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Switch the Focus: Performance-Driven Learning in Nordic and Baltic Telecommunications

Switch the Focus: Performance-Driven Learning in Nordic and Baltic Telecommunications

Written by:
Gregor Towers
Date created
March 16, 2023
Last updated:
June 20, 2024
|
5 min read
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Key takeaways

• Moving the emphasis from learning to performance plays a significant role in driving business outcomes and elevating job performance.

• A mindset shift towards performance orientation involves valuing results, data-driven decision making, and agile methodologies.

• Engaging with senior leaders, line managers, and employees is essential for aligning initiatives with organizational goals and achieving measurable results.

• Demonstrating impact through measurable results can secure funding, resources, and expand the scope of L&D operations.

• Implementing performance programs, such as reskilling initiatives, can deliver tangible business value by preparing employees for new roles and saving costs on talent acquisition.

How Telia’s L&D unit have cemented themselves at the epicenter of their current and future commercial success.

We spent time with Teemu Lilja, Group Learning Culture & Community lead at Telia, to talk about a key part of his team’s success – performance driven learning. Teemu is shaping learning initiatives in line with Telia’s business strategy, product delivery and customer service in the Nordics and Baltics to create business value.

Teemu shares his insights to help people teams move away from traditional learning solutions to drive performance-oriented learning at scale and provides an example of tangible business value his team has achieved.

Why should people leaders switch their focus from learning to performance?

Ultimately, the goal of any learning and development initiative should be to improve performance and drive business results. While learning is certainly important, it is a means to an end, I mean, if it doesn’t translate into improved job performance and contribute to achieving organizational objectives, why even bother?

By pivoting to performance orientation we ensure that L&D efforts are directly linked to business strategy- and outcomes, which ultimately benefits both the organization and its employees.

What should they start with to realize this change i.e. tools, methodologies, decisions and mindset?

It all starts with a mindset shift. Or a couple.

The shift from “Learning-obsession” to “Performance-orientation” is about developing a mindset that values results and outcomes above all else.

In order to influence performance, we need to value learning where performance happens above all else. That’s as close to the point of need as possible. In and around the workflow. Resources before courses.

When we do that, the mindset shift from “topics” to “tasks” becomes inevitable. Defining future states and analyzing current ones becomes the core of what we do. That then helps us shift our mindset- and decision making from “gut feeling” to “data-driven”.

In times of rapid changes caused by exponential technological development we cannot spend the majority of our time on design and big-bang deployment. Instead, we need to shift our mindset- and ways of working towards “Agile”. What I mean by that is that we need to have a user centricity, be close to our stakeholders, work cross functional with both SMEs and performers, understand the problem we are trying to solve, prioritize, run experiments, and iterate from what we learn.

The end goal is to solve business problems and influence business KPIs by enabling people to perform on the job. Therefore, the shift from vanity metrics and inputs to measuring impact, effectiveness and efficiency becomes critical. Course completion and time-spent-on-learning suddenly becomes irrelevant.

And in the end, we need to start understanding the definitions of the buzzwords we are supposed to deliver. Learning is not information transfer or just getting people to KNOW stuff. Skilling is not getting people through curated paths of content. Both of these words are about DOING, and if our mission is to help people DO stuff differently, more effectively or more efficiently, then we, as in the L&D industry, have been doing the wrong things for a very long time.

Next step would naturally be to evaluate our methodologies and our processes. We seem to have a bad habit of trying to solve our challenges by implementing new technologies and then spend our time on getting people to use it.

Performance consulting and analysis should be guiding principles for us before moving on to any kind of design work.

Tools and tech should just be seen- and used as reinforcement of methodology. It’s about automating manual processes and freeing up time to do even more great things at scale.

Who are the right stakeholders people leaders need to engage with? What evidence do they have to bring to support their initiatives?

We should engage with senior leaders to ensure that our initiatives are aligned with the overall strategic direction of the organization. We should be prepared to provide evidence of how our initiatives will contribute to achieving the organization’s goals.

Line managers play a critical role in helping employees develop their skills and improve their performance. We should engage with them to understand the specific needs of their teams and involve them throughout our process.

