The Learning & Development Podcast: Lessons From The Line Into L&D with Paul Jocelyn

February 16, 2021

Written by Kiren Kahlon

What can L&D learn from the line?

Topics

The Learning & Development podcast is hosted by our Chief Learning Officer David James. Featuring L&D leaders from across the globe, each conversation focuses on hot topics in the profession. This transcript is from the conversation between David and Paul Jocelyn on lessons from the line into L&D.

Listen to episode 63 of the Learning & Development podcast here.

David James: Welcome to The Learning & Development Podcast. I’m David James from Looop. In each episode, I chat with guests about what lights them up in the world of people development. In this episode, I’m speaking with Paul Jocelyn who is a seasoned L&D leader having been head of capability at Tesco during a 28-year spell at the company. Before we get into it, if you’re enjoying this podcast, please do give us a five-star rating on your podcast app of choice to help others to find us, and thank you if you’ve done so already. Now, let’s get into it.

David: Paul, welcome to The Learning & Development Podcast.

Paul Jocelyn: Thanks, David. I really appreciate the invite and thank you for all the work you are doing through this podcast. It’s really, really helpful.

David: Thanks, Paul, appreciate it. First question on this one and to provide some context. Now, you were at Tesco, one of the UK’s largest retailers for 28 years, culminating in a 4-year spell as head of capability for group marketing. How has your experiences with Tesco shaped your perspectives on business and L&D?

Paul: Yes, 28 years. That really is a lifetime, isn’t it? The old cliche about you could get longer for murder is probably true.

It was such a privilege to spend time in that organisation. It really was, obviously, a man and boy thing for me. I started as a part-timer on the classic route up through a retail training scheme all the way through to the opportunity to run four different stores as the store manager. That was a 13-year journey to that point. I guess the opportunity to be in a business at that point was number two in the UK and eventually overtook Sainsburys.

I think that being in second place and wanting to overtake was very much part of the psyche early on. Spending just over half of that career in stores and then spending 11 or 12 years in various head office roles was, of course, a huge impact for me in terms of my perspective on business, a business model, what it means to be a people manager, and the difference between leadership and management.

Throughout that time it was an organisation that clearly pushed the boundaries, the things that we take for granted today. Being an international business, being a business that sells non-food, being a business that’s online, none of that was true in the early ’90s. These things, again, easy to say, are genuinely groundbreaking, but it was a fantastic time and again a real privilege. I work with some fantastic people.

David: You’re right. You look at somebody’s career history, and it’s not until you’ve scratched the surface, and you take not just the 28 years, but if you put the timestamp over that, which is when that actually happened, you realise just how much transformation there will have been. Now, I was only at Disney for 8 years, but that was 2006 to 2014.

During that time we went from home entertainment being the most profitable part of the business, which was DVDs and then sooner Blu-ray, to it being when I left the least profitable part because streaming and competitors are not the bottom out of that. That is just one example about where the whole business transformed during that time. That transformation is bandied about and can be seen as a buzzword or perhaps overinflated in a lot of cases, but over those 28 years you must have seen and been party to some quite incredible transformation, am I right?

Paul: Yes, for sure. What’s easier over time? I left Tesco and set up my own business in the summer of 2017. That will be four years this summer. I guess as you reflect in the rear-view mirror as it were, the connections you were able to make, again, the things you took for granted in the organisation like that with that level of energy and expectation, but certainly early on it was a very entrepreneurial business.

Again, that is a word that’s everywhere now. If I think about my early years with an absolute determination and a desire to be a store manager and have a business of my own in those early days, they really were the master of all those of age in terms of how they set their store up, recruitment, ranging, merchandising, processing to a certain degree. There was such a level of autonomy.

I guess I looked at that role and thought, “Yes, that’s what I’d want to do.” I’d want to be able to have such responsibility and accountability and really grow something within the four walls as it were. By the time I made it, David, it became something that was much more about standardisation compliance. I’m very much a centralised model, which I guess was inevitable from a business that had scaled the way it had through the ’90s, the rapid expansion in the UK with determination to take that model overseas. As I say, if I look back now, that was something that we almost weren’t conscious of.

