Interviews from LearnX - The state of L&D in Australia with Con Sotidis from Kineo

Con Sotidis from Kineo and Robin talk about the state of L&D in Australia.   


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 Transcript - The state of L&D in Australia with Con Sotidis from Kineo

Robin: Welcome to the Learning While Working podcast Con. Con could you just do a quick introduction to yourself and what you do?

Con Sotidis: Thanks Robin. Thanks for the opportunity. My name is Con Stoidis. I've been in learning for nearly now just on 20 years. My job and my background has been in the public sector. Done a bit of consultancy and now working as a solution consultant with Kiwi OA pack here in Melbourne. So basically, that involves talking to the clients about their pains, their problems, and looking for the kinds of solutions that are suitable for them.

Robin: So what do you think is the state of L and D in Australia at the moment?

Con Sotidis: Look, I was speaking today at the conference and today it's been really good. You know I've been speaking to a few people. I think we're not that far behind, as much as we maybe think. Some people say that USA is really way ahead of us and I don't know about that. The state of L&D in Australia I think-- I think is booming. I think the market of our technology is booming. I think the market around platforms is really going gung-ho, especially in the field where we're playing ‘round the open source. I think the open source is going to get a bit of momentum and people are starting to embrace it.

I think in the e-learning space where the open space we're working is around creating some spoken wording. People are starting to distinguish and differentiate between the mum-and-dad type of e-learning shop and the high quality e-learning shop that you know, you and I represent.

Robin: At the moment it feels like the industry is really upping its game.

Con Sotidis: Yes.

Robin: Especially e-learning industries [have] always been about cheaper, more effective-- but people are actually getting more serious about sitting there going, “Actually, we want to get business outcomes. We want to go about doing things in a different way, we need to think from a business point of view, and the solutions need to be high quality.”

Con Sotidis: Correct, and the thing that we do different I suppose, Robin, is that- I'm glad you mentioned business outcomes because that's what I was talking about today.

As part of that solution process we actually sit down and talk to the client about the measures of success.

What do they visage or would they like to see? If you were to touch it and feel at the end what’s going to be the measure of success? What will success look like?

We find like you said, the mum-and-dad shops can't do that. But we've got the infrastructure and knowledge behind us [so] we can attend to that.

Robin: And that particular question Con, I find it really transforms how you have a conversation with a client. Because, essentially first of all, it’s no longer a simple engagement, it becomes more of long-term relationship This particular programme we're talking about, you’ve got to roll it out over 8 or 9 months. So that actually means we need to be around, coaching you through this for that 9 months. So we can check back in to see what the data is saying.

Con Sotidis: That's right. And that's what they'll look for, Robin. They'll look twice for that. More modern but you're right. Actually looking for us to guide them through.

The other thing I liked that you said there was about partnerships. I've always said to my clients, "I'm not just here for now, I'm here for the long-term." So, even if you want to talk about social learning we can talk. You want to talk to me about micro learning, we can talk. You want to talk about interactive learning, interactive video, immersive learning, so, I'm available for that sort of broad conversation. Not just the one engagement.

Robin: So, actually Con, you seem to have a real passion for social learning, and you read a comment to me recently about...you're doing less work with social learning.

Con Sotidis: Yes, I find people are still not understanding it. I find people that are still not grappling at it. And what I find is, they can't envision how it's going to apply in the workplace.

So, I'm trying to sell-- not sell, maybe trying to educate you what I'm looking for here. The bigger picture. What's the purpose, what are you going to achieve. What can be the bottom line impact and then start bringing them back to something they can touch and focus on a solution that's going to support that going forward. Does that make sense?

Robin: There was a L&D person I was talking with recently that made the comment, that he had quickly learnt a very important lesson, which is what you're talking about. He was coming up with ideas about different platforms and different learning ideas and then he sat there and said, “So I realised that the business would be on board if I actually talked about the business outcomes first.”

Con Sotidis: Correct.