Employees are the ultimate beneficiaries in our strive to influence their performance and their input is critical. They need to be involved for us to understand their needs in context to their workflows.

How does proving impact influence your L&D budget and scope?

It has a significant influence. When we can demonstrate that our initiatives are delivering measurable results and driving business outcomes, we are more likely to receive sponsorship, support, funding and resources to expand and scale our operations. It’s about credibility.

If we build business cases and demonstrate the actual return of investing in us, my experience is that we get more latitude to experiment with new approaches, tools and technologies. I’ve also seen it firsthand, that we almost automatically expand our scope with new stakeholders wanting us involved.

Ultimately, we position ourselves as a critical function within the organization and secure a seat at the table when it comes to strategic decision-making.

How do people leaders design a performance blueprint that leads to impact?

It requires a strategic- and comprehensive approach that starts with the end in mind.

We’ve chosen the 5Di model, (by Nick Shackleton Jones), as our overall process, where we put a lot of effort in Define and Discovery; Defining the challenge/opportunity, target groups, what success looks like and how to measure progress. Analyzing the current state, the target group workflows, and the barriers for people to perform.

The Design-phase is, once again, about a performance-first-mindset. Basically, start by designing useful resources in- and around the actual workflow, that people can access and pull whenever needed. For resource-design, we follow Bob Moshers and Dr Conrad Gotfredsons 5 Moment of Need methodology, especially in workflow- and task analysis.

And IF needed, we design experiences to enhance- and reinforce the useful resources. For that purpose, we follow Professor Robert Brinkerhofs High Performance Learning Journey methodology.

Development and Deployment is about experimenting, measuring, evaluating, and iterating from what we learn. But just to be perfectly clear, this works for us and our organization. It’s not necessarily the right blueprint for everyone.

What are current and future performance challenges for talent in telecommunications?

Telcos are not unique in- or spared of the challenges we face. We are undergoing rapid technological changes, particularly with the ongoing rollout of 5G networks and the increasing use of AI and automation. The consequence is, of course, that the talent within our industry constantly needs to update their skills and knowledge to keep up with these changes.

There is also intense competition for the talent that is out there. We are not the only ones trying to attract and retain top talent within areas such as software development, cyber security, data analytics etc.

There is a skill-gap that is just getting bigger, and I believe a challenge that L&D, as an industry, needs to address is to finally define what a “skill” is and how to design to close them. Throwing content at everyone won’t close anything this time around either.

Can you give an example of how you implemented performance programs to address these challenges in your team? What was this business value?

To give you a simple one, that is understandable outside of Telia, we had to reskill 15 new cloud experts. The business value was of course that consultants are expensive and talent acquisition takes time and is also costly.

So, we looked at what knowledge, skills and experience make candidates more interesting for us to hire.

We designed a 12-week program where we, together with the unit-manager, basically recruited 15 people to the program. They got hired in their new role the day we started off. They had 6 weeks to go back to their previous role and did not have any particular business performance expectations during the program.

During the 12 weeks we built the knowledge foundation mostly through existing content, designed activities for them to practice and develop these skills on the actual job, created resources for them to use while doing the actual job, connected them with a “buddy” they were to shadow- and work with during the program, gathered them for discussions and knowledge sharing once a week… we did everything.

These people were not cloud experts when they applied for the program, but they were when they finished. And they still are!

It was almost like an onboarding program, but that actually prepared people for a totally new role. 15 new cloud experts were delivered, and a lot of money was saved.

That’s re-skilling done right!

An Exemplary Leader in People and Business Transformation

Our talk with Teemu exemplifies why he merits a place on Lepaya’s 30 visionary leaders. His team isn’t delivering learning solutions disconnected from business strategy. Every training initiative has the purpose to drive business value for Telia in global markets and ensure Telia’s talent continue to deliver digital services to clients.

From designing a performance-focused learning blueprint to being a trusted advisor for stakeholders, Teemu’s work makes him one of the leading talent enablers in the telecommunications industry. Teemu and his team will continue to influence talent’s development, expand learning initiatives to support more teams beyond Sweden and create tangible business value for Telia.

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