That centralisation and the need to be more consistent, more professional, more standard in the face of that complexity as you grow the estate, of course. When I think about ultimately the job of the store manager that I experienced versus my heroes growing up through the business as it were, are completely different jobs in terms of the level of consistency, compliance management, process management, often box-checking to be blunt.

On the one hand, that was absolutely necessary because these things, a small country, 350,000 plus colleagues in the UK alone, over half a million around the world, it was a very low margin business. At that point, it was a probably 2%, 2.5% operating margin. The volume that you’re dealing with and the level of consistency and competence required, that was the differentiator.

That business was better at doing those things consistently at scale 7 days a week, 363 days of the year. Then the competition quite simply built the tools, the processes, the infrastructures in a way that was mind-blowingly efficient and therefore effective to delivering those goals. Therefore spun off cash and could invest in building new businesses in terms of international online clothing, non-food, et cetera, et cetera, different store formats.

Experiencing that was– I’ve used that word a privilege absolutely the case. It was really tough and definitely gave me a perspective on both leadership and management as I mentioned. Then moving into the office side, they’ll fish you out of water, I went into 12 months as a reward for good behavior I was led to believe, and I never went back. At that point, it was just on the cost of that really rapid international expansion.

I did a project based in the marketing function for a year, which was never going to take away all those shelf-edge what’s called point of sales. The cardboard shelf talk as I recall that described the product promotions. We want to take that information, put it into the shelf-edge label. There’s a whole piece around clarity for the customer, a big productivity saving, of course, for the stores but that was in marketing. That was my way.

I guess the continuity was this is another big piece of change and all we’ve done in the shops for 10 years has changed. This is managing and enabling change, engaging people, thinking about process, thinking about value for customers, thinking about how do we get people to understand their contribution and their role in this as part of the greater good, which was such a strength of the business to connect that vision and strategy piece at the high level of making it really simple and relevant for the folks at the sharp end facing those customers.

I did that for a year, and then there was a question around okay this has worked, if we want to roll this into the fluctuating European business, central European business, do you want to be a part of that? I thought about that question for about 12 seconds. That’s quite a great opportunity. Again, it was at the point of what do we mean by marketing? We’ve done some of the hard year out or even some of the sexy stuff around acquiring businesses buying outs and businesses merging with some businesses and what does it mean to be Tesco in some of these markets, some of very established really solid operations, some a little bit more, you call the Wild West. This question of where do we want to be more standardised? What do we mean by marketing? That familiar world now, but it wasn’t back then this idea of capabilities, do we need to build and how does this join together to enable these businesses to start to adopt a much more consistent approach, common language, clearly more structure and process.

Also, what’s the sweet spot between here’s the sensor’s way, but recognising their experience and of course their expertise on the ground with their own customers in a market, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the UK. If you’d have asked me five years before that, would I have been in a position to lead some of that work and to bring together a group of subject matter experts and to start to work to structure that and bring it together in a way that could be taken around the world? Again, this idea of a learning organisation.

Tesco was, and still is I’m sure, much more of a learning organisation than it gives itself credit for because there’s an opportunity from my personal experience. Not only did that marketing thing need to hang together in terms of what are we going to measure? What are these different components and capabilities? How do we think about that? Not just in terms of the process and the system, but from the people aspect. Because it has some experienced guys in those marketing teams and senior leaders, and here comes best practice from the UK.

Now they’re working in an international business. Now they’re a partner across a number of other businesses in their location, but also back to that connection with the UK mothership, as it were. All those dynamics in terms of leadership, change, what we mean by learning, that’s where it really started to fall into place for me. We started off as very much that top-down deployment model. This is the way it needs to be. Here are some things that will be consistent, here is literally the Tesco way. There’s a whole set of documentation and processes that these are various levels of detail.

In the beginning, that was the hard bit, of course. Of course, it was because some of that just didn’t exist. The differentiator was, again, we’re going to be the business that gets there first, we’re going to document this in a way that hangs together. We get to ensure that these processes work in the vertical, in the horizontal, and then the marketing stuff fits with the commercial process and the store operation process, and it links through to the finance process.

