Training the Modern Workforce Live is a weekly show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Hosted by Allogy CEO Colin Forward, each episode features an informative conversation with a prominent guest in the training world.
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About Derek Lawrence, Program Manager at Allogy
Derek Lawrence is the program manager at Allogy. Derek received his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma and has a decade’s worth of experience in project and training system management, including serving as the training manager of the National Visa Center from 2015 to 2018, where he established a comprehensive, data-driven training system for visa processing procedures.
Adam Wagner: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Allogy’s podcast, Training the Modern Workforce Live, the weekly show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Each week, we’ll talk about a different training topic, and make sure to keep an eye out for special guests and interviews from top training professionals.
With me as always, I have Colin Forward, CEO of Allogy. For the last decade, Colin has provided major U.S. hospitals and federal agencies with distance learning solutions. He’s an alumnus of UCF’s Institute of Simulation & Training, where he studied mobile technology under Dr. David Metcalf while earning a degree in computer science as well as his MBA.
Joining Colin this week is Allogy’s own program manager, Derek Lawrence. He received his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. Derek has a decade’s worth of experience in project and training system management, including serving as the training manager of the National Visa Center from 2015 to 2018, where he established a comprehensive, data-driven training system for visa processing procedures.
This week, we’re going to be talking about change management. With COVID-19 forcing a lot of companies to work remotely, it’s not only a change management event but one that is also affecting how companies handle change management. We’ve got some great questions on deck already, but as always, feel free to ask any questions that may come up in the chat, and we’ll get to as many as we can.
Alright, Colin, over to you.
Colin Forward: Alright. Thanks, Adam. And Derek, thanks for dedicating even more of your time today to hang out with Adam and myself. I think that you’ve got a good background in today’s topic. So, interested to get your perspective on some of the questions we’ve already got. But before we get into some of those, change management is kind of an abstract thing. Even people that have established training operations may not have a whole lot of experience with it. So maybe we could start out by defining it and explaining why it’s relevant specifically to training.
Derek Lawrence: Sure. So everybody experiences change management, whether they want to or not, whether they’re prepared for it or not. So the management part of change really has to do with looking at the change event and saying, “How do we prepare for this? How do we implement this? And then, how do we respond to anything that we identify as needing to either be more successful or as a lesson learned coming out of this?”
So, whatever the format people are using, whether it’s ADDIE or whatever in order to implement that process, that’s usually what change management is referring to—the idea of being able to accomplish a change event successfully. Now, where training fits into that.
Colin Forward: Maybe put another way is like, we’re all trying to improve our organizations all the time, but having change management is sort of bringing self-awareness to this process.
How Does Change Management Relate to Training?
Derek Lawrence: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So yeah, training usually lives right at the center of change management in an odd way in that successful change has to do with adopting both new cultures and new processes. And when you’re talking about people, that means human processes. So training is usually tapped to try and make sure that the politics, the people, the processes all get implemented in a successful fashion.
That also means that training ends up right at the center of the maelstrom if anything’s going sideways because training is the answer—everything’s moving in real-time. And training managers, trainers, they’re essentially responding to a new environment, new challenges, in real-time, as it moves through this change management process.
Colin Forward: Okay. So, it sounds like that could be a lot of work. Is this the kind of thing where this is just an ancillary task that someone in training should perform, or is it a separate capability that people need to prepare for? Or how does it fit in exactly?
Derek Lawrence: Yeah. So, I mean, some organizations, they’ve got change managers, right? They’ve got a whole change management cycle. They’ve got a change control board. They’re integrated really successfully with the quality management system and everybody plays nice in the sandbox. For most people, there may be people who are wearing those hats, but the reality is that there’s no single avenue whereby all change management is going to be planned, resolved, successfully executed.
So it means the training managers and training professionals are going to need to be really well-versed in how their organization handles change management and how to manage the change agents effectively—a lot of times without the authority to do so.
You know, most often in my background, there was a change that was a mandatory change. It had to do with a change in policy that may or may not be configured to the organization itself. And so, the training manager needed to figure out how do we accomplish the training in order to achieve all the objectives of the policy of the people who are going to be at the top end of benefiting from that policy.
