PSS13: Stop Calling Yourself A Trainer

Performance-Support-SymposiumWe just returned from the Performance Support Symposium in Boston this week where our CEO Carol Leaman was hosting a session on the latest in brain science and memory as it relates to learning.

The symposium offered up a plethora of valuable information that I had the intention of sharing in a simple, clear and compelling post. It wasn’t until I sat down to write it that I realized how difficult it would be to distill it down to a few key points. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know where to start given the vast amount of compelling content – quite impressive for a symposium that’s only in its second year. Instead, I thought that I’d share the one key piece of “hidden” learning that was the undercurrent of the entire event and every single session.

Let me step back and talk a little bit about the background and the purpose of this symposium before I go into this surprising revelation that came about.

Put on by the eLearning Guild, the event was designed to “offer attendees an opportunity to discover how they can optimize investments in training, eLearning and mLearning by integrating performance support across their organization”. It drew representatives from a variety of industries with one thing in common– they were all learning professionals that were committed to taking learning to the next level, providing support at the point of need to drive tangible improvements in performance.

The people that this symposium attracted were forward-thinking learning professionals focused on supporting performers. As the sessions and discussions unfolded it became quickly apparent to me that many attendees faced an uphill battle inside their respective organizations. That battle was not only getting others to share and embrace their vision, but their struggle lied in something even more fundamental than that– drumming up internal stakeholder attention. You’d think that a large enterprise would take notice of its own visionary champions who are committed to reducing performance gaps for the betterment of their organization. But like anything new, this has not been the case for many of the attendees at this incredible event.

Among a whole host of cultural roadblocks, is the fact that many corporate training teams are so cemented in their role inside the organization that it’s difficult to break out of that traditional learning archetype. How do you start the process in re-establishing yourself as an organization committed to supporting performance? I enjoyed speaker Marc Rosenberg’s frank and practical advice on this very issue. Marc promoted that learning professionals need to start positioning themselves as performance problem solvers, not trainers. Part of this entails no longer referring to themselves as trainers, not measuring performance support in the same way as training and ceasing to call their employees learners. Most importantly, Marc noted that they must talk more about performance, performers and productivity. A major rebranding exercise is in order for learning teams across the country.

Another hurdle in the transition is that these learning leaders need to put on their sales hats to sell their vision internally. Unfortunately for many, this hat just doesn’t feel right – quite simply they’re not sales people by nature. Again, Rosenberg and others provided some practical tips to sell internally and get the appropriate people onside to make change happen. One tool, which was borrowed from Nigel Barlow was a 4 quadrant diagram to help attendees identify the predisposition of those folks inside their organizations who can support the transition. I won’t go into detail here, but the gist of it is to ensure that you have people that have the right levels and combination of both energy and attitude. These key individuals (called “Players”) can make or break a project and are instrumental in supporting the transition.

It surprises me that in this day and age, there is still a resistance to adopting the many tools and techniques that can transform a T&D organization into a strategic enabler. If anything, I was pleased to see the variety of topics at this symposium dedicated to overcoming this resistance.

If you want to be a change agent and transition your learning organization to a performance driver make sure that you attend next year’s event.

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