In my ongoing research interviewing learning executives, I occasionally come across stories or ideas that just can't wait until the full set of data is collected.
This week, I interviewed a director of employee development and training at a mid-sized distribution company. She expressed many of the frustrations I've heard before in my consulting work with L&D (Learning and Development) leaders. For example:
- Lack of good learning measurement, causing poor feedback to L&D stakeholders.
- Too many task requirements to allow for strategic thinking in L&D.
- While some SME's are great trainers, too many deliver poorly-designed sessions.
- Lack of some sort of competency testing of learners.
- Lack of follow-through after training, limiting likelihood of successful application to the job.
There were so many changes to make that it appeared overwhelming -- as if making positive change was going to take forever.
Then she got an idea. Her organization had begun to train its customers (in addition to training its employees), and they began to search for ways to demonstrate the value and credibility of the customer-focused courses.
What this director realized was that accreditation might serve multiple purposes -- if it provided a rigorous evaluation scheme; one that demanded living up to certain standards.
She found an accrediting agency that fit the bill. IACET, the International Association of Continuing Education and Training would certify her organization, but the organization would have to prove that it engaged in certain practices.
This turned out to be a game changer. The requirements, more often than not, propelled her organization in directions she had hoped they would travel anyway. The accreditation process had become a powerful lever in the director's change-management efforts.
Some of things that the accreditation required:
- The L&D organization had to demonstrate training needs, not just take orders for courses.
- They had to map learning evaluations back to learning objectives, ensuring relevance in evaluations.
- They had to have objectives that tied into learning outcomes for each course.
- Trainers had to be certified in training skills (aligned to research-based best practices).
- Trainers had to be regularly trained to maintain their certifications.
- Et cetera...
While before it was difficult for her to get some of her SME's to take instructional design seriously, now accreditation constraints propelled them in the right direction. Whereas before, SME's balked at creating tests of competence, now the accreditation requirements demanded compliance. Whereas before, her SME's could skip out on training on evidence-based learning practice, now they were compelled to take it seriously -- otherwise they may lose their accreditation; thus losing the differentiation their training provides to customers.
The accreditation process was a catalyst, but it wouldn't work on it's own -- and it's not a panacea. The director acknowledges that a full and long-term change management effort is required, but accreditation has helped her move the needle toward better learning practices.