Colin Forward: Well, so I think that’s a pretty good starting place that lays a good foundation. So I have more questions for you, but we also have other questions. So maybe, Adam, you can let us know what people have asked so far.
Adam Wagner: Yeah, for sure. Our first question comes from Aaron M. He asked specifically:
What Is Change Management in Terms of Culture vs. Process?
Derek Lawrence: Sure. So, generally, the culture of change management has to do with managing anger at the change. Change is frustrating, almost always. I’ve never been in a change event where they walked in and said, “We want to pay you more for doing less. I hope you have a nice day.” So almost always you’re taking somebody who is very set up in their routine, it takes very low effort to do it, and you’re telling them, “We need you to do something different, higher cognitive level of effort, and you’re still going to be responsible for the same quality on the other side.”
So, the cultural element of getting people to see that as a valuable innovation as opposed to another way that the company might ding me for something that they thought up without asking anybody—that’s a cultural piece. How do I get a culture where people are excited about change, and how do I make sure that that’s what’s driving the change? There are a few ways that we can talk about doing that.
Colin Forward: So chicken or the egg here. So the process comes first, and then it’s a matter of getting people to embrace that process, to develop that culture?
How to Successfully Handle the Culture of Change Management
Derek Lawrence: Yeah, so the process and the policy are generally what comes first, but those are also developed in backrooms normally. The first thing that needs to be handled in terms of training is going to be the culture because the process is usually out of the training area’s hands—somebody else is coming up with the process. But implementing that process, the first step is to make sure that you’ve handled the cultural elements successfully. And one of the ways we used to approach that was looking at the people and saying, “Who are the people who are most likely to be excited about this, and then most likely to be disillusioned? Get them trained first because we need their enthusiasm to carry the initial momentum.”
Then, you’re going to have people who like to evaluate things on its benefits, right? Those are the people you want to train next because they need a little bit of time in order to get into the system and make their own judgments. But they’re the ones who are going to be the most stable. So when the disillusion happens, they’re the ones who are able to take those initial folks and say, “No, no, no, this is a really good idea. It’s working well; let’s be balanced about this.”
The third group are the ones who hate the idea of change and have probably been there forever. So if you train them last, you can put them to work first by saying, “What do you not like about this policy? What do you not like about the process? What are the things that we need to be aware of as trainers?” And then, you train them last once everybody else is already up to speed on it so they’re not able to sort of sabotage the culture of the whole change.
So if you’re able to take your groups and you’re able to segregate them into those cultural elements, a lot of times, you can leverage the different qualities of those groups to be more successful in maintaining a smooth culture through the change.
Colin Forward: Okay, so I’m starting to see the different pieces you’re fitting together. Is there any way we could be more specific about what entities within a given organization are represented by these different parties you’re describing?
Derek Lawrence: Sure, let’s start with the third party: people who are against the change. Okay, these are going to be veterans, very established, very successful. A lot of times they are direct team-leads and supervisors who know the headaches they’re going to have to face in trying to get their team now back to where they were. Right? I mean, it’s 100% cost for a lot of these people.
The people in the middle are usually folks who are not new to the organization, but they are ambitious. They want to demonstrate that they can be successful and that they are part of the solution moving forward.
The super enthusiastic people at the front end, a lot of times, they’re new hires, so everything’s new. They don’t have anything invested in the process. They’re just trying to make this work, and they get excited about how the policy is presented as far as value.
So, a lot of times it has to do with seniority, who is where. But other times, it has to do just with personality. And you can usually leverage your team-leads pretty successfully to say, “Who’s going to like this? Who’s going to hate it? And how do you feel about it?” And then, you can get everybody sort of aligned in terms of the training schedule.
Colin Forward: Okay, so I’m gonna do Adam’s job here for a second because I noticed one of the questions we have on deck is kind of related to what you’re describing. So Sanjay P. asks: “If change management is so important, what makes it so difficult?” Is it just these personalities and their conflicting interests, or is there more to it than that?
