It’s time to look ahead and prepare for a nice shiny new year! It may seem as though I’m behind, it is February already. However, if you really think about it, February is the time to start letting the rubber meet the road.
Let’s face it, January is the month we are all nursing the hangover of 2022. We’re partially aware that a new year has started and made some attempts to anticipate what 2023 has in store for us. But we’re not totally focused yet.
Therefore, February becomes the real starting point. February is the beginning that is as fresh as a bouquet of flowers. We’ve shaken off January and can see that the blooms of February flowers are beautiful, and the fragrance fills the room.
And just as there are steps to extend the life of flowers and keep them looking beautiful, we can take steps to ensure our year doesn’t end up in the composter.
I’ve pulled together seven of the most popular Learning Rebels Coffee Chats and organized them so that you can use the information to help you look ahead and directly meet the challenges ahead of you. Within each section are additional resources to help set you up for success. #WhosYourBuddy
Here are the 7 ways you can look ahead in 2023
- Setting Goals
- Productivity Tools
- Learning from Failure
- Connecting Learning to Business Need
- Addressing the Skills Gap
- Helping Managers Support Workplace Learning
- Building a Culture of Collaboration
#1: Setting Goals: Busting the Myth of SMART Goals
When it comes to looking ahead, it seems logical to begin with the end in mind.
Our January Coffee Chat centered around how we can shed ourselves of SMART goals. SMART goals really aren’t the keys to long-term success. I know it seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But hang with me. Rather than setting SMART goals, which limit our progress and do not allow us to be flexible, our Chat focused on setting BHAGs – “Big Hairy Audacious Goals.” Then we discussed how to chunk them into manageable pieces with a higher likelihood of success.
To help keep our BHAGs front of mind, I created a short video to help work through the Learning Rebels BIG ROCK goal planner.
Get your BIG rock goal planner.
Get all additional resources here
#2: Productivity Tools
To build on the above, in order to set your goals up for success, it is important that we have established a productivity ecosystem.
How many of you are looking at a computer screen with reminder post-it notes all over it? How many of you are keeping random notes in random notebooks (and are never sure which notebook is the most current one?)
Have you tried tools in the past only to discard them later? As with most things, L&D people are all about a solution. And at times, we jump into the middle of the problem and try to solve it. We do this with our own productivity too. If a tool isn’t working, find a new one. If a process isn’t working, find a new one…see where I’m going with this?
But at the root, the issue is likely not with the tool but with the user. Have you stepped back to analyze why certain tools or processes aren’t working for you?
Example: Online tools may not be appealing because you always forget to check them. That’s not the tool’s fault. Why are you forgetting? That’s the question.
What is the barrier between you and productivity, and how can you overcome it? Let’s look ahead, maybe you need to set a calendar reminder 3x per day to check that specific tool. Not to remind you of the action, which is easily forgotten, but to check the tool. Begin with the end in mind, and determine your barriers to success.
To help you out, I encourage you to review the “Productivity Tools to Build Your Ecosystem” coffee chat resources located here.
#3: Learning from Failure
While we’re talking about setting ourselves up for success, looking ahead, and beginning with the end in mind, it’s critical to stop and talk about Learning from Failure. Failure is part of life…because we’re human. However, the key is learning from those failures.
Even more important is that we give ourselves the grace to have patience with our progress.
Quite ironically, while hosting this particular Coffee Chat (“Learning from Failure”), my internet failed and kicked me out of my own chat.
But wait, there’s more. Then I forgot to hit record once returning, so we lost a bit of the video. I could’ve said a dozen poisonous things to myself that would have sent me into gloom and doom mode. But really, all you can do is laugh about it, fix the issue, and move on.
It’s easy to get caught up in the pressures of daily demands, personal or professional. But let’s look ahead and place “Learning from Failure” as a to-do list item.
Here’s a place to start: Schedule a “debrief” with yourself as part of your weekly routine. Ask yourself the following:
- List the successes – big and small.
- List the challenges – big and small.
- What did you learn from both?
- List the symptoms of stress, overwork, or other triggers that may make you beat yourself up over the smallest mistakes.
Check out the “Learning from Failure” Coffee Chat Resources here and discover that you are not alone. Failure is a part of life, it’s time to make acceptance a part of life too.
#4: Connecting to the Business Need
Moving along – we’ve discussed goals, productivity, and learning from failure. It’s time to move forward with the real day-to-day stuff.
Here is where I would have you check to ensure that projects you are working on or will work on are aligned with the business need. Our job as L&D providers is to help businesses and people be more successful than they were yesterday.