All of that plumbing, as it were, was startup stuff. In the end, what was originally the hard bit, was overtaken by the even harder bit, which was how do we create the conditions where these people can say, “Well, I don’t agree with that, or actually our way, have you thought about this?” How do we build the relationships and the environment whereby this is not just a push model, but we’ve got the social structures we need? That’s a recurring theme that I’m sure we’ll come back to in this conversation.

We’re not the owner of this. We’re not the, as I say, the push, we’re not the gatekeeper and the guardian. We needed that in the first year or two, of course, but beyond that, some of the other challenges began to expose themselves. That’s where our work as a capability function really needed to refocus and where we really needed to lead beyond that.

David: Taking it back back to your store days at Tesco, Paul, would you say you relied on the learning function or the training function at Tesco for your development?

Paul: I’d say, of course, early on. Again, it’s a very process-led organisation or process-led role in store. Again, I’ve worked my way up. It’s still the case to a degree, I guess, but when you work in every department, you understand the process because you do every job. Some of that is just not the case today, whether it’s in retail or in other areas, probably more so in retail I guess. That idea of here’s the training, here’s the process, here’s the sign-off, here’s the resources you use, here’s somebody who’s going to validate you, there was always a very clear sense of that’s the role of HR or personnel in the very early days.

Again, there’s quite a hierarchy around who says you are competent and who can and can’t sign you off in that sense. That was always very clear, but I guess, over time, the learning was in the role, in the scenarios, in the challenges that were being set. I guess that, for me, was overtime the realisation, the wake-up call. That competence was the expectation early on. Do you understand this? Do you do it? Do you rinse and repeat accordingly? Do you understand the role? You’re the cog in the system, go get this done.

Over time the productivity challenge and the expectation of that from our stores and store colleagues and ultimately store managers, as I mentioned, to hit these targets and to be demonstrating, due compliance to due process was increasingly the expectation and those things were set by the center, but some of the challenges that perhaps they didn’t help with was the bits that we hadn’t written down, of course. You have to think about my challenge as a store manager, I’d grown up around the Herts and Essex home counties area. I’ve been really fortunate and privileged to run two shops. Then I got an assignment to go into the metro business, and this was in the City of London. It was really my first fully-fledged role, I guess, as a store manager. I had never worked in that metro format. I’d always been in the big stores. The superstore million pounds a week plus stores with 400 or 500 staff, so huge operations, and big infrastructures.

Then you go into metro, with four or five direct reports. You’ve got the keys to the shop, literally. In Central London, which is a completely different diversity profile. You’ve got the challenges there with the trade pattern. 88%, I think from memory of the trade, was in the week, Monday to Friday, because it’s all about the offices in the city, which was a completely different demographic. There was no handbook for that. There was no HR-led transition guiding the process from the superstores in this part of the country to the metro format.

Whether that was by accident or by design, you parachuted in, literally. You learned from the people that understood, you learned from people doing that work. You learned from the leadership team who found ways to adapt the process, ways to work with the process, ways to work over the process. Again, when I think about that store situation, the move around formats, moving up the hierarchy to store manager and then into the office, it was very much the experience, the environments, the challenges and the people around me, the support around me, rather than, I guess, looking back, the handbook or the process flow having all the answers.

Listen to episode 63 of the Learning & Development podcast here.

Corporate L&D Feels Stuck Obsessing Over Individual Performance Rather Than What Jobs Need to be Done

David: It seems that your experience there isn’t a million miles from everywhere I previously worked, which is the Learning & Development function has its programmes and it has its contents and is largely around the categorisation of topics, it’s predominantly learn new around particular topics. There’s very little on what it actually means around tasks of accountability. What it is that people will actually be expected to do within the roles, the challenges that they may face in the unfamiliar situations that they may find and what it means to be successful within a particular role.

It’s almost as if Learning & Development can provide some academic content or experiences, but as for real life, we don’t really get involved in that stuff. Now, you and I find ourselves agreeing on social media that corporate L&D feels stuck in some way. Now I’ve given you a little bit of my take on what I think some of the causes are there, but what’s your take on why this is?

