The very existence of L&D teams may be under question. There’s never been more need for a straightforward document that lets everyone know what you’re about and why.
No, it’s not a horrendous typo. Standards haven’t slipped! The SOOP I’m referring to is a Strategy On One Page which can define the role of the L&D team and act as a tool to support your interaction with other parts of your organisation.
It’s increasingly important that L&D teams engage effectively with the remainder of the organisation. It’s equally vital that major departments can see how training relates directly to their goals and concerns.For the first time in my career, the very existence of L&D teams may be under question.There’s never been more need for a straightforward document that lets everyone know what you’re about and why.That’s one function of a SOOP.
I’ll allow that one page may be pushing it a little – you can stretch to a page and a half, three pages in PowerPoint if you need to include pictures. No one will read anything any longer and if you can’t boil it down to these essentials it won’t help to direct your activities either.
That’s the second function of a SOOP. It’s not just for a bit of external gloss or to support internal communications. A SOOP goes to the very purpose of the L&D team. It should drive what everyone does – internal or external, trainers or line management.
Ideally, the SOOP should be endorsed by a senior person. I advocate the role of Performance Director as a member of the board or senior leadership team.If this person isn’t the CEO, they should be the director of the function with the most power. That will differ in different organisations but may well be the function with the most employees. It’s that person’s smiling face, facsimile signature and best wishes that should drive the SOOP’s passage from page to practice.
In order for it to fulfil both its communications role and its role in driving the L&D mission, you will need a structure. That’s where you might want to use the 6As as the basis for a good SOOP:
AIM is the overall goal – the outcome in relation to capability improvement. This will close contact with the teams who might need training. The overall aim will be derived from your shared assessment of the capability needed now and in the future for those teams to implement their strategic role in the organisation. The idea that L&D needs to be linked to organisational strategy has been stated, re-stated and overstated in every L&D publication of the recent past. In a nutshell, defining the bit in bold and italics is what you need.
ACTIVITY defines what you will do – and what you won’t do – to achieve that goal. Will you focus on long term blended learning solutions, or employ coaches, or run short classroom courses or focus on eLearning? Michael Porter of Harvard Business School said: “The essence of strategy is deciding what not to do.” It’s unwise to try and be an expert in all areas of performance development. Pick what works and what you can do well given the resources available.
AUDIENCE describes for whom the training and interventions will be designed. ‘Everybody in the organisation’ is not a good description. Even if all staff at all levels and in all functions can access the courses, you’ll benefit from defining some kind of effort on their part. ‘For all employees who want to build a successful and rewarding career’ is at least a statement that you expect something back after these great programmes.
ASSESSMENT – what will ‘good’ look like? What are the impact measures or the effectiveness criteria? How are these relevant to the aim? Starting with the end in mind shows everyone that you’re serious about doing a good job and not afraid to have your work transparently judged. This is not about inputs, but about outcomes relevant to the capability of people in different functions. Credibility comes from clarity. For example: “Introducing new practices which will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of fund-raising teams to raise donor income by 20% over two years, with no increase in staff resources” is pretty clear.
ACTIONS – this section describes the next or first steps. What will you do first? How will the rest of the organisation recognise that this strategy is being implemented?
ASSISTANCE – describes the external help you will need, including the role of subject matter experts, line managers or external training suppliers.
That’s it, pretty simple and adaptable. It can be created as an overview – for the whole of the work of a department, or in more detail for a specific, strategically important project. Either way you use it, developing the 6As with your L&D team will provide a focus for their continued relevance and impact. Sooper.
Robin Hoyle is a writer, trainer and consultant who has been helping people do things better for 27 years. His book Complete Training: from recruitment to retirement is published by Kogan Page. For more information go to www.learnworks.org.uk or connect with Robin on Twitter @RHoyle