L&D Enablement and Operations: Supporting Trainers
Feature Story – By Kristin Scott
What is the goal, focus and purpose?
Many non-commercial trainers come to the role with master’s degrees and Ph.Ds and lack nothing in the way of technical expertise. The best of you have that unique combination of expertise, enthusiasm, compassion, drive and commitment required to welcome new hires to the chem benches, robotics labs, manufacturing lines, warehouses and surgical suites.
Almost none come to learning & development (L&D) with backgrounds or experience in instructional design, curriculum development for different types of training and audiences, or measurement and metrics strategies, for example. Yet you are expected to do all of this and manage multiple stakeholders, pivot with unpredicted market or product changes, monitor gaps in skills/knowledge and ensure learners are prepared to perform effectively and safely.
With this level of expectation, responsibility and accountability, who is making sure you always have the most up-to-date instructional design support, technology and templates; easy-to-find-and-access tools; resources; and project and process management to deliver highly complex quality and timely training and development?
L&D operations and enablement is a relatively new capability within the life sciences industry, but what does it really mean? What is its goal, focus and purpose? What competencies and skills are needed for a high-performing learning operations and enablement team?
Querying life sciences trainers within both commercial and non-commercial functions reveals consistent responses when asked about obstacles to performance. The burdens and constraints include:
- Reinventing the wheel: Re-creating content and training materials due to lack of awareness or visibility of existing resources.
- Routine tasks and processes are manual and redundant and waste valuable time.
- Reports are run manually each time, not automated, and requesters/auditors don’t have access to the data to do it themselves.
- Learning technology platforms are viewed as barriers rather than solutions.
- Trainers feel overwhelmed or frustrated without having expertise in instructional design, content creation, measuring impact, HR/OD or managing suppliers.
- With so many priorities coming from so many sources, feeling unsure of how and when to change direction with such limited time and attention available.
- Stakeholders and partners don’t communicate early or often enough and tend to “drop” requests, updates, SOPs and rollouts at the last minute,inconsiderate of existing work and priorities.
- Frequent turnover in roles without SOPs for archiving and storing information increases risks and results in new trainers starting from scratch.
- Too many meetings, scheduling/calendarizing, building the case for resources and improvements.
- Lack of organizational clarity or understanding of the difference between technical training and skill development.
- Repetitive and redundant content and processes are not centralized or standardized.
- Poorly defined scope of accountability and responsibility, especially with onboarding new employees.
- No prioritization, classification or governance around the volume and pace of trainings.
- Lack of collaboration and communication across functional areas.
- Large teams operating in silos, restricting awareness of ideas, innovations, investments, resources, etc.
- Unclear decision-making authority leads to too many meetings, levels of approval and takes too much time to meet the need or demand.
- Workflows not mapped; processes not automated.
- Training is episodic, reactive, not continuous or routinely updated.
- No central repository for archiving; no single portal for accessing, communicating with others or finding answers to common questions.
- Technology inventories are bloated due to years of “patching on” to solve short-term frustrations.
- No content management system or repository, individuals creating/saving their own files on desktops/unshared drives.
- No onboarding offered to new trainers.
The true value of learning operations and enablement functions is to enable trainers to deliver training, knowledge acquisition and skill development in others by removing the operational, process and administrative burdens affecting all of them. The benefits of doing so go beyond improving the lives and work of the training teams to enhancing the reputation of training roles for recruiting new talent.
Designing the Enablement and Operations Role
The primary responsibilities for a learning enablement and operations role include:
- Identify and develop solutions for centralization, consolidation and standardization across work streams and teams.
- Lead workflow automation, project management, audits, procurement, vendors, technology platforms and governance processes.
- Identify solutions for how new work is assigned and how teams are formed, including monitoring capacity.
- Develop accountability and governance policy for authoring and prioritizing required training to moderate the pace and volume of training that is being sent by various sources.
- Integrate HR/performance to create alerts, triggers for new hires, moves and training implications.
- Develop and maintain asset inventory process, automate notifications to content owners.
- Create portal/hub and community for sharing preferred vendors, best practices, Q&As, fostering visibility and communications across functions.
- Consider developing bots for new hires and internal frequently asked questions, coordinate taxonomy/indexing with learning management system or learning experience platform.
- Work with leadership team to develop and communicate a clear decision-making authority process.
Recruiting the Right Expertise
The backbone to the role’s success resides with the L&D leader:
- Conduct initial due diligence to expose the challenges, frustrations and problems facing trainers.
- Have the will and courage to imagine new ways of working.
- Trust and enable the team by encouraging risks, delegating and viewing failures as a positive step toward continuous improvement.
- Offer safety to think freely, retain authenticity and take intelligent risks by supporting their attempts within the organization.
- If corporate culture is the barrier, the leader must always “have the backs” of staff when stakeholders complain or resist.
- Consider, evaluate and try something that lacks a guaranteed result. Test it in a small environment first, with a business partner that understands it may not succeed.
- With new tools, technology and innovation, leaders need to be comfortable (better, confident) embracing rapid changes.
- Constantly survey trainers, track and measure impact and outcomes of each initiative such as time saved, costs saved, job satisfaction and morale, etc.
Looking forward, building a solid and compelling business case might require changes to the corporate culture. Specifically, it might be anathema to some to consider hiring people into the L&D function without any of the direct technical or functional expertise of the organization or customer base. More radical is the idea that these are not designed to be transitional roles but longer-term to offer the stability and risk-mitigation most needed for long-term performance outcomes.
Kristin Scott, email@example.com, is executive director, L&D solutions, for TGaS Advisors, a division of Trinity Life Sciences.