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A new approach to L&D


Maybe the key to a more successful L&D department isn't bringing in new ideas, so much as approach existing ones a bit differently. Gary Cole elaborates.

Would it be too much of a presumption at the outset to state that good quality business coaching and skills based training can make a significant, positive impact to your business performance and your workforce; both immediately and in the long term? Well, why not combine them then?

Integration is the key

Sorry to teach you to suck eggs here if you know this already, but integrating business coaching within training delivery, followed by a review/preview session within six weeks of a skills-based training program can have profoundly positive effects. What’s more, I have seen many clients also phase in training-related ‘express coaching sessions’ for trainees and this has been a big driver of sustainable change and post program application.

In fact, one study in the FT Guide to Business Coaching revealed that this approach could generate up to 80% post training retention and application. This was contrasted with an eye-watering 5% post-training retention and application of the traditional 'chalk and talk' style of training. This is typically where there was/is no follow-up session and no coaching to support the changes during or afterwards.

Enabling the right kind of attitude

One of my favourite books of the moment is called Fully Charged, by Vogel & Bruch, which essentially covers the 'en vogue' topic of 'managing energy' to optimum effect. To spare you reading it, I can tell you that the major headline is that businesses and teams operating with optimum energy (or ‘vital’ energy as it is referred to) can perform 14% better than teams and individuals with average energy or average attitudinal application. That's a huge swing on a divisional P&L or organisational EBITDA and that's before we even start talking about the powerful soft benefits. Managing one’s ‘energy’ is fundamentally different from managing the output of a psychological profile and this is for one simple reason: one can choose to operate with ‘vital’ energy in the workplace every day whereas we must essentially manage our foibles and strong points from a profiling output. It’s a personal choice. So educating and encouraging individuals to take personal ownership and accountability for their own positive changes and personal development is a very practical and powerful place to start in an integrated L&D program.

Be clear and inspired by your goal 'comet' 

One of the most powerful and inspiring question to ask teams in a facilitation environment is; 'What does the business look like if a miracle happened by (insert your date)?'. Encourage teams to flush out what is in it for them personally, what is in it for their external stakeholders and what is in it for their management team/board and the business - you get the idea. This is because having real clarity on the associated benefits of the primary goal will illuminate the wide variety of additional benefits of committing to that goal. I like to refer to these associated benefits as a comet. The comet will provide you with the ideal goal scenario from which all other actions and commitments should hang off, ultimately shaping and driving the project.

A partnership strategy with suppliers is the only way forward

Avoid seeing training and coaching providers as suppliers and see them as long-term partners, possibly an adjunct of your team itself. A good dose of mutual transparency can go a long way to greasing the wheels of an amazing project. Don't forget that in doing this, you should be prepared to treat your supplier with the equal (and sometimes pro-active) TLC your business commits to its best customers. Anything they ask for, give it to them. They're ultimately doing what they do for your benefit - so regularly involve your partner(s) in your internal stakeholder meetings wherever possible, to form a 'virtual team'. This supports trust and open communication, providing the foundation for success.

'Test and learn' + ROI  

In the advertising industry, marketing professionals live their lives by an approach called ‘test and learn’. This rigour essentially focuses on the activities that drive optimum results. Many 'old school' training and coaching suppliers will shudder when they read this, but we would strongly advocate an initial pilot period when dealing with a new partner, or even a continuation of a legacy one. A pilot is a period of time with clear and defined success measures. If the programme passes this gateway then it continues. To be really clear here, more traditional tests challenging you and your partner to succeed will fuel procrastination – simply because tests start and stop. The subtle difference with a pilot approach is that you can phase in multiple ‘test and learn’ windows, which provide the perfect antidote to failure and procrastination. It might also be worth considering amending your trainee feedback mechanism to include an indicative financial evaluation of the training program. This can also be performance managed and verified by their line managers to help you justify the ROI.

Procrastination is a perishable good; and it will hurt you

Some clients make speedy and sound decisions and they are able to benefit from outstanding short-term gains, which can then be developed and managed post training - therefore boosting and enhancing long-term change. Other clients tie themselves in knots about the various solutions and options available and then seem to struggle at influencing and engaging internal stakeholders as a result of it. It's a chalk and cheese situation, so ask yourself which camp you sit in and what you can do about it. Fast. L&D is a results-based function, so what are you waiting for?

Gary Cole enjoyed a 20-year career predominantly in commercial management/leadership roles in the digital media industry before retraining as an ICF Coach in 2012, when he set up his business, Archipelo. For more info email [email protected] or visit

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