Are You Ready to Sign a PACT?

My parents, both retired and 65+ years old, are quintessential digital dinosaurs especially when it comes to digital payments. Mom still prefers carrying currency, quite a lot for my standard, for shopping or travel. However, on the evening of 15th November, she transferred INR 100 (equivalent to around $2) over Paytm (one of the digital wallets). I was surprised to see her not only installing the wallet but doing transactions. She also told me that both of them have started using the digital wallet for their daily shopping at nearby stores. People in India will relate the date and behavior change to “Demonetization” thrust on 8th Nov’2016. However, this post is not about demonetization, but what made two 65+ years old learn a new payment mode and change their behavior.

Answer is simple — TINA (There Was No Alternative).

We all continuously learn. Period.

We all continuously change. Period.

However, in management circles, the two consistent topics of discussion are — “How do we make people change their behavior?” and “How do we make people learn”? Standard responses usually are — Create a change management plan (which incidentally looks more like a communication plan) and track compliance against learning targets.

Imagine setting a target for my parents — you need to learn to use a digital wallet by 31st December and create a communication plan which sends a reminder to them every fortnight — have you learnt to use digital wallet? It will not work (I have been asking them to shift for last 3 years). What actually worked in their case was — constraint of currency not being available or the need to find an alternative for their business as usual transactions. In other words — “What is in it for Me”(WIIFM) and to me, the answer to learning and change lies in these 5 alphabets only.

We all continuously learn and still no one seems to be happy — neither management or L&D function nor learner or business. Hariraj Vijayakumar, in his recent panel discussion and subsequent post presented the concept of System I (individual learning) and System E (Enterprise Learning).

Fundamentally, unless the individual learning goals are aligned to enterprise expectations, one of the system will be in a continuous state of entropy leading to frustration. So the key question which needs to be addressed for learning is — How do we help employees understand the immediate and long term benefits of learning specific skills or change in behavior? How do we align System I and System E? What will happen if individual reskills based on enterprise expectations?

One of my mentors, Sukumar Rajagopal, once explained the change management behavior through the analogy of the Mahout controlling a elephant through a small ankusa or elephant goad. Addressing the benefit of any change which appeals to a particular audience is similar to this ankusa. It can trigger the right behavior once internalized but finding the right ankusa is not an easy task.

I believe learning and change management are more similar than different. We all change but we still need change management. We all learn but we still need learning targets and compliance metrics. To address this dichotomy, I recommend a P.A.C.T for corporate learning & development professionals:

Personalize (N=1) — Organization is defined as — A social unit of people which is structured and managed to meet a need or to pursue collective goals. We always focus on purpose or common goals but miss the “people” or “individuals” that form the organization. Every individual as a human being has a unique personality & preferences which leads to very unique behavior, thought process and learning style. “What” to achieve (purpose or goal) can be similar (may be liquid workforce and learn new skill every 6 month), “How” to achieve has to be personalized. If we expect an individual to be certified as DevOps Engineer, we should clearly state the credentialing process (can be an assessment, code challenge or panel interview) and let the learner decide the best approach (Classroom session, self-paced learning through MOOCs, peer learning in social collaborative platforms etc.). Learner should know various resources to leverage for learning and practice towards a common goal i.e. certify in a given time frame.

Address the Need — 2 weeks back one of the team sent a teaser mailer for a skilling campaign and possibly for the first time employees responded to the campaign nominating themselves and asking for enrollment details even before official launch. This was an unprecedented behavior and the reason for the enthusiasm was because the communication focused on benefits and not standard “get trained on…”. Campaign Tag line was “When being quick is a necessity” focusing the agility to quickly reskill. It also focused on typical problems or need such as “taking time off from project” and “want to get a billable project really quick?” Communication is a tricky thing and getting attention enough to necessitate action in this world of cognitive overload a rarity. Guess it is time all corporate L&D professionals also learn the art of marketing and branding.

Compatible Outcome — We typically define 3 stakeholders for L&D function — Associate or employee, Business & Customers (ABC). Every single learning initiative tries to address the benefit for each of the stakeholder group. For example, reskilling benefits A to have better career progression, helps B to fulfill customer demand faster and helps C with an accelerated path to their digital transformation. We need to go one step further and develop a common thread which ties all three stakeholders and their outcome. For example — C requires a digital skilled workforce to accelerate their transformation, B needs a digital talent pool that can reskill faster to fulfill need and create new demand & growth opportunity; A need to learn digital skills to fulfill existing demand and remain relevant for achieving career aspiration profession.

Traffic light model — Have you ever been in a classroom or meeting on time but organizer keeps waiting for late arrivals to start the session? What happens next time? Punctual participants will slowly become late comers. Think about the reverse model. Start the class/meeting on time and respect the punctual participants. See the difference. This same behavior is noticed with target based learning model. There is constant pressure on L&D teams to keep running behind the non-compliant or laggard learners. This is representative of typical Red Amber Green (RAG) model of status reports with primary focus on Red section. However, why are we not celebrating success of “Green” learners? If we can showcase the benefit received by these learners to all, it will motivate the skeptics and fence sitters “Yellow” learners to achieve their target. Making motivated learners as evangelist and converting fence sitters will be more energizing for L&D teams also. This model does not mean that we do not care for non-learners but how do we distribute energy and effort across three segments of learners.(#Traffic Light Model of Change Management is a model by TinyMagic)

So are you ready to sign the PACT? Share your thoughts on how to make this PACT stick.