Donna Johnston has worked in the Learning and Development industry for over 20 years. Her passion lies in challenging the status quo around organisational learning and pushing boundaries for what can be achieved, with her learners best interest always at the forefront.
Donna recently joined our Chief Storyteller, Steve Dineen, for an L&D Masterclass. Throughout the session, they discussed a wide range of topics, from L&D speaking the language of business to the benefit of working in sprints to stay as agile as possible.
In this post, I’ll be sharing the six rules for success that Donna shared during her Masterclass with Steve. And if you're left wanting more, you can listen to the full recording of the session.
Rule 1: You MUST understand the needs of your business
That's right, I'm starting this post off with one of Donna's closing remarks, but I’d argue it’s the most important one.
"Go and find out what's needed in your business! Get a real clear point of view about what's already in place, and understand from people what it is that they feel they need. And then go after the low hanging fruit."
I recently discussed this approach in a previous post. Faced with the cancellation of our physical event, Fused, we needed to adjust things and pivot to a virtual event in autumn. It would have been easy for me to carry on and build what I thought I needed to shift from physical to digital.
Instead, I asked our customers what they needed as going digital presented me with a new set of risks, but also a new set of opportunities. I just needed to discover how and where.
Taking Donna's approach (although I didn't realise it at the time), I was able to get a real understanding of the needs of our customers. When we run our event in autumn, I can be sure we meet the needs of our customers, and deliver value, rather than leaving it down to chance.
So much has changed in recent months, and as Donna explains, it's never been more critical to get a clear point of view of what people feel they need from you from the start.
Reach out to people across your business and let them share in their own words what they need. You'll build trust and deliver far more value.
Rule 2: Talk the talk: Speak to your business in THEIR language!
Far too often, we become reliant on the language we use within our departments. We all have our frameworks, acronyms and buzzwords, and we go about our day carrying these into our conversations with other departments.
Here's the thing. They too have their own language, and they might not understand ours! It's a recipe for confusion.
In this rule, Donna explains that she makes it her job to speak the language of the business, so they understand the importance of what she and her team are doing.
"I don't talk about learning and development! I ask the business what they want to achieve. I then match my language against theirs because when people think about learning, they think it's all pink and fluffy and in reality, it's not."
Donna then takes this further. Her recognition of the importance of business language helps her shape the business’ agenda and provides L&D with a seat at the table.
"I think with whatever role you're in you need to have very strong links with the global teams because you need to guide them. You need to have very strong relationships across the business so that you can help steer the agenda, even if it's a big tanker. You still have to keep pushing up."
Rule 3: Hearts and minds: There is NO One size doesn't fit all.
I think for anyone reading this post, we all know that learning is a personal journey. From the content we consume to the way we choose to consume it, it's a choice. And the organisations that understand this are the ones leading the way with employee satisfaction and engagement.
Donna touched on an important point around capturing the hearts and minds of your organisation, and the importance of sculpting that personalised learner journey. This approach also requires learning leaders to lead from the front of their organisations, setting an example.
"It's about being at the forefront of the business and really being commercial and knowing that one size doesn't fit all."
Rule 4: K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple Stupid)
We speak to so many of our partners and customers who explain that they wish they could go back in time and make it clearer to their business what they’re trying to achieve with their learning strategies.
Whilst a learning plan can be meticulously planned in the background, when explaining to your learners, it needs to be SIMPLE! Because let's face it, who has time to read an overly complicated document when they need to know something in the 10 minutes before their next meeting?
"Simplify, simplify, simplify. Because if somethings not simple, people are not going to buy into it, they're not going to have time to do it and they're not going to do it."
Rule 5: EXPERIMENT!
At Fuse, we love experimenting. We know that successful L&D teams are always trying new things to improve the processes they already have in place.
If you've watched any of our recent #FusedayTuesday LinkedIn Live sessions, you'll know that Viivi, James, Topher and Ryan have all shared the importance of experimenting in L&D.
And no one understands the power of experimenting more than Donna. Donna's career has been about challenging existing conventions and reflecting on what could be better.
"Be open to innovation and testing and experimenting. If you're comfortable in your role, you should be asking yourself why. You should be somewhere that feels uncomfortable because when you're uncomfortable, you're learning. Be curious. Be open to trying new things and to the art of the possible."
Another crucial element of experimentation for any L&D team is understanding the pace at which you can experiment. For Donna, Fuse, and many of our customers, working in sprints enables us to be agile and anticipate the path ahead.
"It's about being agile. We work in sprints - so we can be agile about some things and how we can move from one thing to another. And in fact, if you look at my technology roadmap. It's huge. It's just about being really thoughtful in terms of what it is that you're piloting and what you're trying and actually see what works or not."
Rule 6: NEVER STOP LEARNING- especially as learning professionals.
As learning professionals, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what and how others should learn, that you forget to keep learning yourself.
Having moved into the L&D industry from the R&D space, I have found the joy of learning again and that's something I don't plan on losing any time soon.
This is by far my favourite and in my opinion, the most important rule from Donna.
"The day we stop learning is the day we should not be in learning."
I love Donna's ‘keep it real’ approach to learning. By staying human and acknowledging that learning is an ever-changing, ever-evolving living thing means Donna and her team are ready to tackle anything.
Learning can mean something to one person, and something entirely different for the next. To me, that's what makes an L&D leader's jobs so tricky (at times) but also so exciting and rewarding.
Throughout the webinar, Donna shared so many more useful and practical tips to L&D finding success within their organisations.
To listen to the full discussion just click 👉 here