By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
Ask your training and development department (or learning and development department if they are really hip) how they assess training needs. If it is about assessing technical training then it is a simple problem. Just evaluate how much lesser than the productivity norm the person is producing. And then post-training, measure the rise in productivity. You can use this method to calculate how training contributed to the bottom-line.
Ask them how they measure the gap in soft skills and they start hemming and hawing. Most training departments have a menu of generic options such as presentation skills, communication skills and of course the training for seasons and reasons – team building etc. The business leader picks the training program that sounds reasonable. The training department delivers it and everyone is happy. How do we know whether the behavior gap was the correct one or that the training program actually helped solved the problem in performance or behavior?
The great Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt used to tell his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” A marketer’s challenge is to find the unmet need. I am taking a leaf out of market research to suggest two methods that can be used to get a deeper insight on what knowledge, skill or attitude gaps the learning and development team will bridge.
Ethnography: The old-fashioned observation of the person in their work setting can be hugely insightful Procter & Gamble executives say it was striking the first time they witnessed a man shave while sitting barefoot on the floor in a tiny hut in India.
He had no electricity, no running water and no mirror. This was the consumer for whom they were developing a shaving razor. They had ‘field tested’ their newly designed razor with Indian students at MIT and had got rave reviews.
It was not until they went to rural India and filmed people shaving that they discovered the ‘design brief ’. To identify learning needs, observing the person at work can yield rich data.
At Wipro, we had a coach shadow a senior leader for two days. That gave the person rich first-hand data taken from watching the leader deal with peers, subordinates, customers and their manager, in face-toface meetings, in one-to-one conversations and work habits. This can lead to rich insights about leadership styles. The observations are the source of coaching conversations.
Photo Analytics: There are companies like Dittolabs that are mining the 1.8 billion photographs people are sharing on social media sites daily to get insights about influencers of brands. What do people feel about the product or service? The kind of situations in which they use the service or product and what could be possible areas of improvement can be seen from selfies.
Could these provide opportunities for getting deeper insights on the soft skills gaps of people? I am not suggesting doing this on the sly. If people see value in the information you are asking for and what they get in return, they are comfortable giving some data about themselves. The more you know an individual, the more effectively you can understand his or her development needs.
According to the New York Times, Acxiom collects 50 trillion data ‘transactions’ a year. Company executives have said its database contains information on about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. That includes a majority of adults in the US.
It is integrating what it knows about our offline, online and even mobile selves, creating in-depth behavior portraits in pixilated detail. Its executives have called this approach a ‘360-degree view’ on consumers. If you are an American adult, it knows who you are. It knows where you live. It knows what you do.
We are not even aware of how much about us has been collected. A lot of the data that is collected surreptitiously through cookies for marketing purposes already exists with organizations. Can that be leveraged for development?