Pretend that I gave you a 1995 flip phone and asked you to do your job with it. How would that make you feel? Would you use it? Or, would you reject it? Would you be intrigued by it? Or, would you be confused trying to remember how to use it?
What if your employees hated the idea of a 1990s mobile phone? What if they wanted the mobile phone of today and were annoyed by your attempts to give them an outdated mobile phone of yesterday? Would you force it on them or try to give them something else?
This is an interesting analogy for human capital enablement leaders in talent, HR and training functions. In many ways, our techniques produce outdated outputs that nobody wants. Many talent, HR and training functions are producing outputs that belong back in the 1980s (even before the age of this flip phone!). In essence, those functions are stuck manufacturing old mobile phones instead of creating what businesses need today. Here are some examples:
|Outdated Outputs||Outputs of Today|
|Course binders||Experiential events with hands-on tools|
|Competency frameworks||Updated role definitions based on new expected value contributions|
|PowerPoint-focused training||Facilitated problem-solving events|
|Course catalog||Service catalog|
|3-day new hire training||90-day integrated experiences with manager involvement|
|1,500 courses on the corporate intranet||Thousands of bite-sized learning chunks served in the course of daily work|
|Kickoff meetings designed for fanfare and pizzazz||Kickoff meetings designed to help a variety of sales teams tackle specific problems with their customers|
How do we know that sales and business unit leaders don’t want outdated outputs? Well, we asked them (in some cases, they told us unprompted)! Here are some recent quotes from leaders in sales, marketing and operations:
“I try to spend as little time as possible with our training team because they just aren’t helpful.” – Sales Manager
“I used to work with HR and Training to figure out the best way to help our teams, but I learned about 15 years ago that it was useless. I try to spend as little time as possible with them.” – Product Manager
“I have no idea what they produce that we use. I tend to use external sales training companies.” – VP of Sales
“I have no idea what the Talent management function produces. But I like the leader, she seems nice.” – Regional Sales Director
Let’s face it: In business, you are what you produce. Your value contribution as a function and as a leader can be summed up in one simple concept: Do you produce anything valuable for the company? It’s not about the theory you follow; it’s about your ability to produce something helpful, relevant and valuable. To help think this through, here is a simple model of productivity:
Many human capital enablement professionals spend too much time on the input side of the model. They are overly curious about learning new theories, ideas, trends and concepts. But here’s something to consider: Business unit leaders, sales leaders and CEOs don’t care about those inputs. They care about what you produce. As a human capital enablement leader, then, you cannot put the input side of the model to your rearview mirror.
In reality, your business likely requires different outcomes, because your company’s strategy has evolved, the economy reset in 2008, the solutions your company is bringing to market are more sophisticated than before, your company’s customers have evolved and the employees in your organization likely have a skills gap. Change your inputs, and you change your outcomes.
Do the outputs you and your team produce resemble the status quo of a decade ago? Are you creating the same old mobile phones? Or, are you able to create something new for your organization—the mobile phone of today? Are you able to understand what outcomes your audience is looking for?
Drive New Outcomes by Changing What You Produce
Give yourself permission to be creative and the space to work backward from the outcome and investigate your processes. You will likely need to reach out to a broader team, and you’ll quickly discover that you will need to create something new.
Here’s a checklist you can use to get started:
- Define the business outcome clearly. Is it measurable? Does the business leadership agree with your definition of the outcome?
- Let go of the past. Can you let go of what you have been producing, and figure out a way to tackle the problems required to pursue the outcome?
- Figure problems out. Are you able to resist the urge to simply get it done in order to find the time required to figure out what needs to happen?
- Team together. Can you engage in a robust creative session with the right group of people to identify the best path forward?
- Keep an open mind. How do you know if you need a tool, an instructor-led course or a communication deck? When you decide, how do you make sure the deliverable is useful and relevant?
- Work to the best possible answer. Can you develop the best possible answer given your constraints and context?
Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again yet expecting a different result. In many ways, pursuing the business outcomes of today requires different outputs. The outputs of yesterday won’t satisfy the customers of tomorrow. While I’m certainly not an advocate of jettisoning everything and wiping the slate clean, it’s critical to choose an initiative or small project to rethink your approach to driving the outcomes required by the business.