If Change Management Is So Important, What Makes It So Difficult?
Derek Lawrence: More to it than that? That’s actually the easiest part to manage because, a lot of times, the cultural elements—you can have those conversations, and you can get people to either embrace it right away or to reserve judgment until you have enough traction to move forward. But a lot of what the culture piece is is agency. The part that makes it so difficult is that, generally speaking, the process is going to be difficult to implement—just in the sense of it being a higher cognitive cost.
So it’s always easy to point the finger at quality and say quality is like the internal affairs of the organization, right? And quality is the one that’s going to be against the process changing too quickly, but they’re also going to be the ones engaged. And so change is going to be difficult because you have competing aims. A lot of times, the business area wants to move quickly. They want to get back to production speed. They don’t want to spend a lot of extra effort. Quality wants to make sure that the change is not going to affect the bottom line as far as quality.
So quality is perfectly happy to spend business operations, cognitive effort, because it means that you have a higher quality percentage. Business is saying, “I don’t have the effort to spend, right? I mean, everything I’m doing is going into production.” So one of the things that you can do, if you can get quality and business to agree on just somethings, as far as what are the new production rates that we are comfortable with, what is this new environment, and then, what’s the transition path? Then, a lot of times, you avoid an us-versus-them in terms of business saying, “We’re doing our best,” and quality saying, “The change process training is a failure because people are getting nailed all over the place for quality errors.”
Colin Forward: Okay. So to put this another way, we work with hospitals a lot of times where compliance is playing this role that you’re describing being the sort of top-down pressure on change and affecting change. So how can someone in learning and development or someone who is the agent of that change make sure that they are aligned with a group like compliance or that top-down pressure without losing their audience, the business owners, and the end-users?
How Do Just-in-Time-Training Resources Help Drive Successful Change Management?
Derek Lawrence: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’d say the first step is to make sure that the compliance people have a voice in the discussion. They need a voice in the discussion; they’re not necessarily the entire discussion. So everybody needs to understand there are multiple sides. But then, as far as implementation, the biggest single thing that I saw drive successful change management is the ability to reference the new procedure very quickly, very easily, and not have to go hunting for it. Because if I’m not referencing it, then I’m hoping I remember.
If I don’t remember, I’m doing the old process, which means a lot of quality errors, and in hospitals, that means people are getting sick or dying because somebody wasn’t compliant. That’s a huge deal. On the other hand, if I know that I’ve got an easy to access reference, and all I really need to do is a flag of, “Hey, this is a new procedure. Let’s check this over first.” And that’s accommodated for, in terms of my expectations, as far as time turn around, you know, all the rest of it, at least for a few weeks, I can build that new habit pretty successfully. As long as referencing the material is easy and it’s something that’s built into the process itself.
Colin Forward: Okay, so that ties into some of the stuff we’ve been talking about, choosing your training delivery method and in some previous episodes and some of our blog posts. So, what you’re talking about really is needing a system that’s got on-demand references, as opposed to sitting down and training and going to do your job, right?
Derek Lawrence: Yeah, one of the things that I know that I brought to the table in one of my previous positions was some of the training experience that I’ve had in language learning. One of the studies we did with our students was finding out that the successful students were ones who were able to say the right thing the right way the first time.
And our unsuccessful ones who stagnated, they might have really fluent capabilities. They might have broad vocabularies, but they would make the same mistake over and over, and we’d correct it, and they’d correct it, and we move on. And what we found was that they had built a new process where they would say it wrong, get corrected, and say it right. That was their process.
And so, the idea of integrating that into change management—first off, in the training, you want people to be using the resources they’re going to use. And then, that training process is one that you want to make sure that you’re reinforcing—you identify the situation. Okay, this is the new situation we’re talking about. You reference it. Easy to do, right?
Their content’s broken down so that that reference is not a heavy lift. And then, you do the process, and you work with them in the training itself in order to make sure that referencing is a key metric. Right? Did they reference it, or did they just go off the top of their head?