Paul: I think that’s a really interesting reflection you’ve just made there. The mantra was and continues to be from my perspective, I think about growing up through Tesco owning a P&L of 50 million-plus, and a team of 300 odd people, my context of what do I need from the center? How do I need people to enable me to do my best by these people? Were almost two very different things. I think if we’re conscious of that and we call that out and say it as it is, that’s okay.

I think, again, to your point, we’ve got an ongoing focus, even an obsession, with individual performance, the answer to which is education. I think if we go back a whole bunch of years and think about that in the context of a business, and I’ve kind of touched on some of this already in terms of my Tesco reflection, what was L&D for? The strategy was set here. organisational design would organise the work, the roles into the structured charts and the handoffs and the silos, etc.

HR would put understandably the right process and a policy and a degree of safety around that. Then L&D train it in because we’ve done all the thinking up here and ultimately the expectation is, you have just got to get people to do what we need them to do. At that point where the value in the business was controlled through compliance standardisation, replication, you could see that fits or fitted.

The value created by giving everybody a role, understanding their accountability, swimming in your lane, being clear on what you need to know and where you find it, and then whatever conversation every year about how well you’re doing against that expectation. For me, when you lay it out in that way, and you talk about it in those terms, it just feels so disconnected and a bit disingenuous to where we are today in terms of what do we mean by creating value in a business? What do we mean by a differentiated organisation? There’s two things at play.

David: It just strikes me that the function of the Learning & Development department seems to be what can this small team support rather than what is the actual role that’s required from the organisation? As you’ve just said there, if you’ve got a small team, and they can’t possibly meet the needs of absolutely everybody, then all they can really do is administer a small suite of programmes and then a potential platform. Then as far as performance is concerned, you look and think, “Well, what is it that we can do rather than what is the job actually to be done?’

Paul: Yes. Ultimately, what I’ve described there is a kind of bureaucratic model. It’s a control-based model. The expectation is people are going to do what we need them to do. We’re going to provide them with what we need. We’re going to educate them, school at work in effect. That’s how they’re going to create value because we’re in control. We’ve decided that the level of contribution they can make, probably within a framework, within a matrix, this is the expectation.

I think you’ve got this perfect storm now of we’re seeing it’s accelerated again through the financial crisis of 10 years ago, but many have hung on. We’ve seen it now, of course, through the pandemic and who knows what with Brexit looking forward, but this idea of just simply managing through removing cost and driving efficiency is not a differentiator. Those businesses are falling away. That pressure is pushing down, what’s then pushing up in that perfect storm is the increasing expectation, I think that if you’re going to choose to be employed, you’ve now got a very different expectation of that business, your boss as a leader, the way that you want to bring yourself to it, the way that you want to master your craft, build a network and contribute. Those two genies are out of the bottle. The work of L&D needs to reflect and I’d argue accelerate those shifts, not try and hold back the tide.

Again, I’d argue because we’re stuck, and I’d agree to your point we’re stuck, the work of L&D needs to disrupt the organisation positively. If we can agree that we’re here to change the business for the better, I think that’s a decision we need to make collectively within the organisation. How much of our work is about change? How much of our work is about maintaining the status quo?

Let’s just be honest with each other and ourselves. If we’re comfortable in the latter, we should call that to each other and again, to the business. If we agree that we can help the organisation to change because value creation and what we need from people is now different, I think we can then agree that just churning out and supporting compliance and more compliant workers isn’t our sole focus. If we can agree on that, well then we must be able to agree that education and school at work is not the go-to tactic.

These are quite fundamental reoccurring worldview systematic challenges that in some ways the L&D function is a victim of this thing above this bureaucratic systematic shift, factory owner type leaders and all of that stuff. I think there’s a big opportunity to take responsibility to show a new way and stop waiting for a signal somewhere.

We Need to Focus on Trying to Understand What the Organisation’s Trying to do, and What Our People Are Able to and Unable to do in the Context of What our Organisation is 

David: What that had me reflect on there, Paul, is recognising our place. It seems to me that where there’s a vacuum in L&D’s ability to actually help an organisation with what it wants to do. Sometimes we’ve just looked at that and thought, “Oh, it seems a bit hard, so what I’ll do is I’ll create my own agenda.” The organisation’s over here and their agenda is helping middle managers to fully understand this role and elevating from the doer that they were and local accountability to adding value across different functions and different areas over here.

