Andrii Stanchenko, CEO of NRG (NewRealGoal)
Today’s guest of Olga Makogon, the editor-in-chief of ‘HR Management’ magazine, is Andrii Stanchenko, a long-time friend of the editorial board, a well-known person among HR, business trainers, consultants and professional speakers.
He is a professional who seems to have mastered everything that is currently known in the world of learning and development. Always staying up-to-date and moving ahead, for the last eight years Andrii has been representing Ukraine at ATD (the world’s largest T&D association) in the United States. A facilitator of strategic sessions, a coach for top teams, a true mentor…
Knowing Andrii as a goal-oriented person, able to work within multiple contexts and unexpected «black swans», we are not surprised that his company’s name has become NewRealGoal. He is always looking for new trends and opportunities while pursuing his goals. Our conversation is dedicated to the transformation of the learning models in the corporate world. One way or another, digitalization and numerous digital tools enter our lives, shaping both the work environment and our living environment in general.
Who, what and how should we be learning in a world of constant change?
Andrii Stanchenko: PdD, MPA, certified management consultant and coach.
As the CEO of NRG, he is leading a diverse team of business trainers, game-based learning professionals, consultants, facilitators, coaches, assessment experts, motivational speakers, and psychotherapists.
In his 20 years in Talent Development has taken multiple roles: business trainer, business games creator, management consultant, strategy sessions facilitator, assessor, executive coach, MBA lecturer, ATD member, keynote speaker.
HRM: Speaking with the HR community, I meet those who do not understand how and what employees should be learning nowadays. The speed of changes is dramatic! How can we create a robust L&D system in such a context? What should be the focus for L&D now?
Andrii Stanchenko: The answer to this question is related to managers’ understanding of the business needs, which leads us to the following set of questions:
- What should managers be learning?
- What competencies do managers at different levels need?
- Given the current trends, what should the key L&D model be?
The customer, not the product, is placed in the center of any marketing model now, and business is primarily focused on creating value for the customer and on a unique customer experience. This is exactly what employees should be learning: how to bring such a value. At the same time, the employee is also a customer as a learner. After the Third Industrial Revolution, business is no longer product-oriented, it has become customer-oriented. And digitalization, digital technology itself, is human oriented. Some kind of dematerialization has occurred: products are increasingly shifting to services, and the main trend observed is that amount of services sales is growing faster than the production of goods. Business doesn’t work for the warehouse, all companies are trying to follow the fast-changing needs of the client. That is why, in my opinion, the main idea is not «what to learn,» but «how to quickly understand what to learn». The client’s demands change, the competencies needed to bring value to the client change, therefore L&D needs change as well.
First of all, modern management is change management.
HRM: In other words, is corporate L&D focused on the needs of employees to nurture their understanding of customers’ needs?
А. S.: Focus in L&D is shifted to client-oriented approach. In everything. Including a focus on a learner as a client. An employee becomes the center of the corporate L&D, and his/her learning needs. This trend is already reflected in a new learning concept called heutagogy. Or heutagogy which is the same thing. Pedagogy deals with the education of children, androgogy deals with the learning of adults, and heutagogy deals with learning of adults in the digitalization context.
The heutagogy term was introduced by Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon in 2000.The authors define heutagogy as a new approach in adult learning through self-education, a method of learning independently in the XXI century. The basic principle is as follows: the center of the learning process is the learning subject (the learner). Thus, learning becomes not teacher- centered (on the personality of the tutor) and not subject-oriented (on the studied subject), but learner-centered: The semantics of the Greek word «heutagogy» includes the meaning of » leading to inventions, discoveries, findings, conclusions”.
Why do I draw your attention to the connection between learning and digitalization? The point is that there is an interesting closed loop here: who changed the learning opportunities for this adult learning agent? The digital environment did! It has changed the way we live our lives. Digitalization is changing us — and it should also help us learn and grow. We are connected to gadgets: once we disconnect from the laptop, we connect to the phone, afterwards to the digital camera, and then to the landline. Moreover, we are connected to all of these at the same time, just switching our attention from one digital object to another. Multi Channelled is a new way of life.
HRM: Does it mean that comprehensive L&D is no longer possible? Will microlearning, or specific-focus learning remain relevant only?
А. S.: Not really. Certainly, the scheme of «let’s train our employees for six months» does not work anymore, because we’ve got people who will not wait for this. And the business won’t wait for it, either. Let’s have a look at the learning model in general. How do people learn? For example, someone wants to cook something. Let’s say, to bake a cake. Or wants to make sure the door in the apartment doesn’t squeak. What do people do?
- They go to a global video hosting service, Youtube, and enter a query on the topic of interest.
