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Knowledge, skills and behaviour need to change; the basis for learning and development
During routine evaluation or appraisal tasks a manager may identify a need to improve the performance of their department in line with business objectives. Also there may be times when a learning needs analysis project is undertaken to review the level of competence at team, department or organisational level. In simple terms, management will identify that the way things are being done at the moment is not good enough. This investigation forms the basis for a requirement definition.

It is worth pointing out that the requirement would be best defined by learning and development experts long before getting to the stage of starting the procurement process. That said; the requirement will influence what is written in the briefing document or Invitation to Tender (ITT) and how and where this document is presented or published.

So having undertaken an investigation the resulting requirement will be to satisfy an organisational and/or individual need. The following are pointers that will influence a commissioning manager’s thinking when it comes to writing a requirement brief.

Organisational needs
Most if not all discretionary training will be to provide an improvement in line with the vision, mission and goals of the organisation. As a result, the primary objective is likely to have a financial basis including the justification of budgets. An organisation may wish to make improvements in product/service or dealing with new client group. A manufacturing company may wish to make things cheaper, quicker, better.

Some organisational needs are focused on a desire for leaders to change the shape and direction of their organisation.

To achieve organisational change there are two considerations:
  • Culture; The shared values (what is important) and beliefs (the why behind what happens) which guide the behaviours of it members
    How might a technology company change its culture from being product centred to becoming lifestyle focused?
  • Climate; The themes that employees believe describe their organisation based on the practices, procedures and rewarded behaviours that employees see happening to them as well as around them. (Shoaf, Genaidy, Karowski, Huang. 2004)
    How might a distribution company capitalise on the use of mobile applications to reduce its fuel costs

Cultural change is a difficult and long term intervention and it is estimated that 50% of these projects fall short of objectives (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2011). In light of the recent financial crisis; how might an investment bank change its culture to be less short term, self centred or out of control?

Changing the climate within an organisation may be a little easier requiring, short and medium term interventions. Also because climate is more about practices and procedures, evidence that climate change has happened is more likely to be available. Within a manufacturing company improving its CRM processes to provide better after sales support will be a complex process but if it works, evidence of benefits will be obvious.

To achieve organisational change, a systematic approach to the definition of an organisational requirement will be (have been) drawn up identifying a series of different types of specific projects and activities targeted at different parts of the organisation. What this boils down to is that it will individuals that will require development.

Individual needs
It is becoming a bit of a truism to say that we are living in a knowledge based society and few managers can get away from the fact that their staff need to know and be able to do stuff. There are three components to staff development that will influence the type of learning and development project a commissioning manager might be required to undertake. These are:
  • Knowledge
    One of our members was asked by a public sector business development enterprise to provide cultural awareness training for companies looking to export to the middle east.
  • Skills
    An accredited member was tasked to provide managers with the skills to read and understand financial documents with a view to better budget management
  • Behaviours
    Another accredited member was tasked with facilitating a well-being workshop that embedded a more consistent approach to difficult management practices (confrontation)

Knowledge is about facts, data and information acquired through experience or education. Knowledge is the theoretical or practical understanding of a task or subject. This differs from skills.

A skill is the ability to exercise knowledge through acquired practice. But having knowledge and skills is not enough to enact new modus operandi and satisfy organisational change needs. What is required, and very often overlooked when evaluating staff development, is whether there has been a change in behaviour in an individual, as a result of the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

Behaviour is the way in which one acts or conducts oneself over time. It is evidence through action, of knowledge and skill.

Based on the above definitions a set of measurable objectives will need to be drawn up. Performance or learning objectives may be defined using three criteria:
  • the task (behaviour)
  • condition
  • standard

For example; as a result of attending this workshop, participants will be able to ‘describe which element of the company absence management procedure to employ’ (task), for ‘a persistent latecomer’ (condition) and ‘within what time frame’ (standard). This is an objective for a knowledge acquisition workshop and will not necessarily result in the participant acquiring the relevant skill in dealing with persistent latecomers nor for that matter result in the reduction of lateness; though it might.

To recap; when it comes to specifying a particular learning and development requirement it is essential for a commissioning manager to know:
  • how the requirement fits with the overall organisational remit
  • whether the activity or event will targeted at knowledge, skills or behaviours

A couple more examples to illustrate the difference between knowledge, skill or behavioural requirements:
  • I know how to juggle (I have declarative knowledge of an activity).
  • I can juggle (I have a level of skill in that activity).
  • I do not juggle as I gain no benefit from the activity (I do not exhibit the behaviour to evidence that I am a juggler).

On a more practical level:
  • your manager knows about the importance of absence management (has knowledge).
  • your manager has been on a course where they practiced dealing with latecomers (demonstrates skills).
  • your manager does not deal with latecomers consistently and displays inequality (does not demonstrate the skill as a consistent behaviour).

The evaluator of any change or development project will be down to determining whether new and appropriate behaviour has occurred. This can be a challenge to fulfil as not all learning and development activities are focused on change. The next article explains the type of learning activity a manager may encounter and what might be expected from each.

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Peter Mayes

Peter Mayes.

Peter Mayes is the founder and editor of TrainerBase; dedicated to helping business and other organisations find trainers and trainers find business.

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