There’s a real need and it’s all really based on what the organisation is in the market to actually try to achieve. Learning & Development look and think, “I know how I might be able to help this as well. I’ll help them have courageous conversations. You can go, “You’ve only decided that because you’re not willing to really find out what the need is.” What you’ve done is you’ve taken a look and thought, “This is some best practice on a conversation that I’m hearing and I’m seeing in Learning & Development, so I think this might help.”

I think we see this over and over again where Learning & Development will say, “I know what our priority is, it’s to create a learning culture.” So, that’s not a language in the organisation as of right now, it tries to survive through COVID and then looks to establish itself as a new identity. Again, Learning & Development, rather than truly trying to understand what is your organisation’s trying to do, really looking and understanding what is it that our people are able to do and aren’t able to do in the context of what our organisation is, we take a look at it to say, “How do we buy a platform that categorises content, and then surfaces the content based on what people say they’re interested in and what they establish as the deficit in their skill base?”

Again, it all comes down to, if we don’t really understand what it is that we’re trying to do, anything will do as a result. Then what we do is we get caught up in our own worlds around preferred delivery mechanisms, new and novel delivery mechanisms, silver bullet solutions and the absolute bugbear of mine, which is, let’s create a learning culture, which is simply instead of adding a cherry on the cake, or even icing on the cake, it’s deciding to bake a different cake and convincing everybody that that’s the cake they need, not the one that they are working in right now. Rant over. 

Paul: Wow. Do you feel better now, David? 

David: I do feel a little bit better now, but I’m wondering whether you can glue all that together now because I’ve just ranted for the sake of it.

Paul: No, I can make sense of that. I think yes, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because, as I said, I think, within many other L&D functions, they’re really doing as they’re asked. I think one of the interesting places to look for clues on this, and I did a blog on this, probably in the middle of last year, is if you look at corporate, certainly head of L&D job descriptions, as there’s always an interesting clue in there.

The ‘what we need’ box always says things like, “Develop a learning culture, build a strategy for learning, put learning at the center of our business,” always good stuff. Then you look at the box that says, “What we need you to do.” It talks about, “Develop programs, manage programs.”

David: Administer the elements.

Paul: Ensure our compliance training is up to date, administer our set of courses. I think there’s a, again, to give L&D just a little bit of leeway on this, I think, probably because people only know what they’ve experienced at the top of the organisation, there’s a very narrow, control-based problem-solution mindset going on above and around them. In that, we know what we know, we like what we understand, we’re in control of this. Again, back to that question of “all we really need to do is to get people doing what we’ve agreed” it’s as easy as that. Actually, that’s no longer the challenge.

What used to be scarce and valuable, compliant workers do as they’re told. That’s not the problem anymore. Competency isn’t a differentiator, it won’t help you. What we need to create is adaptability and the mindset. Again, the social structures that can enable people to make good decisions. Again, I’d argue L&D needs to demonstrate that that’s not a risk and a threat. Because in this team, this is how it works already, or in the way that we’re working together, look at what it enables. In the way that these people are now connected, look at the results. How can I take this to the next thing and the next thing?

I think simply, the pushback, is simply saying, “Where in our organisation do we need standardisation and consistency? Where have we codified the answer and we’ve proved it?” Even if that’s a historic thing. Great. How do we do that in the most optimised way? That might be through technology. How do we optimise that core stuff? Because increasingly, the challenges, it’s the new bit. It’s the stuff we haven’t worked out. It’s the stuff where there isn’t a simple answer. It’s the stuff that’s not on the exam paper. It’s the stuff you’re not going to educate, binary, yes, no, your way to. Well, how do we enable that? How do we encourage that? What’s our role here?

Listen to episode 63 of the Learning & Development podcast here.

Again, I think part of the challenge is you’ve got a very narrow mindset above often, many people come into L&D, perhaps through an instructional design route, and what I see is, they’re doing what they know, and they’re doing what they enjoy. They’re providing a solution within their context, within their frame of reference that is, what they believe, to be the only way. I think, also, we’ve got this challenge, and this is a really interesting systemic problem as well, I’ve probably through my own business consulting and advising, it’s probably 30 odd organisations now, in those three and a half years.

