Resources first, not just courses

A few years back I remember delivering a course. It had been a great day. As I read through them at the end of the day, the happy sheets were happy. But there was one particular piece of feedback that caught my eye. It was from a guy that had been engaged, positive and pleasant throughout the day. On his feedback form he was most complimentary about me. Even more so about the biscuits! But his overall appraisal of the value he’d got from the day less so.

‘It’s been a good course, well delivered with some good interaction. But I don’t think it was worth spending a whole day on. This could have easily been covered in a couple of pages.’

Much as I felt guilty agreeing with what he’d written, I did. Was it really worth getting these people to travel to the location, spend the entire day with us and then travel back home later than they usually would? Was it just training for training’s sake? On this occasion, for this particular workshop and for these particular learning outcomes yes, I think it was a waste.

Fast forward a few years to yesterday and I’m logged onto a Learning and Performance Institute webinar with David James who was talking about how to ‘Become a Digital Learning Pioneer’. The first question set the scene really well.

Unsurprisingly the answers from most of the almost 100 people attending was ‘Google it’. As you and I both know, that’s exactly how things work nowadays. We don’t tend to wait for the next available course or programme that maybe running in a few months, if one actually exists. We use the technology at our finger tips to find the answer today, right now, at the moment we need it. It might be a document, an infographic, a video, an article, an e-book, an app, a podcast and so the list goes on. But it’s something that’s available to us here and now and may well just do the job.

I think about the things I’ve looked up in this way on the internet. All manner of things from helping me to do my job better, to how to fix things around the house. If, for example, I’m looking how to repair a leaky tap, I’ll no doubt find plenty of resources out there to help me. It’s not going to give me the knowledge and skills I need to completely re-plumb the entire house. For that, I’m better off with some sort of plumbing course, or even better still, a plumber. But for the smaller task in hand, a resource that covers that specific task will be plenty and I don’t need to know the rest.

All too often, L&D departments are tasked with creating that course to satisfy learning needs of our organisations in a silver bullet approach, when sometimes, a resource, or set of resources would have been plenty. A course isn’t always the answer. 

Before we get too worried about being replaced by the biggest search engines in the world, let’s stop and put this in context. As David said in the webinar, ‘What google can’t do that we can, is address organisational needs rather than just the individual needs.’ The good news in that is there is a fundamental role to play for L&D. Talking with our people, finding out what challenges they have, creating resources that help people to perform better in their roles are amongst these things. Finding, curating content and helping people develop the skills to do the same are also key. There’s also still a part to play for workshops, programmes, coaching, mentoring and all the other great work that we do.

So all this has got me thinking. What are the resources I could be creating to help people be better at what they do? What are the learning needs that people have previously told L&D that a course is needed when really a resource would have done? How can these resources support and compliment the other learning methods we use? How can we use resources to offer a truly blended approach? What skills do L&D need to develop to be better at producing resources, videos, documents and performance support and no just courses? How can we find out and discover what resources people really need?

You might have some similar questions that pop into your mind too. You might have some comments you want to leave below to get a discussion going. I always welcome those, thanks in advance!

In the meantime, let me leave you with these tips from David on creating resources.

But remember, this isn't about resources only. Resources are simply another method in our learning armory. Think resources first, but not resources only.

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  • 'Old school' resources can work just as well, and usually in conjunction with a course, whether that is in person or remote. One of the best things I ever did as an L&D Manager for a hotel was to create an acronym for how to deal with complaints, called R.E.A.C.T. 

    Everyone was supposed to come on the course to practise the behaviours, and most did, but between the forgetting and the non-attending, a course on its own would not have had much effect on our complaint handling. What the team asked for, and therefore what I gave them, was a piece of card to stick by their phones which had the model on it. 

    They told me many success stories of being able to reference that little bit of card while on the phone taking a complaint and reported that they felt so much more supported and calm - whereas before they were being asked to remember a structure from memory, while under pressure with a guest.

    • This is such a great example of a resource that can be accessed at the point of need. And it uses 'old school' technology. This is performance support in action. Thanks for sharing, Celia.

  • Great post and points in here, Ady. I'm always a bit nervous when people use terms like 'pioneer' because I think they overstate things that are everyday. What we are talking about here is using and understanding new tools and tech and how they can help the organisation. I think all L&D professionals (like their colleagues in other areas of the business) must take the time to explore new technology and learn how others in the organisation use technology. More important is the need to sit with colleagues and understand what they need to be able to do their job better.  Start with that then apply new thinking/tools/techniques. The good thing with this approach is that you can start small and learn as you go. More fundamental is the need to stop thinking content first. Understand the problem then work out the right approach.

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