  You complete training, are prompted with checklists and self-reflection questions, and it integrates with Microsoft / Google calendars to book in appointments with managers / coaches. The backend even helps assign coaches and mentors to people for different topics. It reminded me of a well-supported and developed MOOC.

  • A list, as we’ve got into the habit of them for this blog:
  • On your best day, you’ll probably only get about 70% of your training right for any given person.
  • Often training is a lesson in the obvious. That’s not a bad thing. If something’s obvious and you can articulate it well, that’s an invaluable skill.
  • Reece tried to quantify their blended solution into four even categories of 25%: training content, learner exploration, learner practice and coaching. Focusing on each area equally is something they felt was a strength.
  • Listen – listening is the most important skill you can develop, not only as a learning designer, but as a human being working with other human beings.
  • Make sure you take into consideration: time for the training, the space / environment it occurs in, and the technology used and familiar. If something is unfamiliar, make it familiar. You don’t want someone wasting energy learning the wrong thing.


Session four: Feel good learning to get results

Designing learner-centred products at scale (Ben Tuni, Global Learning Team at Subway)

The really interesting part of this talk to me was – how do Subway successfully ensure their training works on a global level?

Ben started from a good place – a place I agreed with. How many times have you opened up online training and felt let down, or disappointed by the experience? This is something I’ve felt, quite often, in learning design and online training. A lot of organisations talk a big talk about new, cutting edge experiences, of plotting out a learner “journey”. More hype than an Ice Cube show!

Tuni approaches learning from the point of view that as much as they achieve their primary function, learning has to feel good. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be soft, low-impact sessions or platitudes – but it should have an emotional resonance with the learner. Engagement only occurs when we connect emotionally, somehow. When learners have resistance, shock, or even unfamiliarity (the bad type of surprise), you not only lose their attention – but potentially undo the existing training you’ve done getting them there.

He also encouraged his team to refer to their content as ‘learning products’, instead of ‘courses’ or ‘programs’. A bit of verbal flexibility that helped him not have preconceptions about what the finished learning piece would be.

Then he started in on the topic I wanted to hear about: how do you make content like this global?

One of the early things he pointed out was that translation does not equal localisation. Just because something is put into another language, doesn’t mean it is fit for purpose. This is obvious but a good lesson to learn. If you want to make globally successful training, you need to consider more than the words. Subtitles are an inflexible and often inappropriate solution.

Before he ran out of time, Ben ran through three quick steps that he thought helped ensure courses were fit for purpose globally:

  • Make it as simple as possible to understand any language
  • Make it as easy as possible to edit, and
  • Try to communicate as much content as you can visually.


Session five: Employee engagement, honesty

Is Engagement Measurable? (James Ballard, Kineo)

James kicked off with some interesting and conflicting stats - a Gallop poll concluded that employees were largely unengaged and training often missing the mark, while a Kincentric survey concluded that employees were more engaged than ever in their development. As James said, “the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.”

I personally don’t think those are two opposing viewpoints. Maybe ultimately, this and many other sessions made me consider one of the biggest questions I have about DMI, which is – how can you trust the feedback and data you get from your employees? We rely on employee feedback so much for developing training, but even the feedback I give my own managers is biased, emotional, often wishy washy or apathetic. Often my honest answer to feedback questions is, “I don’t care” but I don’t write that down. I should! The method of obtaining employee feedback really needs to be considered carefully and appropriately – it can be one of the key ways of breaking a learner’s trust. We can’t afford to do that when our success depends on their honesty.

So James talked about identifying key words regarding workplace wellbeing – belonging, identity, safety and security. How do you measure those things in your organisation? How do you track the way people’s mental health impacts on the workplace? Given that 1/3 Australians experiences a mental health issue, it’s a hugely important thing to keep on top of.

James says that employee engagement is driven by:

  • Visible leadership
  • Engaging managers
  • Ensuring the employee’s voice is heard, and
  • Managing integrity.

The three case studies he offered were Astrazeneca (an Oxford Group client, eventually formed the basis of the 5 Conversations training), Reece (see above), and Money101.

Ultimately the question he left me with was, what mindset do we want to promote in our training?


Session six:

L&D Executive Panel: Building for success (James Ballard from Kineo, Phillip Tutty from Litmos / SAP, Rosie Cairnes from Skillsoft.)

1. Moderator Sarah Moore, from Moore@Work, asked, “What should customers do to enable success in their L&D?”

Phil Tutty said to immediately go to fundamentals - make sure your assumptions and groundwork is correct. Try to understand why the training is necessary and understand who your learners are.

James said: Ensure the language used in your business outcomes matches the audience you’re going to use. How do you convert your training language into measurable business outcomes? Ensure everyone is singing the same song.

Rosie said: Be bold – put a stake in your training and say “this will achieve or help achieve these business outcomes.” She also suggested that everybody gets familiar with the ‘Talent Development Reporting Principles’. (More on these can be read here.)

2. Sarah asked: How do you get started enabling success at the business case stage?

Only Rosie really responded, and she was quick, because already they were running out of time. She said:

  • Name the problem
  • Identify what the problem costs
  • Name and plan a solution – be clear and specific
  • Identify what this solution costs
  • Figure out the cost of maintaining the status quo versus the cost of the solution. Is it worthwhile?

3. Audience member asked: L&D in 2019 pretty much always uses a multi-faceted approach. How do you measure it holistically?

The general feedback from all panellists was:

  • Establish a clear behavioural summary – what do you want the learners to actually be doing? Are they doing it?
  • Make sure you consult regularly. Listening should be the basis of all feedback. There’s no such thing as bad feedback!
  • Potentially refer to third parties – like data scientists – to measure the impact of your training.
  • Remember to apply self-recording bias grading. Attribute a portion of whatever impact you measure to that.

4. Audience member asked: How do you reach ‘silent strugglers?’ People with anxiety around learning that are too nervous to speak up?

  • Develop a culture that promotes them to own their learning and development.
  • Promote a culture that encourages people to speak up.
  • Listen!! Not just to verbal language, but listen to body language. Listen to the workplace context and the environment around the learners.
  • Do a comprehensive learner needs analysis! Get back to basics!
  • Provide flexibility – we all know nobody learns the same way. If there’s something difficult to learn, try to provide flexible options for it to be taught. If someone learns better face-to-face, resort to that as an HR professional.

There were a couple of other very rapid-fire questions at the end – do you think a Netflix pricing model is on the cards in the future (yes), what’s next for online learning (Phil Tutty said “machine learning” and James said “using people’s expertise to help skill-share and develop a training culture, Rosie said the question was too big.)


Final thoughts

So a whistlestop tour of my experience at the conference. Once again, listening seems to be the key behavioural takeaway. Try to get context, try and understand what people are telling you. Don’t let your desire to teach something override someone’s desire to learn something: meet in the middle. Also, people are trying to simplify things for their learners, as always.



Shaping the future of learning

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