There’s a really interesting fundamental challenge simply between, or defining the difference between I should say, but what’s the goal? What’s the strategy? Then, what’s the tactics? Those three things are different. What’s, to your point, what’s the diagnosis and the insight? What are the principles we’re going to employ? Then what’s the action we’re going to take? Because invariably, and what we always seem to do in L&D, is go tactics first. That default is there’s this almost dangerous mixture, this dangerous cocktail of, we’ll lead with tactics. We really want to please and it’s all about solutions.

David: A good example there, Paul, is that when you hear people saying, “What’s our digital learning strategy?” No, no, that’s a solution. What you’re doing is you’re looking to create a strategy around one of your tools. 

Paul: Exactly and it’s all in reverse. The goal is, we need to create teams of people who can now think more like this. Because here’s the challenge in our sector. These are the things that are going to differentiate us from these three competitors. The strategy to get there means this. What are the aligned set of tactics that are connected and appropriate in that context? Again, because it’s not this binary we’ve had a request in, we’re waiting for permission, this is what’s dropped out of the annual review plan and our capability matrix and all the requests from the regional directors.

That responsive problem solution looking for a problem thing is, that’s a big step, I think, still. I was looking at some research from Brandon Hall earlier in the week, and it said, only 46% of organisations have a strategy around learning that’s connected to the business and business goals. In small businesses, 28% say it’s well defined. 44% of large businesses say it’s well defined and small businesses only 17% say they’re clear on how they measure success, that goes up to 33% in large businesses. I don’t know, it’s probably the same for you, how many years of this data reports, the great stuff that towards maturity have done, we were working with those guys towards maturity 10 years ago in Tesco, this challenge around our role and our impact, it’s way beyond tactics.

A Common Issue is That we Haven’t Got Leaders Doing the Things we Need to do to Support People in the Context of the Way the Business Works Today 

David: That’s it. You can’t just start with a solution. You see how this works. I’ve worked with enough Learning & Development functions where the core is the administration and delivery of programs and content, that is the core of L&D. Then it’s almost retrospectively done, how do you map the solutions back to the strategy? You’re looking for problems to solve with the solutions that you’ve already determined on what you’re going to offer? It’s all backward.

It’s still a common experience for a lot of Learning & Development. Because either they haven’t got the currency or they haven’t developed a currency to question what is recognised as the standard fare, which is, because there’s a lot wrapped up in Learning & Development, position does education, whether it be a reward, whether it be perceived value, and all of this stuff, despite really being able to measure meaningful return on investment.

It all comes down to, everybody has a perception of what this looks and smells like and therefore, this is what we offer. Then, how do we map that back? Which is bonkers, greatly, but leads me on to my next question.

I’m conscious of time, Paul, because you work with, and I think this is really an important one, you mentioned about your clients and of course, you work with heads of L&D now, who know they need to adapt and to develop their teams. What are heads of L&D anxious about right now? COVID, loaded question! What do you advise they do to address the causes of their anxiety?

Paul: Well, I think again, I mentioned that the ongoing– the data, the reports, there’s an industry in itself around this, isn’t it? I was going to say around conferences and podcasts, but here we are talking about it.

Maybe that’s not appropriate. I think in terms of the challenges, these are pretty perennial. You’ve mentioned it a couple of times already in our conversation, creating a learning culture. Definitely, the one around learning in the flow of work is a reoccurring theme. Leadership development is a big one for sure and this whole area of digitisation or digital transformation of learning, there’s three or four themes there that really are annual favorites, slightly tongue in cheek. For me though, it’s back to the same thing. If you look at those challenges, we don’t have a culture where learning is seen as part of the work. We continue to think about digital transformation as a way of simplifying existing processes around it, perhaps most things still continue as they were before. We haven’t got leaders doing the things we need to do to support people in the context of the way the business works today because customers want different things from us. All of that is, again, context, and it’s about “we still want to be in control and we still need to deliver all the answers and we can solutionize this.” Again, it’s about process over creating the right environment and creating the conditions, and giving up some of that control as a central team or a central function.

