How do we show the value of HR?

This is a copy of the blog post I wrote for Feb 12th 2015 #NZLEAD tweet chat.

Even though it has a HR flavour the concepts discussed are relevant to L&D as well.


Recently I participated in a tweet chat #LDINSIGHT on what ways can L&D show value to the business:

This got me thinking about how we measure, evaluate, demonstrate (you can use any word you want) the value of an enabling service such as HR.

Are we consciously thinking of the measures of success prior to even contemplating a HR solution? In fact, have we even discussed the issue with the client to determine that it is a HR solution that is required?

Most organisations will have their HR department sitting outside their core business activities and so we have a scenario that goes like this.

Business: Hi HR – in our team we have a high level of unplanned leave? We have spoken to the staff and outlined our expectations on their work effort and commitment but we still have issues.

HR: Ok Business we shall look at your team’s stats and provide a report.

Business: No we want your help – what are you going to do to help us. They told me you would help me.

And so as Ken Blanchard says, the monkey has now gone from the shoulders of the business to the shoulders of HR. It is now your issue.

How can HR better equip itself to ask the right questions upfront, unpack the situation before jumping to a solution or even providing advice? Secondly, once you have agreed that there is a HR intervention required, how do you go about ensuring that you deliver value in the eyes of the business?

An effective consultancy process will help in not only ensuring HR works on the key issues and more importantly the issues that impact on business performance and outcomes but also that any solution that is put in place is properly scoped and more importantly measured for impact.

Remember, impact is in the eye of the beholder, so unless business can tell you what is the impact they are looking for (i.e. the outcome) then you cannot proceed much further. Only until you can identify and agree this in writing, can you start to focus on the next steps.

So similar to my colleagues in the UK, our question for this week’s #NZlead is in what ways can HR start to show value to the business and/or their clients?


Q&A with the Learning and Performance Institute

1. In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

The biggest anxiety in the world of L&D at the moment is survival. We are seeing L&D’s role been challenged and to some extent under valued. We are seeing L&D’s role being taken up by others in the business. We are seeing that “traditional” L&D skills are no longer enough to continue to play a valid and effective role in our organisations.

So what question keeps L&D professionals up at night is: “Am I adding value to my organisation?”

2. Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

My thinking on L&D is informed via a variety of sources. I read, interact and liaise with a variety of L&D professionals, both locally (Australia) and / abroad. I enjoy the writings of a number of learning leaders and I have
an extensive PLN who I can turn to when required.

As the founder of #Ozlearn, which is fast becoming Australia’s premier L&D tweet chat, we have a great network of Oz and overseas L&D professionals who share and network on a number of matters. This, along with our Third Place Meet Ups (social get togethers held around the country) have ensured that we continue to share and discuss local
L&D issues whilst also embracing the global wealth of knowledge, via our twitter chats and interactions.

I also believe in belonging to professional bodies, who can and should play a role in continuing to challenge and support our L&D journey. Organisations such as the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI),  Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI) and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) are important to my development as an L&D professional.

3. What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

Well, let me put it this way – it is not going to be MOOCs or at least not the MOOCs as we know them in their current form. Rather, I see the continued development of blended learning interventions, with the increased emphasis on the social learning aspect of these interventions, as the most exciting innovation.

I am also a firm believe of user created learning content, allowing participants to learn from each other, no matter what the medium or platform. To support this, I see L&D playing a highly visible and value-add curation role to support the learner on their journey. Although some may say this is not an innovation, it is a craft / skill that is yet to be perfected nor widely practiced by the L&D community.

4. What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

I would like to see the art of performance consulting practiced by more L&D departments and organisations as a whole. I believe we are still in what Don Taylor calls the “Training Ghetto”. We need to move from “Solutioneering” (as per Nigel Harrison) and to the design and development of performance enhancing solutions aligned to business outcomes and goals (as per Jonathan Kettleborough).

We need to learn to say NO !

Secondly, we need effective and easily accessible benchmarking and assurance tools – only when you know where you have been will you be able to map a path as to where you want to go. Along with quality learning impact measurement tools and processes, L&D can and will become a required workforce enabler.