- Choose the most relevant video they like.
- Then find out a recipe for solving the problem.
- Immediately they convert acquired knowledge into results.
And now let’s get back: in order to get such fast «video tutorials», Youtube users have been pouring in all kinds of clips for 10-15 years. It’s about comprehensiveness. Complexity, i.e. completeness, consistency and interconnectedness, has not gone away from learning. But now it manifests itself in the following way: at the right moment, the user connects and immediately gets the learning content to achieve the desired result. The complexity remains, but the model has changed. And it has changed because of the two reasons: the first one is that the «portrait» of a learner has changed and, the second is about digital environment which gives many opportunities. But the primary change is the learner himself/herself.
Observing of the system already changes the system.
HRM: Does the learner expect instant solutions?
А. S.: Yes. This is the peculiarity of this time: everyone needs everything right now. The client will not wait having thousands or even millions of other offers around. Again we come back to the same question: what is comprehensive learning now? Marketing today has some monopoly on access to people and «launches its tentacles» into learning. In terms of financial technologies and online services, the prevailing model is design thinking. Digital tools allow you to fully trace the customer’s path to purchase and understand not only its pragmatic value (for example, with Uber there is no need to talk, which is saving time, money and emotions), but also allow him to get the customer experience. And it’s not always measured by value and money. With Airbnb, you pay less than for a hotel, and for the duration of your stay in the country you may feel like a resident of a particular city, not like a tourist.
The same approach applies to learning. Now people don’t memorize and accumulate information that won’t be applied. They learn not for the sake of learning but in order to put their knowledge into practice immediately. The «knowers» and the «learners», that’s who we are in relations to the digital learning environment. And not just the result of learning, but the process itself becomes meaningful in this new digital world.
How have learning models evolved in the past? There is a certain evolution and it repeats, in general, for all corporate systems. At first, the business identifies some need, and it turns out that people don’t know how to serve it — so they need to learn quickly. For example: they don’t know how to sell — you have to train them. But this approach is very expensive, because knowledge belongs to learners only and is not recorded in the organization, not accumulated, not structured, not stored. This is an expensive non-systemic model of training: it seems that we do not spend much, but the money is still wasted, and therefore the result is expensive and inefficient.
After that the company switches to a repetitive L&D approach. A bottleneck is identified and then training programs are recorded and repeated from year to year, from cycle to cycle — depending on the need. The knowledge stays within the company.
But then there are BANI factors that come into picture, they are the external context which is constantly changing. There are no longer unchanging knowledge and skills available (e.g., some universal methods in sales). External challenges change. And then the employee’s approach to L&D changes. A company provides many opportunities to connect to existing digital resources, which allow an employee to acquire new knowledge, necessary right now. And what is important, the digital environment helps to accumulate data. This way L&D becomes manageable, because the accumulated data can be analyzed and it becomes possible to understand bottlenecks and the scale of the problems with the help of numbers.
HRM: So there have been radical changes, but many managers still do not understand this. By the way, what are the main stereotypes from the perspective of a manager, an HR manager and a learning employee in corporate L&D?
А. S.: We know that nothing changes the point of view as much as the location of the viewpoint. Everyone sees the process differently. The employees have their own opinion, and get the feeling that they know exactly what they need — but have to learn something unnecessary. The manager has a higher-level view. As experts in L&D, HR managers look from their own towers…
So, of course, comprehensiveness is very important. Not only in the application of mixed formats and various methods. There should be a well-established dialogue between all stakeholders on the company’s strategy for L&D. Currently in the learning requests, the focus is shifting from an HR manager and an employee to the manager’s vision, because he is responsible for the result of the unit, he is the owner of the resources and decision maker. The HR manager acts as a consultant and the supervisor acts as the customer of learning the best practices.
If you want to waste money, save on L&D.
If we have a recurring problem that we need to fix with training, we accumulate data. Digital tools help with that. Digitized data is accumulated in the system, the main challenge is to be able to analyze it. We can see and measure which factors have the greatest impact on the outcome. It will be clear to the manager where to allocate the learning resources.
HRM: And what are the basic metrics in measuring learning effectiveness?
А. S.: There is the well-known Kirkpatrick model with its four levels. But some time ago the interest for the topic of effective learning has faded. Why? Because in the pre-digital period measuring of effectiveness was more expensive than the training itself and confirmation of its positive impact on the company’s results. And now the digital toolkit becomes increasingly accurate in answering the question, «Does learning lead to business improvement or not?» Worth noting that the digital environment itself helps to design learning interventions that lead to results. At ATD2021 conference the CLICS model was presented, visually representing five levels of design, replacing the Kirkpatrick model:
CLICS Model Checklist for Evaluating Learning Effectiveness
HRM: How often have you seen the cases when employees make the training requests for the company management? I mean specifically based on their needs to improve performance.