I don’t care if they knew it. I don’t care if they got it right. They need to have that in the process in order to make sure that on the day they haven’t had their coffee or they’re working a double, they’re still referencing it.
Colin Forward: That makes good sense. So, Adam, why don’t we go back to the questions that have come in?
Adam Wagner: Yeah, that’s actually a good segue because Maxine J. wants to know:
Training Is Often at the Center of Change Management. Why Is It So Critical to Get the Training Part Right?
Derek Lawrence: Great question. So getting the training part right, there are two key priorities: First off, you are changing a habit loop. You are changing human performance. You’re changing procedures that have been ingrained into the person who needs to be responsible for the new procedures. Apart from organizations always pointing at training as being the reason for whatever, there’s also the very real aspect that people who are changing their habits, who are changing their approach, require instruction in the new approach. They require practice in the new approach. Again, practicing it the right way, as opposed to just doing it another way. And they also require evaluation.
And what training is able to do—apart from the quality metrics on the other side, which are very much success/failure—is measure growth as far as bridging the gap between production needs and quality needs to say, “Here’s what we’re starting from. We’re slow, but we’re accurate, and here’s how we need to grow without losing that accuracy.”
Colin Forward: Okay, so training is able to measure growth. So when we’re talking about change management versus some other learning outcome,
What’s the Difference Between Measuring Growth in Terms of the Training Goal Versus a Change Management Goal?
Derek Lawrence: This is a great question, and it also ties back to your training delivery. So a lot of LMSs are going to be great at the front end of that. We’ve got a new procedure. Everybody read it off the slides. We’ll give you a demonstration. Take a test. And I can show that you’ve been compliant with all of the training requirements.
And then, people walk out and after a week everybody’s falling flat on their face. Why? Well, because there’s nothing that they took out with them. Right? So if you’ve got a delivery system that allows you to say, “We’ve got an initial assessment benchmark,” to say, “Did you understand the material? Can you answer the right question?”
Great. That’s job number one, and that protects your training team from people saying, “I was never trained on this.” But then, secondly, being able to go out and say, “How often are you referencing this?” Right? Is it something that is in line with what we would expect to see in terms of the number of these procedures that were done?
If we did a thousand procedures in the first week, and we only had 32 content references—guaranteed you’re going to see quality errors coming through. So that allows you to say, “Do we need to pull people back in? Do we need to make this a point of emphasis?” That’s where you can really leverage your supervisors and say, “Hey, people aren’t referencing this material.”
That’s going to come back on you. Like, pull everybody together and remind them, make sure that people are doing this the right way.
Colin Forward: Okay, and then that gets to some of what we talked about a lot of time and making sure that you’re making the right investment in training. So it’s not just more training but what’s landing and what’s not?
Derek Lawrence: Yeah. One of the things that happened a lot was you would end up with a change event. Your stars would be okay, your middle ground people would take a while to catch up. And then, there would be a group of people who were right on the edge, right? They were marginal before, and this tipped them below that marginal line.
So now they’re failing in terms of the quality expectations. Almost always the answer was, “Well, train them again.” It’s like, well, we don’t need to run them through another two-hour training on stuff they already know; we need to get them fixed. And so, what a good training delivery system can do is it can take that marginal group and it can identify where they are struggling in the process. And if you have metrics, especially training metrics and reference metrics aligned with that, you’re able to pull them out and very specifically say, “Here’s what they need to be trained on.”
It’s not another two-hour training; it’s a 15-minute training. And then we can send it back out, and that makes production happy because they are able to get their people back, and it makes quality happy because they’re able to mitigate concerns.
Colin Forward: Okay, yeah. That makes really good sense. Can we get any specific examples of the type of metrics that we should be tracking for these efforts?
What Are Some Specific Metrics Change Management Should Track?
Derek Lawrence: Sure. So I mentioned the assessment metrics that pretty much any LMS system is going to provide, and that’s important, don’t get me wrong. But another key metric is going to be an observation metric or an evaluation metric where somebody who’s responsible for doing it and probably having an instructor or some kind of a team leader assess their performance on that.