I believe that once we have achieved these “game changers”, we shall have that seat at the table and the anxiety levels referred above will dissipate.

5. What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?

Learners will have the tools and skills to create their own learning interventions and environment; eLearning will not be as popular, although the use of technology to learn will still be vital.

The affordability of Google Glass and Apple iWatch along with associated Apps will allow the individual to access information easily, quickly and in small bites. L&D’s role will be one of guiding, facilitating, curating and supporting the learning journey.

Performance support at the moment of need will be key; Learning as part of the workflow process will be paramount; Social learning will continue to evolve via a variety of mediums and platforms.

BUT one thing will remain: There will always be the need for physical interaction. We are social butterflies and we thrive on physical connections and interactions. We need, require, depend and thrive on the need to meet face to face.

Although we shall have less Face to Face training per se, we shall see a retention of such things as conferences, conventions,forums, unconfernces, tweet ups, meet ups etc where ideas, thoughts, innovations can be shared, exchanged, challenged and celebrated.

6. What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

I would advise my self to continue on my learning path – read, enquire and seek new knowledge, don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone, challenge fads, ask lots of questions and always go with your heart !

But most importantly, I would advise my 21 self to focus on my health – your health is the most powerful gift you can give yourself for the future.

Con Sotidis

LearnKotch Consulting

Blog Secret Santa

This blog post has been written for me by one of the Secret Santa elves

# 5 Things I Learned in 2014

“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ―Brad Paisley

Well another year is coming to a close. There were ups and there were downs. There were new friendships made, there were others that fizzled out, their time had come to an end but not forgotten. There was laughter, joy, disappointment, sadness and grief. Just as we had welcomed the year in with our close family and friends, excited with what 2014 would bring in, the time has now come to be with them again and reflect on our year.

What stood out for you? What would you change? What did you learn?

Here are 5 things I learned in 2014 that will see me through to 2015 and beyond. Maybe it will be true for you too?

• If you compare yourself or your life to others, then you’re wasting precious time on devoting your thoughts and actions on your own life journey.

• In life there will always be ups and downs. However, bad life is going for you at the moment, it will pass. Life isn’t always fair but it’s still good.

• The only challenge to overcome the negative in your life is a mental one. Only you are in charge of your happiness. Smile more, make others smile and appreciate the simple things in life.

• Don’t take your health and wellbeing for granted. Eat healthy, sleep well and play more.

• Always remember that the best is yet to come – just enjoy the ride!

I wish you all a safe, prosperous new year and one that is filled with happiness and joy! Now go and fill those blank pages of your own book…

Book Review: Revolutionize Learning and Development by Clark N. Quinn

Hi and welcome to my blog.

Firstly this post is dedicated to my beautiful family who have shown me the ability to strive through adversity and to maintain my smile and sense of belief – no matter what hurdles and obstacles are placed before me !

So here we are – my first book review on my blog and boy what a book I selected.

Revolutionize Learning and Development by Clark N. Quinn *


Firstly let’s clear the air – yes the title of the book is mis-spelt (depending which continent you live in) after repeated attempts in Word to rectify the spelling error I gave up and thus we are stuck with Revolutionize 😉

Phew glad I got that one of my chest…

Now on to the book…

Well let me start with how I got this book. I ordered this book along with three others from Amazon around late June and when the shipment arrived I had a choice of which one to read, but as I had heard alot about Clark and had the fortune to interact with him via twitter and had sometimes seen him tweet some things about a chat he joins on a Friday mornings, I thought I would go with him.

So I picked it up and glanced at this book with this big RED hand holding what looks like a book (manifesto?) – I gave it the once over and then I put it down.

Then one day, while I was travelling to town via our reliable and beautiful Victorian Public Transport system, I decided to start reading it and that’s when it hit me – as my mate Jackie Gleeson would say “Pow right in the Kisser”. By the time I had reached my stop at the bottom of Kings St and Lonsdale St, I was furious, I was angry. I was hit by yet another Manifesto (by this stage I had read and dismissed the eLearning Manifesto) which is all I really needed !

