Start small to transform L&D

Harri Savage explains how she turned a stakeholder ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ when she wanted to implement learner feedback. Showcasing the results of a much smaller project gave her the influence she needed to change minds. 

As part of a major organisation’s turnaround project, I was asked to redesign, revamp and reinvigorate compliance health and safety training. It was the largest online learning project of my career. This training would be seen by every single new starter on their first day, and every employee on a 12 month refresher cycle. 

It wasn’t plain sailing. I’d battled with stakeholders who just wanted me to ‘add the manual here’, fought to include immersive narratives and scenario based learning, and implemented a continuous improvement cycle of review and activities. I was now at the final stage and just needed the go ahead from the director. The director made the decision: Go, but lose the evaluation. Lose the evaluation? I couldn’t believe it, this project was an ROI dream. 

The director’s view was that the feedback survey would be a barrier to completion, too clunky and would put people off. I explained that my solution was an optional survey for those who had completed training, and that the data could help us evaluate impact and inform updates but the answer was still no. Disappointed and disheartened,  I would not be defeated. The turnaround project was going to be around for a little while so I had time to change people’s minds. 

My next project for the same organisation wasn’t that glamorous – finance process and systems training for one department. My subject matter expert’s (SME) main concern was ensuring that correct messages were getting out and that we had a solid audit trail for when issues occurred. Whilst discussing a range of ROI measures, I broached the subject of ongoing user feedback. I explained that questions would be optional and would help figure out if training was having an effect. I distinctly remember the answer: “Sure, do whatever you want, but don’t expect to get anything back.”

Four weeks later and the results were in. Almost every single person who completed the training gave us feedback, and most of it was good – really good. We’d managed to make a finance course that over 80% of respondents would recommend to someone else in their position. And who recommends finance courses?! 

The feedback raised a few questions too. We managed to pick up some system related issues and accidental poor practice that was going on too. The SME was stunned by how much information we got back and followed up on the issues raised and fixed long standing problems. 

Armed with this, I went back to the turnaround project and explained how, when given the opportunity, learners on the finance project had given us insightful feedback that had directly resulted in improvements for the business. I used the data to challenge concerns around barriers to completion and lack of value. And I was given the go-ahead, initially for a small trial for feedback, but my ROI dream had come true.

Top tips for turning a no into a yes

Pick your battles: It might sound adversarial but you need to gauge the situation and your relationship with the stakeholder and decide when it’s best to bow out gracefully (at least in the moment). If you don’t do this, you risk damaging your relationship and no matter how right you are, you won’t get to try out your ideas. 

Start small: It’s tempting to jump into the big projects that will give you the best success stories but they’re often the most cautiously managed. Stakeholders may be risk averse and not want to try anything new. If you implement your ideas with a smaller project, they won’t be new when the big project comes around.

Let the data speak for you: It’s easy to argue with opinions, it’s hard to argue with cold hard facts. Present data to support the initiative you want to implement and frame your discussions around your interpretations of the data and what it could mean for the organisation.

Read Harri’s previous blog, which explains why training alone isn’t always the answer.

Sarah Burrell

About Harri Savage

Harri Savage is an Online Learning Specialist at ELK Online. A former member of the Charity Learning Consortium, she has worked with numerous charities including Victim Support. She focuses on helping organisations facilitate a learning culture through high quality assets, effective marketing and all-levels engagement. 

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