Now, a lot of times that happens and everybody goes, “Yep, looks good,” and they walk away. But that needs to be documented, too, because the difference between “I was trained on it” and “I was evaluated on doing it”—whole different story. And if you’re dealing with either training problems where you’ve got people attacking the training area, or if you have a union involved where training can come back around as far as employee performance reviews, evaluations, that kind of thing—you really need to have this document in order to show that this person was successful at some point because that’s your benchmark.
Then, when somebody comes back through, you can identify the specific things that they’re struggling with, and you can correlate that against maybe things that they got wrong on the knowledge assessment—even if they passed—you can correlate that based on their initial performance of the evaluation, and you can look and say, “How do we train them in order to get better performance moving forward?”
Colin Forward: Okay. I don’t know if we want to go down this rabbit hole, but you mentioned unions. That seems like an interesting third party in this whole equation.
Derek Lawrence: Yeah. So again, so working with unions has its own challenges. There are certain benefits that a union provides in terms of leverage for training. There are also certain difficulties that a union introduces as far as, you know, documentation or making sure that everybody’s head is on straight.
As a training professional working with a union, first of all, you need to understand that documentation is going to be key. But you also need to understand that your metrics are going to get a tremendous amount of momentum with the organization because those are the metrics that you’re able to demonstrate your training is successful, not only to the organization but to the union as well.
Your union stewards, a lot of times, can also identify some of the areas where they feel that your training is not providing for trainees. And that can be really useful feedback because you might not get that from your trainees in an evaluation, or you might overlook it because maybe one person said it.
But if all of a sudden it’s a die-on-a-hill moment for the union, that’s something that you really want to take a look at it in terms of your training because it can pay dividends down the road.
Colin Forward: Okay. So it’s not always a catch-22. This can actually work out to someone’s favor if they’re in learning and development.
Derek Lawrence: Yeah, as an example, we collected student evaluations on every class. Those evaluations were normally used as just individual feedback for the instructors. “How did this class go? What can you improve?” You know, those kinds of things. Once the union was introduced into the organization, those evaluations became like a key currency in terms of everything from the CBA negotiations to how the organization viewed itself.
You know, are my people happy? How am I getting that information? Because we were the only evaluation the place had. If somebody was happy in training, that’s the only time anybody heard about a relative scale of happiness other than when somebody went to HR. And that ended up being a really good benchmark for the organization to say, “What is our overall health?”
Colin Forward: Okay, great. Well, I think that’s a great takeaway there. Adam, why don’t we go back to the questions?
Adam Wagner: Yeah, for sure. Brian C. asks:
Can Learning Technology Help Overcome Change Management Obstacles?
Derek Lawrence: Yeah. Great question. So this kills two birds with one stone, right? How do I leverage technology to make my organization more successful? And then, how do I deal with, sort of, change management issues that show up across the board?
First off, technology is able to connect to a distributed workforce. And so, whether you’re working remotely or whether you’re dealing with multiple sites that all have to deal with the same training, one of the ways that technology can help is by providing a mechanism whereby a content authority is able to say, “Here’s the approved content.” And that content gets distributed to everybody.
Again, you need the right learning management system. You need the right content management system. But if you’re able to maintain evergreen content in an authoritative fashion that has really lightweight publishing requirements, your organization is going to have a much easier time.
Secondly, with a distributed group, you’re going to introduce a much greater risk of curriculum drift or instructor drift. And that, essentially, is defined as having an instructor that is training processes or training procedures or policy that are not the approved policy. Right? They might be good ideas. I mean, every one of us to sat through a training where the instructor says, “This is what’s in the manual, but here’s how we really do it.” Okay. That’s instructor drift. And that either means that your manuals aren’t up to speed, in which case you’ve got a content problem, or it means that your instructor is pulling people into their own personal world, and then you’ve got an instructor problem.
Colin Forward: Well, so that makes a lot of sense as far as what you want to be able to accomplish with your learning technology. Is there a quick way to be able to figure out if the LMS or whatever kind of learning technology you’re evaluating fits into one camp or the other?