Sometimes that takes the shape of big projects and small things like job aids. Whether they are large or small, asking yourself – how will “this” help the business meet its goals? How will knowing this keep you aligned with the “North Star” of business needs? Even if you don’t know the business purpose behind the last elearning course you developed, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. What can you uncover the need? How can you look ahead and be clairvoyant to anticipate what might come your way?
It starts with digging in and grasping the human-centered goals and business-centered goals with each project you work on. This goes beyond the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) but addresses the “So what.” People will participate in a learning program and then say, “Yeah…so what?” So that the organization increases revenue and you increase commissions, that’s what. So the organization keeps its customers happy, increasing your satisfaction numbers, leading to a bonus, that’s so what.
Making sure you’re aligned and ensuring relevance with the business context will make your projects stand a better chance of success and make people more motivated to engage in learning.
We went deeper into this on our “Connecting Learning to the Business Need” Coffee Chat with special guest Laura Overton.
You can find the resources here
#5: Addressing the Skills Gap
Now that we have aligned with the business, how can we be sure we’re tackling the projects that have meaning? Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the talk about the skills gap. A McKinsey Report: The Skillful Corporation states that 87% of corporations say they have a skills gap, and 53% of those companies stated they would rather reskill than hire.
That’s good news for everyone.
But here’s the hard truth, according to the same report, When asked how often capability-building programs succeed at achieving desired objectives and business impact, only 61% of the respondents stated sometimes or rarely.
That’s the bad news.
How can L&D begin to move the needle? Nothing will help you look ahead more than putting a skills gap analysis into play. A skills gap analysis is simply the difference between a person’s skills to “do the thing” and the skills they need to “do the thing.”
Our job is to help businesses close the gap.
But we can’t close the gap unless we know what skills exist within the organization. This means taking a skills inventory or helping department leaders assess their teams’ skills.
This starts with:
- Identifying the critical skills needed. What are the top 5 skills needed for the marketing department to be more successful?
- Where do the individual players sit with the depth and breadth of those skills?
- Are they interested in learning more? If not, why not?
- If so, how can we connect them to the learning they need?
Our Coffee Chat investigated this topic in June, “Skills Gap Analysis for the Future of Work.”
Check out the Coffee Chat resources here.
#6: Helping Managers Support Workplace Learning
Here’s one thing we all know is true.
Culture will eat strategy for breakfast every day.
A big part of any organizational culture is the role of the line or middle manager. They can be your biggest cheerleader or your biggest roadblock.
As an L&D function, we mean well. We put programs and content out in the universe to help support the workforce. However, often times we fail to consider the disruption our programs can cause or address the perceived disruption. The manager’s job is, yes, to coach and develop their people – but it’s also to keep the wheels turning. And when push comes to shove, keeping the wheels turning will take priority. So, how can we get and keep managers on our side to support critical learning initiatives?
During our Coffee Chat in February, “Helping Managers Support Workplace Learning” topics such as activating managers earlier in the process of training development came up. As did reaching across departments through creating a steering committee to sense-check training programs against workplace disruption.
Many managers want to be part of the process. How can we look ahead to make better use of their subject matter expertise? If managers are part of the solution, the odds are greater that they will have their people actively involved in learning programs.
I suggest checking out these additional resources here to gain more ideas.
#7: Building a Culture of Collaboration
There were many other Coffee Chat topics where interesting and practical tips were surfaced. Such as evaluating learning impact or inspiring self-directed learning – but I want to leave you with the chat about creating a culture of collaboration.
None of the things listed above happens in a vacuum. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual teams are on the rise. New technologies help companies extend the size of their collaborative efforts, allowing us to tap into a variety of knowledge and expertise.
But there are barriers. Ironically, the qualities that make for a collaborative environment are the same qualities that could create roadblocks. For example, different personalities and backgrounds; or different levels of experience and knowledge create fertile environments for coming up with our best ideas. But, if these qualities aren’t treated with respect, they are a breeding ground for strong disagreements.
A superpower of L&D professionals is the ability to lift barriers. Or, at the very least, help people overcome barriers to create a culture of knowledge sharing and building. It starts with us and honing our own collaborative skills.
It’s easy to say “we know” – we have an unconscious bias that because collaboration should be a superpower, it is a superpower. But we often develop and create in a silo, only bringing in collaboration toward the end of the process. Collaboration at the beginning of any training discussion is needed and is a skill that desperately needs to be further developed.
I encourage you to listen to the coffee chat “Building a Culture of Collaboration” and get some fresh ideas from the group on how to manage collaboration so that we avoid groupthink, keep collaborative environments a safe place to experiment, and strengthen our listening skills.
Wrapping this up!
So there you have it. 7 ways to look ahead and keep your 2023 moving along, on track and fresh like a bunch of sunflowers!
Stay Curious, be rebellious, and take over the world!