Excuses excuses...why would you not want to find out more about your learners?
In my previous article I addressed why it is important to know as much as possible about your learners in advance in order to deliver the mose effective learning, however I realise that there will be people out there who may have challenges that prevent them from digging deeper.
Here are a few things that I think may be barriers for some people, and my thoughts on ways to approach them:
“We facilitate what presents in the room rather than on any preconceptions we may have developed.”
It is always good to facilitate what presents in the room and to be flexible in your approach. Having extra information to help with your design, or being aware of any possible tensions is also useful though. Pre-warned is pre-armed!
In uncovering learner needs as well as the organisational needs, you begin to see if there are any attitudinal barriers to overcome. Do they need to adopt a new way of working or thinking? Do they need to try a different approach with their customers?
Can you really change their attitude using training or facilitation alone?
Let's face it, no matter how good your facilitation skills are, if they don't want to learn, they probably won't! Also, can you really change their attitude using training or facilitation alone?
If you don't make the time to find out about any barriers the learners may have, you may turn up and find what they present with cannot be dealt with in the room at that time.
“There are too many managers to consult”
Consulting with line managers is not the only tool available! Consider some of these other ones:
- A short online questionnaire to the learners or their managers focussed on uncovering any attitudinal gaps
- A focus group conducted via an online platform to gather information about key issues and challenges
- Appraisal review summaries across regions or divisions
- Use management information to inform you of areas that need further investigation
- Work sampling
When dealing at a global level, you need to be looking out for trends and major barriers, as you may not be able to get right down into the detail for each region. If something highlights as a major barrier in a particular region that may signal you to dig deeper there in comparison to other regions.
“We can't do a sample survey as there is no typical sample; everyone is different in their needs”
In this area, I would be asking myself: “What do I need to know about the learners to make this programme a success?”
Answers may be as diverse as:
- They need their line managers support to help imbed the learning
- They will need to be assessed before they are allowed to do this with customers
- They will need to some online resources to back up the learning
- If they could work in collaborative teams across natural divides it would help spread the learning/change faster
- Breaking down silos will be key
If you can confirm critical success factors with key stakeholders, there may be a way to dig deeper.
Even with a diverse group, there will be things that connect them – your job is to find the connection, so that you know where you need to concentrate your efforts.
“People don't actually know what they need, so what is the point in surveying them?”
Focus on the outcomes for the organisation and find out what the learners greatest challenges are in these areas. You don't need to ask them what they think they need to know - especially if they are not aware of what they need to know!
They will however be aware of how they feel about a particular issue and how it impacts them, in their role. If survey results tell you '75% of people feel that xxx is their biggest challenge this year' this will help you to determine what they will need to know or be able to do.
To summarise, using some sort of analysis on your learners before you meet them will:
- Help you design beyond just traditional topics and may help to fill, not just learning gaps but organisational or system gaps
- Cut down on the number of iterations from the pilot stage, if there are a number of cohorts
- Win over the sceptics, before they present in the classroom or at least have a strategy for dealing with them. (Maybe they don't come!)
- Help you to be focussed on what the business needs and also what the learners want. Let's face it if you don't have both in balance, it may be an uphill struggle that you could have avoided!
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With 30 years experience in L&D, Krystyna has been training trainers, facilitators and subject matter experts as well as line managers since 2008. Noticing a lack of experience and skill in the area of needs analysis drove her to write her book 'How to Not...