Robin: And then he sat there and went, "Oh, this is a nice learning experience that... you really really--"

Con Sotidis: Good point, because we use L&D jargon. We need to position it from a business perspective. Good point.

Robin: The thing that seems to be happening to me in social learning as well is the organisations that are really good at it, are actually thinking in a mindset of digital workplaces. And essentially, it's changing the way people collaborate and work. So it actually transforms the way people work and then transforms the way people learn.

Con Sotidis: So it's more cultural transformation, organisational transformation. Whereas we try to position it as a one-off, small little bit, when really it's a bigger picture isn't it?

Robin: Yes.

Con Sotidis: So, you're right, no you're right I think learning/HR where we are needs to take that border perspective.

Robin: What else have you talked about this morning?

Con Sotidis: Yes, we talked about transfer of learning, but we also talked about performance consultancy approach.

Which is probably the thing that we all know about, and we all probably should be doing. But, we don't actually apply that because I still believe--I shouldn’t be harsh on my fellow L&D colleagues here, but we still say, "Okay, what do you want?. Okay, let’s go develop that."

I still believe that, although we've talked about a lot, Robin, I still think we're struggling to implement an endpoint and put it in place. Now, the bigger one is actually the infrastructure and support to do that. I really feel for that one-man L&D department in a small organisation where they've been asked to do this and that and they can't really say, "No," because, they'll lose their job.

Robin: Just trying to think about a way of framing a question or a statement. I think performance consulting is a really really big piece Colin.

Con Sotidis: It is.

Robin: It's a complicated skill and the thing that I'm seeing, people that are doing it really well, they're actually reaching right out of learning and going into things like learned thinking. And sitting there going, “We need to actually have the tools of learned thinking to be able to do the performance improvement because our current set of skills and knowledge within learning doesn't actually gives us all that ability to rethink and change.

I've actually decided, it's almost a skill set we are lacking in. We know we need to do it, but it is actually is quite a different skill set to being a process improvement person is a bit different to being a learning designer.

Con Sotidis: Yes. One of the tools I’ve used in past was the five whys. Especially when I was in the public service . Stakeholder would often just sitting there watching, and they were amazed with what I was doing. What I was doing to them.

Robin: Yes.

Con Sotidis: But they were all going along for the ride. And then, when we came to the end of it and we concluded that it was this solution not that, he just looked at me and said, "How did you do that?" And I said to him, "Nothing. It's about the way you approach it."

Robin: And its actually interesting in terms of that performance consulting, basically there's probably- actually I think there's powerful tools. The five whys and the fishbone diagram.

Con Sotidis: Yes.The fishbone and other one. Yes.

Robin: Often at the beginning of a project I now say “Can we just spend five minutes doing this exercise?"

Con Sotidis: Exactly.

Robin: Looking at this, and then all of a sudden you start to see the problem in different way and you really do--

Con Sotidis: Okay, so that's what we talked about this morning. The performance consulting, the actual impact and I talked about my good story, and my good story I like to recant is the “So what?” And the “So what?” is so relevant to all of us. It was about me sitting in a room of executives, having provided all these reports: colour coded, dashboards, trend analyses, numbers of people doing x,y and z. Where they were, numbers and locations. Magnificent stuff, and then one of them just stops and it says, "Con this great, but so what?" And I just will never forget that moment, Robin, I still-- every time I recant that story I get shivers up my spine because I looked at that person and just sat there for about 3 or 4 seconds saying, "Sorry?" And then, they said it again, "So what?" And that's when the penny dropped for me and I went on this journey, this crusade to sort of help people identify the “So what?”

And I’ve talked about some processes today but there's a lot of other processes, that one can adopt.

But, at the end of the day you as an L&D department, will disappear very quickly unless you can move to that space.

Robin: Actually I think that is really nice way to wrap up the conversation Colin. Some really nice sentiments so thank you, had a really great conversation. Cool.

Con Sotidis: Thank you very much.