I thought who is this guy – he is accusing me of not doing my  job properly. Who is this guy sitting all the way in his cushy office in the US somewhere who is telling me that the last 15 years of my L&D life have been to no avail. I was not going to let this guy get away with having a go at me and my mates in the L&D profession.

So first point of warning – be prepared to be confronted, to be challenged.  In hindsight, this ends up working well, but to have this thrust upon you in the first few chapters of the book does knock you about.

So what did I do – I tweeted Clark and expressed my view. I won’t bore you with a copy of the exchange but the upshot is that Clark responded in a positive and constructive way and challenged me to keep on reading and to give the book a go.

It was then that I realised what a great guest Clark would be for my #ozlearn tweet chat – I thought also as the book had just been released it would also benefit Clark in promoting his book in this region – so I organised to interview Clark (due to timezone differences he could not join us live).  After overcoming my issues with Google Hangouts I succumb and reverted to  Skype and recorded an interview with Clark (which you can see here) and this was used for our September #ozleaarn tweet chat.

So I kept on reading – The first 6 chapters are a reflection on what Clark classifies as the “Status Quo” and “To Hand” respectively – good chapters that cover the current state of affairs of our L&D world – from our industry to neuroscience and the state of our organisations and technology.

Now you can read these if you wish, but if you wish to skip and come back to these later you can without major loss of continuity.

But if like me, you really want to know what to do and do now, jump straight to Section 3 – this is where the book really starts to “kicks goals”. The framework presented is well structured and articulated reflecting on the need for L&D to play the strategic role required and to be measured against valid and key business outcomes.

Chapter 8 demonstrates how this may look like via some real life case studies. Clark “leans” on his friends in the industry to provide him some very good and detailed case studies – Mark Britz, Allison Anderson , Charles Jennings and Clark also refers us to a few assessment tools that will assist us to determine where we may be at – I liked the eLearning Maturity Model from Towards Maturity the most.

Clark concludes with a statement which I believe is worth repeating, as it resonated with me and I am sure it also will with all of you:

L&D’s role will shift to facilitation and curation, with a much diminished role of creation and presentation.

It was at this point that I finally appreciated the purpose and role of this book – I realised that Clark not only challenged and confronted me but he was willing to help me – he had offered me a way forward and he was now going to show me how to implement.

Chapter 9 was great – it brought all the pieces together into what Clark termed a “Re-Think”. Here he outlined the need for a performance strategy, influencing the culture of learning and the rebadging of L&D to Performance and Development. Clark points to the LPI Capability Map as a tool to allow staff to assess against the skills required “for an enlightened approach to L&D”.

He ends Section 3 with two great reflections from his mates:

Allison Rossett who advocates for a push to get learning professionals more into the field so as to “rivet their attention to the challenges and cultures of the organisation”

Marc Rosenberg who challenges the L&D profession to do more to develop “solid value propositions for L&D” . He also notes that although L&D is embracing informal learning, performance support and social learning, “we don’t have any idea on how to sell and implement these across our organisations”.

Both reflections are to the point and clear on their views on the state of L&D ! Allison and Marc have added enormously to Clark’s book – great initiative Clark to include these two “giants” of L&D.

Section 4 (the last section) is the icing on the cake. As a firm believer of the craft of Performance Consulting and one which I believe is not practiced widely, I was so glad to see Clark make this his platform for Section 4 and dedicating a whole chapter to this skill and process. His Design Decisions flowchart captures the process in a nut shell and one wonders why do we sometimes make things so hard for ourselves and over engineer everything – Clark simplifies this for us in 8 easy to follow steps.

Another section that resonated with me was that of Evaluation and Measurement. I recall Clark stating on our #ozlearn video interview (see link above to video chat) that Kirkpatrick is not dead albeit what some may say. He asks us to flip Kirkpatrick around and start with the end in mind.  I was so glad to hear this as this was a practice I had already adopted in my previous extensive evaluation work and the core premises of the Evaluation of L&D Framework I developed for a large public service organisation in Australia.