Again, one of the really interesting exercises that I’d often do, it’s not the same is, I mentioned it before. Let’s get really clear on the areas in your organisation, whereby you feel like you found the answer and you found a way to support people to deliver against the things that they need to do in order for the organisation to thrive. Where have you codified it? What is that based on? Is there any risk on that, because maybe that’s stuff you’ve done for years and years, but might not be changing, but as long as we’re clear on, here are the things where we just need people to do it one way, our way, then that’s fine.

More importantly, where are the unanswered things? What are the risks? What’s emerging? Where is it about adaptability? Where is it clear that what you’re doing right now isn’t working? What is it you’re going to need more of? Again, we haven’t got to list those and codify those, but where do we need to create some space? Quite simply, where is that productive learning stuff, getting people to do it, the very single-minded one way, our way, versus the generative bit that says, “We need to create opportunities and new connections and ways of bringing people together that are going to solve this.”

How much of our time and effort and energy and budget is going into the first bucket versus into the second bucket? That can be a really revealing process, because low and behold, everything to your point, all of the money, the time, the effort, the supplier partnerships, the technology, is about the centralised, codified control compliance bit. We spend very, very little time on thinking about what’s next and enabling the new stuff.

Even just to shift that balance by 5% over the next 6 or 12 months, and then to challenge yourself to say, “What might the strategy be for that? What are some of the new tactics you might employ?” Because if you try and just continue to do this, aligned to that goal, it’s not going to fit, is it? That classic one around, “We just want people to take more responsibility for learning, but by the way, the only way you learn is via this lovely classroom. We’re seeing those two things wholly incompatible because a tactic to a strategy can be really revealing and quite scary for some of these leaders.

I think just calling it out and naming it and being conscious and deliberate about, sometimes this stuff is quite– Is not explicit. It’s what we’ve always done and these things roll over from year to year. It’s just inferred. It’s what people expect from us. It’s the stuff we do, people seem to like — We measure attendance, so politically, that would be quite tough to rein it back, but getting back to that idea of what’s the diagnosis? What are the principles you’re going to follow? You’re going to do more of this and less of this. We will do that, but we won’t now do that.

Then our actions and our tactics can follow. Just adopting that as a simple framework and a mantra can be really revealing and really challenging, but quite energising is my experience too. Just being able to say, “A part of our job is about standardised workers in one way because it’s safe and trusted and it works”, but no, no, no, increasingly much more of our role and rightly, is about creating an environment where people are working together more like this and creating these connections, people are coming together in these ways. People are able to look outside because this is increasingly important.

Just starting to readdress that balance as a leadership role, seeing our work as leading, not just managing, that can be a really energising realisation. A great resolution to make.

David: Great. That’s a really good point in which to wrap things up. A really positive call to action, but Paul, if people wish to follow your work or connect with you, how can they do so?

Paul: Yes, I’d say three ways. My website at, https://www.jocelynconsultingltd.co.uk. I’m on Twitter at @PaulJocelyn, and over on LinkedIn too.

David: Brilliant. That’s fantastic. Thank you very much for your time and your expertise here, Paul, and thank you very much for being a guest on the Learning & Development Podcast.

Paul: Great. Thanks to you.

David: Having a strong operational career prior to joining the L&D community has helped Paul to focus on what’s important and also see what’s amiss when so many of us may accept practices and approaches because they’re pillars of the L&D lexicon. But L&D is changing, because so much else is changing, not least expectations. This has been a timely conversation, as many of us consider what next for ourselves at the beginning of this year.

If you’d like to get in touch with me, perhaps to suggest topics you’d like to hear discussed, you can tweet me at @DavidInLearning, and connect on LinkedIn. Goodbye for now.

Listen to episode 63 of the Learning & Development podcast here or book a free demo to find out more about implementing learning solutions that will provide value.

About Paul Jocelyn

Paul has more than 25 years of corporate senior leadership experience in Operations, Business Transformation, Marketing, Capability Building and Learning and Development in the UK and internationally. 

Connect with Paul on Twitter and LinkedIn

Connect with David on LinkedIn and Twitter

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