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How to find the right training resources

Scott Beagrie

Training resources

Finding the right resources for a course is an incredibly important aspects of getting your training right. Scott Beagrie asks where the savvy L&D professional is sourcing their training materials

The online world has democratised learning and development just as it has many other business and consumer functions. It has put a wealth of learning resources at our fingertips and empowered the learning and development (L&D) professional to create impactful learning programmes for their workforces. Indeed, when it comes to leadership and management, it is possible to source a range of high-quality material and resources and, though largely generic, provide scope for L&D to add a bespoke dimension.

Typically, elements of such a programme would include e-learning, open access courses, video, podcasts, blogs, reading materials, synchronous discussion groups and forums, virtual classroom sessions as well as face-to-face activities such as traditional classroom learning, experiential and coaching and mentoring. Learning provider and academic websites are a rich source of online resources some of which are free to download and some of which are paid for. Added to this the rise of MOOCs (massive open online course), which provide access to academic professors and a community of students as well as traditional learning, has allowed L&D to tap into an immensely powerful content channel on the other side of the world (see www.mooc-list.com).

“The buzzword of the moment is content curation,” explains Stephen Walsh, director of learning and performance organisation, City & Guilds Kineo. “The idea is that there is a lot of content out there around leadership and management and you apply an editing filter and bring your people the best of the best. There is definitely an emerging skillset for L&D around being a good curator/editor of content and providing the right context around it.”

Walsh reckons that it is possible to source “a baseline” of generic management training materials focusing on core areas such as delegation, problem solving and performance management and then it is down to the L&D professional to customise content when required. “Often something very specific will be required by the organisation around leadership strategy and tone,” he says, adding that encouraging leaders and managers to become creators of content rather than just consumers of it and, for instance, share best practice in a blog or a podcast can help to achieve this. “It can also provide a mature way of assessing a manager.”

Get the right blend

Because developing a leadership and management course relies on using a range of materials and content, L&D professionals also need to be proficient in creating effective blended learning programmes. “There are so many more tools of the trade than there once were,” says Walsh, adding: “You also need to be fluent in action learning, experiential, personal reflection, job rotation and gamification and know when to use them.”

While L&D professionals can’t be expected to suddenly become expert in every element of course building, organisations increasingly expect them to have a full understanding of what is possible across this spectrum, says Walsh. “Organisations want L&D to build that knowledge,” says Walsh. “They need to be able to think about the audience, the learning culture, the technology, the budget and the timeframe and decide what is best from the myriad of channels. Part of our work at the moment is to help them make sense of all the tools out there and construct the blends. It’s really about culture change as much as anything.”

Learning technology and leadership consultant Nigel Paine believes that for those L&D professionals tasked with building leadership and management programmes, the challenge isn’t so much sourcing the content but managing and delivering it in a meaningful way. While the old model of learning was to spend, say, 90% of time on developing content or 90% of the budget on getting someone to do this for you, he contends that the major focus should be on managing the process, providing support for learners, ensuring learner engagement and the making sure the learning brings about the necessary behaviour change. “You should spend 90% of your time working with the people who are going to undertake the programme; preparing them and also preparing the line managers,” he says, adding: “And then testing them and giving them a chance to use their learning.”

Don’t be afraid of mess

When it comes to pulling the programme together, Paine reckons that L&D shouldn’t get too hung up on it being overly structured. “The idea that it has to be a neat and tidy fit into an LMS (learning management system) is increasingly irrelevant. That can also cut out the informal and social elements,” he says. “We are moving towards an age in which messy is OK and there are a lot of successful programmes that come in bits whether it be clicking on a video, some mentoring, a twitter chat or formal written work. All of that can come together as really good learning.”

As an example, Paine points to a modern poetry MOOC run by the University of Pennsylvania, which is made up of lots of different pieces of content. “But people work through it logically, pick what they want to engage and interact with it and it has extremely high completion rates for a MOOC,” he says. “What they are doing is offering as much as they can to as many people as possible. A traditional MOOC might be a 25-minute video presentation, chapters to read and questions to answer but neat and tidy doesn’t suit everyone sometimes it needs to be more anarchic.”

That said, Paine reckons learning and management programmes need a start and finish point but that the endpoint shouldn’t be sudden. “I’m a great believer in trying to get people through the core of the programme and then offer support and check in on a regular basis so the end point tapers off very slowly. Often issues only arise after the individual puts the learning into practice,” he says. “If things go wrong and there isn’t any support, that is often when the individual will give up and think the learning didn’t work and has therefore been wasted.”

If executed properly though, Paine suggests that in-house leadership and management programmes that utilise a range of materials and methods, providing individuals with more choice and control can be truly “transformative”. “They can make people see leadership and management training as something really different,” he says. “Rather than participants feeling it’s something done to them, it can be a process they really engage with and feel they have a stake in.”

Leadership and management resources at your fingertips:

1. Edge – practical tips and management advice for managers

2. LearningZone – a useful resource for learners to explore management skills in video, text and interactive formats (ILM members only)

3. ILM’s range of learning resources

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