One thing that did stand out for me from this chapter (and the whole book) was that Clark did not reference at all Return on Investment (ROI) as a strategy or suggested approach to determine the value add of L&D.  Whether intentionally or not, this to me sends a clear message to the profession that such measurement techniques are either no longer valued or required by the C-Suite – but rather Learning Impact Measurement as advocated at a recent seminar by Nigel Paine is more the way to go in reporting the value of learning and the impact on business.

Clark concludes the book by taking us back to where he had us in Chapter 1 – challenging us to do things differently, “stop doing what we are doing in a vacuum”! He stresses to “stop being order takers” and start to be performance consultants, and he asks us to sign up to the Performance and Development Manifesto.

Yes I had reacted earlier in having another manifesto shoved in my face, but as I reached the end of this book I came to realise that this one was different, this one was going to make a difference – it challenges us to do things dramatically differently; it asks us to think of our roles in a more effective and efficient way; it pleads with us to not continue to develop for the sake of developing but to curate and facilitate; it implores us to chose performance support over training; it invites us continue to evaluate and measure ourselves and finally it encourages us to continue to explore and innovate.

Thanks Clark for an inspiring book.  On a personal note and upon reflection, I know our initial twitter exchange on the book may not have set the right tone but credit where credit is due – your book did resonate with me and had an impact on my thinking.

It also is very timely, as we see from the recent Towards Maturity Benchmark Report that L&D is seen has having an over reliance on eLearning and technology without much thought been given as to whether it is the right solution. Performance consulting and curation skills, two of the key skills and approaches you have recommended, are still not evident or underdeveloped in our L&D departments. I am hoping that books such as yours will assist us all to step up and be part of the “revolution”.

I highly recommend this book to all L&D/ OD professionals.


Clark Quinn on twitter

his blog Learnlets

his Revolutionize L&D site

and his Revolutionize L&D Linkedin group.

The book is available now on both Kindle and Paperback – click here.

* This reviews was based on the paperback version of the book.

Till next time – take care…


Ozlearn Chat – Tuesday 11 November 2014 : The Benefits and Challenges of Embedding Learning in Work

We have the honour of welcoming Charles Jennings, Director – Internet Time Alliance to our #OZlearn Tweet Chat on Tuesday 11 November 2014 at 8:00 p.m. (AESDT) 9:00 a.m. (GMT).

In preparation for this chat, Charles has written the following blog. Please take time to read this blog post from Charles in preparation for our chat.

No matter where you are joining us from around the world we shall see you online on Tuesday 11 November.


The Benefits and Challenges of Embedding Learning in Work

An important finding that has emerged from study after study over the past few years is that learning which is embedded in work seems to be more effective than learning away from work.

Impact of on-the-job learning vs formal training

A 2009 study by the Learning & Development Roundtable, a division of the Corporate Executive Board, reported that on-the-job learning had three times the impact on performance improvement over formal training programs. The same study found employees with high exposure to on-the-job learning activities were 262% more engaged than those who had no exposure to on-the-job learning. ‘High exposure’ in this study was defined as being engaged in ‘11 or more on-the-job learning activities during the last month’.

A further 2010 study of manager development activities by Casebow and Ferguson at GoodPractice in Edinburgh, Scotland reported that informal chats with colleagues was both the most frequently used development activity and was also seen as the most effective by the majority of managers.

Impact of strong informal learning capabilities

Yet another study by Bersin & Associates (now Bersin by Deloitte) published in March 2012 reported that “Organizations with strong informal learning capabilities, including the adoption and use of social learning tools, are 300% more likely to excel at global talent development than organizations without those competencies.” By their very nature informal and social learning is embedded in the daily workflow.

An earlier study 2003 by the Corporate Leadership Council identified 15 leader-led activities that improve performance found that learning through workplace experience was at least three times more effective than simply ensuring that workers had the necessary knowledge and skills to do their jobs.

There are many other studies with similar findings. I could go on and on citing them.

This is not at all surprising. As long ago as 1885 Dr Hermann Ebbinghaus published his treatise Über das Gedächtnis (On Memory) that indicated context was critical for effective learning. Although Ebbinghaus’ experimental research was limited, his theory and results indicated that context and the spacing effect are key contributors to effective retention, learning and performance improvement. It could be argued that context is best provided by embedding learning in work.