Derek Lawrence: Sure, and we can probably figure out how that’s affecting change management at the same time. So let me walk through those.
First of all, is your change management successful? Right? And if the answer is, “What is change management,” then the answer is no. If you’re looking at your change management process and you’re saying it’s either unsuccessful or it’s only successful because me and my trainers are spending 15 hours a day making it successful, then you’ve got a problem, right?
And the way to address that through technology is to look and say, “When the change control board hands down changes, does that interrupt my training schedule or is that something that I can seamlessly integrate?” If I can’t seamlessly integrate it, it means I’ve got a content-control problem where new content has to take a while to process through the system. It takes a while to distribute—huge headache.
If the content isn’t the issue, but I’m having unsuccessful trainings where people are doing well on the assessment but they’re doing poorly on the evaluation, or they’re doing well on the evaluation but sinking in the job performance, chances are that I’ve got an instructional problem. And that’s something that I need to look at and say, “My instructors are drifting away from the approved process.” And I can see that because we’re having quality errors, which is evaluating on the approved process, not the way your instructors thought it should go.
So if you’re able to get those right, the way that circles back to change management is it means change management becomes really lean. And if you’ve got lean change management, you’ve got a change management process that’s going to be really effective and introducing change.
Colin Forward: Makes sense. So, Adam, we have any other questions coming in?
Adam Wagner: Yeah, we have one more from Nicky G. She asks:
If I’m in Training, and I’m Super Frustrated with the Change Control Board, How Can I Make My Life Easier? How Do I Play Nice with Quality Change Management and Still Get My Work Done?
Derek Lawrence: Never happens, Nikki. Everybody loves their change control board. So yeah, this is probably the most common situation that I know I’ve heard about through other colleagues and that shows up in the sense that a change control board’s job is to make sure that change is paced at a rate that it can be successful.
Change events, though, don’t wait for a change control board, right? They happen. And so everybody’s saying, “We need to move forward on this,” and the change control board is saying, “No, you can’t move forward on this.” And then, training is caught right in the middle.
So the first step in terms of playing nice is to sit down with quality and figure out what are the values that quality sees is do-or-die in terms of the change process. If you can get on the same page with them—and honestly, that’s not that hard to do—it’s not the values that are always the hardest thing to do; it’s really the level of effort associated with those values. So, first off, look and see what are the values, make sure that you’re aligned with those because that, at least, builds a bridge to make sure that quality is not seeing training as the enemy.
Then, you want to sit down with your production team, and you want to say, “Training has to be short. It has to be effective. You know, it has to fit your schedule. What are the things that you see as your primary values?” Sometimes, there’s overlap with quality. Most often, there’s not. So your best solution there, from a training perspective, is to sit down then with the change control board or the policymakers and to say, “We’ve got these values on quality; we’ve got these values on production. How can training bridge the gap?” And then, “How can we do that in a way that’s lean enough that we can be successful and you don’t have to throw your whole training schedule out the window for every change event.”
Colin Forward: Awesome. Well, thanks for spending some time to talk about this with us today, Derek. I think that this is a topic that some people maybe are afraid to even wander into because it might feel like it’s in conflict with the work that they’re trying to do in learning and development. But I think you’ve done a good job of explaining why, in the best-case scenario, we should be able to align all of these interests so that we can end up with higher-performing organizations. I think that’s an important thing for training professionals to keep in mind.
Derek Lawrence: Yeah, learning and development is always change management at an individual level. So the trick is just making that work at an organizational level too.
Colin Forward: Right on. Alright, well, thanks, gentlemen. And I’m looking forward to our next podcast.
Derek Lawrence: Thank you.
Adam Wagner: Thanks, everyone. This was Training the Modern Workforce Live, presented by Allogy. Remember to join us every week for more discussions on all things training and continued learning. If you’d like to explore previous episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or like us on LinkedIn and Facebook. And if you’d like to connect with one of our learning specialists to see how Allogy could help improve your training, head to allogystaging1.wpengine.com and schedule a demo.