When learning works - An episode on the science of learning
My Forzes partner Jacco Westerbeek and I have recently started a wonderful assignment for the SBB. The SBB is a Dutch foundation that ensures both the availability and quality of the 511,000 internships for pupils in vocational schools which are required annually. They register the companies and institutions who will offer internships, then train and certify them and work with them to improve the quality of the workplace learning offered. They do much more, but for the purposes of this blog, this is a good enough synopsis.
Now picture if you will, the SBB making arrangements about learning with the Dutch equivalent of Walmart. As it currently stands, SBB certifies each supermarket individually. You probably agree that this store-by-store approach suggest an opportunity for large account management. A new way of working, where head offices are targeted to make central or special arrangements.
Jacco and I are tasked with helping facilitate this transition for the 32 advisors who will adopt as the roles of large account managers.
When we met up with the SBB before the summer in 2017, there were a series of four Masterclasses on the table. Although the themes were great, we were critical. Will teaching people what they need to know and do, actually encourage them to do it? Yes, knowledge and skills are great ingredients, but they’re insufficient for the inherent ‘Return on Investment’ we’re striving for. What do we mean by “inherent ROI”? We see this as a way of blending learning, working, performing, reviewing, managing and leading that will embed large account management not only in the work of the advisors, but in the organization itself.
How do we approach “inherent ROI”?
We proposed that our client adds to the four Masterclasses with:
1. A workplace, or learning-by-doing, track, geared not only towards learning, but also to performing and achieving a pre-defined impact or outcome with each of the participants’ large accounts. In order to reach this, admittedly lofty, goal, we’re engaging with advisors and their team leaders to create workplace learning plans.
2. Mandatory co-creation and co-ownership of this track by participants, their team leaders and sector unit managers. To this end Forzes is actively involved in designing and developing processes and tools for large account management.
3. Small-group action learning sessions, where we invite participants to apply new knowledge and tools at their large accounts and reflect on the application, individually, in sector units and in the action learning groups.
What are some of the stand-out features?
Two things stand out in our approach to ensure inherent ROI:
1. We help the advisors to start working along the lines of who they want to become. “Do what you want to be”, as Jacco puts it. We invite them not to wait until they know everything or are fully skilled: just start and learn from doing.
2. We put the system in place. We align the entire performance environment: from the CEO, to the sector unit managers to the participants’ team leaders. We help embed the desired outcomes of the new role into the tasks and targets of the participants. We aim to ensure that a strategic dialogue takes place in the Management Teams to align the tasks and targets of the participants with the desired organizational change.
Do, learn, repeat
By doing, we’re also learning: Jacco and myself as a team and Forzes as a network. We’re discovering that our signature approach to learning is about developing the organization in tandem with the target group. Be it through tools or processes, or by intervening at managerial or board level. We’re helping our client and the target-group build a bridge while we walk across it.
How do you believe learning works? What factors would you add to our approach to ensure inherent ROI? Let’s share, grow and multiply our knowledge and experience.