Recent brain science work is filling in the gaps and we now know a lot more about the way the brain modifies itself in the light of experience and the difference between people who approach learning with ‘open’ or ‘fixed’ mindsets. The work by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, has enhanced our understanding about learning, context and mindset. Dweck’s research suggests that experience and practice combined with a growth mindset are critical ingredients for effective learning and development. Each of these is more powerfully experienced in the context of the workflow rather in the more sterile atmosphere of a classroom.

The benefits are clear, but what are the challenges of embedded learning in work for L&D departments?

Instructional design to solution design

One of the major challenges is the fact that until recently L&D professionals have seen their primary role as instructional designers and creators of learning experiences where learning experiences are separate from work. ADDIE (or some other instructional design approach) ruled. The learning needed to be designed, managed and measured.

Of course some learning experiences do need to be designed, managed and measured, but they are in the minority. The majority of learning occurs naturally as part of the workflow. This type of learning is ‘designed’ by the individual (sometimes with input from their manager), it is self-managed, and the measurement is in terms of outputs – not by passing a test or some form of certification but by demonstrating the ability to do work better, faster, more accurately, with greater agility and levels of innovation if needed.

Management to facilitation and support

The challenge for L&D professionals is to develop ways to support, encourage and facilitate these ‘90’ types of learning (through the 70:20:10 lens). This learning can’t be ‘managed’ by HR, L&D or by any of the processes and technology systems they put in place. It can, however, be supported, facilitated, encouraged, exposed and shared by HR and L&D with the outcome of improving not only individual performance, but team and organisational performance as well.

A second significant challenge (and blind spot for many L&D departments) has been the provision performance support. The lack of understanding and failure to use performance support approaches and tools has created a significant barrier for supporting learning embedded in work.

Performance support is a sleeping giant that has only recently been prodded by some L&D departments, despite the fact that ePSS has been around for at least 25 years, and other non-technology supported performance support approaches for eons.

Courses to resources

Gloria Gery published her seminal ‘Electronic Performance Support Systems’ book in 1991, yet these powerful systems and approaches have only marginally entered L&D’s mindset. This will no doubt change in one respect as the ‘rise and rise’ of social learning further impinges on organisational learning cultures and people turn to online communities and expert location tools to help them improve their work and learn in the workplace. Together with ‘point-of-need’ performance support solutions, Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson at ApplySynergies are doing a great job on this, as are companies such as Australian company Panviva and others in Europe.

A final challenge facing many L&D professionals is that embedding learning in work almost always requires the active support of executives, business managers and team leaders. This means L&D needs to engage these groups. This inevitably requires the provision of a clear set of business imperatives for embedding learning in work delivered in a way that is meaningful and compelling to these busy stakeholders.

L&D professionals need to step up to the plate with their consulting and interpersonal skills to enrol the critical support from these groups. This can be a big challenge but it is one where success is critical if learning is to be effectively embedded in the workflow.


Charles Jennings
October 2014



Learning and Development : Where should it sit in the organisational structure ?

Hi and welcome to my blog.

After a recent exhausting Five Day Work Out Loud Blogging exercise I took a break but I am now back….

Firstly though I do wish to thank every single one of you who either read, commented and supported my recent Work Out Loud blogging – your comments and wishes have spurred me on to continue to blog and share.

As you would have guessed I am an L&D professional who does not over engineer L & D concepts, ideas and processes. I try and put myself in the shoes of the reader and /or learner and thus try to speak the language of the business and avoid HR / L&D speak (where possible).

I have recently been involved in a Twitter interaction with The Development Company  and Perry Timms on where should L&D sit in the organisation – should it be part of the business or is it better placed in the Human Resources department?

In addressing this question or more specifically in providing my view on this subject matter, I will refer to my 10 plus years as a Senior L&D Director of Learning and Development in the public sector.

When I started / ventured on my L&D journey in the Australian Public Services (APS) most of the function was performed at the business unit – that is the one’s closest to the action.  The business unit would have a small crew of L&D consultants (mostly non-qualified L&D staff who came from business).  They would source learning interventions either via a corporate cell (for soft skills) and then also look outside their agency for other training providers – mainly at the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) who were also in the business of providing training sessions.