А. S.: Today’s L&D is an ecosystem. And the new approach to L&D, heutagogy, focuses on people’s needs. Managers’ attitude toward such requests has really changed. Executives are now asking, «What do you need to achieve better results?» What’s more, L&D is structured similar to a social network. A request comes, «Here is the problem. Who knows how to solve it?»
Employees with the needed skills act as mentors for those who want to learn. Models can vary. Some companies use open platforms, and people from outside the company can tap into their knowledge. This is an important topic that requires a separate discussion. Realizing that an employee’s cycle in one company is diminishing, locking them inside their corporate system proves not to be very profitable or effective.
The employee will leave anyway. And then new relationships between companies emerge. For example, inter-corporate universities are already appearing in the United States, when two or three or more market leaders share the cost of training with each other.
Because employees flow smoothly between the companies, it is cheaper to apply this L&D approach than to invest in strengthening employee loyalty.
The ability to manage change is what differentiates a brilliant leader from a mediocre one.
HRM: We have several L&D platforms on the market. And to what extent does this practice reduce the need to keep internal L&D departments? How do you see the future of corporate trainers? Or are we going to have two or three inter-corporate academies?
Andrii Stanchenko and his NewRealGoal team
А. S.: The good news for internal learning and development specialists is that their function will not disappear. But it will change a lot. The cycle of an internal trainer is not very long. An internal trainer is a person who is good at what he/she does, at a given company. Conventionally speaking, the best salesman who enjoys speaking in front of other people and sharing knowledge becomes the trainer. At first he continues to combine his work as a salesman with teaching his colleagues, but then he goes completely into business training: it improves his self-esteem, and the work becomes remunerative than just being a salesman. But a year or more passes by, and if he is not engaged in the activity he trains, he loses his skills. Consequently, the company does not get properly trained people to meet the current challenges of the marketplace.
To overcome this shortcoming, there could be two models used in practice.
- The first model: the trainer works part-time, that is, continues to work «in the field» and at the same time being involved in training. But the share of this model is small, because part-time work takes lots of efforts for this person, the focus of his attention on the goals is blurred.
- The second model is that the trainer grows as an expert in the learning process. This is a prototype of the role that a corporate L&D specialist should play now. He/she is the «gardener» in this ecosystem, creates conditions as a facilitator, supports an abundance of different methods of transferring knowledge, needed primarily by the employees themselves. He/she shows them how they can learn better due to the changed lifestyle, «remote» mode and other factors.
To learn means to live a quality life.
Now the L&D professional is not a showman, not a narcissist focused on own enjoyment of the stage, but an empath, a caring associate of colleagues, working in a BANI world where everything is changing. A analyst who must be well versed in trends of change, able to analyze data and know the company’s resources: who the experts are, what video courses are there, what elements should be included, how to recombine them, etc.
For many years I conducted train-the-trainer programs. Back then, in-house trainers were exemplary employees of the T&D department, but now they have turned into online-course designers, especially those who have shifted to the IT sector. Trainers will remain in any case; their role as a transmitter of knowledge is important, it’s just that there is a significant amount of other activity in corporate training. But there alway be people who can do training or can help your employees learn from each other.
HRM: Many companies fall into the trap of conducting training for the sake of training, simply by following the fashion. In addition, managers do not always have an understanding of priorities: technical skills or soft skills training. And now there is a stronger tendency towards soft skills, don’t you think?
А. S.: I would rephrase: those businesses, for which technical skills are important, pay attention to them anyway. Another thing is that the transformation of the market from goods to services requires stronger attention to soft skills. Since service is primarily about communication, and the rest is automated and digitized, there is a feeling that everyone is training only soft skills. Robots don’t need to be taught hard skills, they were put there on purpose so that human beings wouldn’t be distracted by production technology, but improve their human- to- human interaction skills. The number of manufacturing companies is decreasing, and so is the need for technical skills.
HRM: We have mentioned the topic of different roles that one person can play: coach, speaker, facilitator. How can a client company understand that they are dealing with a professional, if they invite an external provider?
А. S.: In fact, branding is very important here. We are back to marketing in L&D again.
In order to «evaluate» an expert, we rely either on the brand of the company the expert represents or his/her personal brand. This brand is not just a tool to promote this expert, but also a gauge of his quality as a professional. Presence in social networks, feedbacks, visibility on the market — these are the signs of the quality of work.
