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Getting a lot done with a small L&D team (aka: Inspiration from the “Twilight” series)

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Last week I had a chance to talk with a friend who’s been looking for new ways to stay on top of all of the L&D projects she’s been asked to work on. She works on a very small L&D team (and there’s currently a key vacancy) and she’s trying to keep the ship afloat. She’s concerned that if she says “no” (or at least “not now”)  to too many projects that the organization may begin to have second thoughts about the value of having an L&D team at all.

When she finished sharing her challenges with me, I thought for a moment, and then a thought struck me. “Have you ever seen any of the ‘Twilight‘ movies?”  

She hadn’t.

So I told her about a vampire named Victoria who was intent on waging a war against another group of vampires, but she was badly outnumbered. She decided to bite a bunch of people in the neck, convert them to vampires, and raise her own army.

While I counseled against actually biting any of her co-workers, I did talk about how Victoria’s example could be used for small L&D teams. My friend got the point: it could be helpful to look around the organization to see if there are any non-L&D people that she might be able to leverage in moving some of her projects forward.

In my experience, I’ve found a lot of people who are interested in getting more involved in training programs. For those who are interested in taking it seriously and who are open to putting in the work it takes to collaborate on a learner-centered, engaging, creative design process, getting more involved in training initiatives can be an attractive stretch assignment that helps them build (or refine) an important skill set.

If you’re looking to recruit and collaborate with the L&D equivalent of Victoria’s newborn vampire army, I’d advise keeping a few things in mind:

  1. Check their commitment level. Victoria converted people to vampires against their will. Basically, they were “volun-told” to be part of her army. Ultimately they were all defeated. Maybe their heart just wasn’t in it. To avoid a similar fate in your efforts, you’ll want to be sure the SMEs or others whose skill sets you’re looking to leverage are clear on the time commitment and the design style you plan to use. Some people may decide to walk away when they realize you won’t simply be cranking out slide decks.
  2. Check the commitment level of their supervisor. It’s one thing to get buy-in from the person who you’d like to work with. It’s another thing to get the permission and buy-in from their boss. It turns out, some people see training initiatives as more fun than their own jobs (which may well be true!!). A few years ago I had talked with a co-worker about getting more involved in helping to build out a leadership development program. Her boss closed that idea down quickly. Apparently she was struggling to perform in her own role and needed to focus 100% of her attention there before she began taking on other assignments.
  3. Look for hidden gems. Whether it’s an experienced SME who you simply assumed had no interest in getting creative or a relatively junior level staff member who you simply assumed didn’t have the skill set to make a valuable contribution, you may be surprised by some people that could turn into very powerful allies. When I was working on a project that included a board game, someone recommended that we bring in a colleague who had a very technical job and who had zero experience in training. I was told that outside of work this colleague actually had created his own board game. In the end, that project would not have been as successful without his contribution.

How do you best leverage the talent around your organization to multiply the efficiency and effectiveness of your L&D team?

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