The staff in these L&D business unit sat in the HR function of the business unit – that is the enabling area of the business.

In late 2006, a decision was made to pool all these learning resources in what I would term a pseudo-centralised model and form a sub-group approach to learning – so not a totally centralised model across the organisation but 11 business units were grouped together and L&D services provided to them as a sub-group. This group sat in the sub-group admin function (not the HR area as such)

In hindsight this was the best and most successful model I worked with in my 10 years in L&D. It was not only personal to the business but also central enough to leverage off other areas of the organisation and also look to external providers to fill in the gaps.

It was within this environment that I excelled and delivered some of the watershed outcomes that are still utilised and adopted. Initiatives such as prioritisation of learning delivery and executive reporting dashboard (never before attempted in the organisation).

As with all public sector organisations after a number of years it was time for another structural review of the enabling services and thus L&D was again impacted. This time though it was going to go all the way. This time there would be no half way re-structures and L&D would be totally overhauled.

In 2010 we centralised the whole L&D function – not really necessary to discuss philosophies  or reasons here and really not worth covering such ground, but what is worth discussing is the impact that this had on the organisation. Firstly, we had a grieving phase – one of where the business was loosing its long held and trusted L&D resources to the main pool. Secondly we had the maintenance of delivery phase where business, notwithstanding a major restructure of the L&D service, demanded that delivery would not be jeopardised in any manner. Lastly we had the funding process, where business not only lost resources (i.e. bodies) but they also lots funding and if you have ever worked in the public sector you will know that your funding is the most treasured possession – losing or having a cut to your funding is like losing a loved relative suddenly – you scream, you grieve and you constantly are asking why?

The centralised L&D function was aligned to the People function thus under HR and we were, in my honest opinion, as far away from business than ever before. In order to address this matter and to appease business that they would still be able to get traction on their demands, we established L&D Business Partners – a great concept in theory but the role was not fully scoped nor understood before implementation thus it was always going to be a struggle. The even more bizarre aspect of this Business Partner model was that they were funded by the L&D budget but reported to and were accountable to business.

It would be fair to say that after  a number of years of the new centralised model it was time to review it because we still had lots of “noise” in the system.  It was identified that learning requests were coming in thick and fast and that we did not have anyone “cutting them off at the pass”. A new role was established – Business Consultants (aka Performance Consultancy). Although these roles were established to allow for closer interaction and involvement with the business, we still had the L&D Business Partners – thus in my opinion  – retaining that  extra “layer” between business and L&D.

Just before departing the organisation, I along with three other colleagues, worked hard to establish the Consultancy function.  Given my extensive network and connectivity I was able to bring Nigel Harrison’s Performance Consultancy  process into the mix. This was meet with some resistance, mainly due to the lack of understanding of what Performance Consultancy is. I persisted and we were able to develop templates and processes around the model that Nigel advocates. This was at a time when the organisation was demanding more F2F training delivery. Thus here we were, on the one hand trying to move the organisation out of the Training Ghetto and on the other hand we had an increased demand for classroom training. The learning culture of the organisation needed influencing.

So in summary, reflecting on my experience, I have learnt three things about L&D and it’s positioning in the organisation:

1. L&D should be as close to or have an active personal relationship with the business – they do not need (as I discovered) Business Partners to add another layer to the process.

2. L&D needs to continue to look at innovative and renewed approaches to learning and actively influence the learning culture of the organisation.

3. L&D needs to be aligned directly, and I would go as far as to say , be jointly accountable with business on bottom line results and achievements.

So where should L&D sit – well if I ran an organisation I would have a centralised L&D function directly aligned to business via relationship management (some call it a Client Manager) approach and have L&D outcomes and measures linked to business KPIs.

If business did not deliver then L&D did not deliver – bold and daring – but in my view if we are going to ever get that dreaded seat at the table we need to stick our neck on the line.

So what do you think, where should L&D sit in the organisation?

Till next time, take care…