It becomes critically important for professionals to participate in the professional communities. Let’s say the Ministry of Education,it has standards, norms, and sets strict regulations, but the L&D market it does not determine the rules for the services. This is because neither a coach, nor a facilitator, nor a business trainer are officially accepted as professions. The rules of the game are defined by the professional community, including professional associations with their own brands. Their feedback, recognition and awards are a certain guarantee that the external business coach or coach invited to the company is not a charlatan. Now it is very important to integrate the informal communities in certain areas into the regulatory community (even informal), whose authority will be important for the market.
Andrii Stanchenko with his colleague — business trainer Olena Eliseeva
HRM: In general how have requests for corporate training changed due to the constant changes?
А. S.: Ecosystem of learning and development is quite diversified now. And we don’t know what will happen with L&D even in the short term. Even in November of this year. So at my company, NewRealGoal (NRG) we have got not only Plan A, but also Plan B and Plan C. By the way, our many years of pre-pandemic online skills proved to be quite in demand. We had accumulated expertise in microlearning, and we began to offer it to our clients. At the beginning of October the fourth set of Microlearning course starts, and it’s different from the third round, and the third one from the second, and the second from the first. Changes are being added due to changes in the environment. We’ve worked out this model well; it’s asynchronous. Online learning differs from offline learning in more than just changing the learner’s place in the space; there is a new type of «delivery» of knowledge and skills. There are no group dynamics typical for face-to-face training in it, but there are information «throw-ins.» We had to invent this new format of knowledge delivery to keep people’s attention for a month or more. And the course we give to the external market helps to improve our internal one, for ourselves.
How does a program that makes a client happy look like?
Before the training, we give the participant the material to learn in the form of microlearning.
If it is necessary to improve «soft» skills, we use Hogan Development Survey: it allows people to understand their under- stress behavior. Thus, participants come to the training workshop already prepared. After the training (offline or online) we conduct microlearning again — and the consolidation of knowledge and skills happens in the workplace.
This is a two-day course, after which participants receive portions of microlearning courses several times a week. I would like to point out an important idea in microlearning that many people miss: we make sure that it is not only small slices and small portions of new knowledge, but also a mandatory «exchange of meanings» — the way participants understand them, as well as mandatory application of the acquired skills in the workplace.
HRM: What would you recommend as useful reading for our readers interested in L&D?
А. S.: In the first group of books that I find useful, I would recommend reflecting on how the learner has changed. Three books will help with this:
- The first one is ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’, by Angela Duckworth. It highlights the idea of learning perseverance for achieving goals in the context of changing activities.
- The second one, a book by Stanford University professor Carol Dweck, is titled «Mindset.The New Psychology of Success». In the certain period of time professor Dweck helped Microsoft employees grow with her research of mindset peculiarities. The key idea: it is better to make mistakes, moving forward, than to rest on one’s laurels.
- The third book is written by a motivational speaker and business consultant Marcus Buckingham: “Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance”. The author tells us how to really understand our strengths and move towards our goals using them, rather than focusing on weaknesses. This book does a great job of describing how to combine different talents in order to do what we do best in a changing world.
The second group of useful books which I highly recommend is on physiology of learning: how to create a habit for a behavioral change. Two great books will help working with our «physics.»
Charles Dahigg “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change”.
James Clear «Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad One”
They are about going step-by-step through a repetitive procedure of acquiring a new skill. I find this approach very helpful.
HRM: Andrii, what is your current professional role — a business coach, a facilitator, a manager, a speaker, or a supervisor of L&D projects?
А. S.: For a methodologist or a designer of training programs, it is the breadth of a model that has importance. Doctors are best at treating their own diseases. So if you are a speaker, you understand how other speakers need to be trained. There is a concept of a T-shaped professional, and this is a concept of a T-shaped L&D leader. This kind of leadership is about balancing coaching and facilitation methods — to be a «silent trainer» when there is a need to listen, and a «talking head» when there is a need to deliver inspiring ideas.
T shaped-professional has in-depth knowledge, skills and experience in a specific field and a wide range of additional competencies. This is represented schematically as the letter «T»
HRM: Could you please summarize top trends in corporate L&D?
А. S.: Marketing approach. Professional community as a business model, when you can teach or train others and learn yourself.
And the challenge is the exposure of information and L&D products from a company to the outside: whether it can be considered a leakage of information that weakens the business or on the contrary, a new driver for a shortened life cycle of an average employee in an organization. And the market clearly needs experts who care not only about a certain company, but also about the industry.
Andrii, thank you very much for sharing about the changing paradigm of L&D with us. Let’s shape the culture of learning in the new environment together — first of all as investment into ourselves, into our own development.