Calling Learning To Account : Learning Conversation with Les Lisz

Les Lisz is the National L&D Manager at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Les is passionate about learning.  He is a chartered accountant but chose to pursue learning as his career. He has worked for KPMG, Ernst & Young and Telstra prior to joining the Red Cross Blood Service.

Jeevan: Welcome to Learning Conversations.

Les: Thanks, Jeevan.

Jeevan: How did you get interested in learning?

Les: I’ve always been interested in learning. In primary school, I wanted to be a primary school teacher, and in secondary school, I wanted to be a secondary school teacher. However I ended up going into chartered accounting for three years before commencing in learning so I guess the question is not so much how I ended up in learning but how I ended up in chartered accounting for three years before I got into learning!

Jeevan: That is a nice way of putting it. Accounting is a respected profession. When did you know that it wasn’t your calling?

Les: I think, I realized that fairly early. Probably in the first six months. As mentioned, I had my passion for learning prior to that and I really wanted to focus on learning and performance.

Jeevan:  As a chartered accountant, does your familiarity with numbers help you in your role in learning and development?

Les: It gives me credibility with the leadership team. I am able to talk in a language that is relevant to them, such as strategic priorities, metrics and return on investment. That is helpful in how we partner with the business in developing learning interventions.

Jeevan: Do you think financial literacy is a skill that learning professionals need to focus a little bit more?

Les: Yes, but I think I am biased! I am coming from a background where I am comfortable with numbers. It’s an opportunity for our industry to become better skilled at financial analysis, business priorities and talking with executives in a way that resonates with them.

Jeevan: How should L&D professionals build financial literacy and business acumen?

Les: That’s a good question, Jeevan. We’re a big fan of 70-20-10. On that basis, I would suggest that a lot of that development should be on the job by finding someone who has those skills and partnering with them, whether they are within HR or finance, to build that understanding over a period of time.

Jeevan: Thanks, Les. Let’s talk about learning at the Red Cross Blood Service. So, what kind of learning and development is a priority at Red Cross Blood Service?

Les: My team is responsible for all of the technical training  i.e. for those jobs which are a part of our manufacturing process, which is a highly regulated area. Getting people competent for their part of the manufacturing process is a key part of our role. For example we work with nurses in preparing them to work in a donor centre and our scientists and lab technicians so that they are able to work competently and confidently by themselves.

Jeevan: With your previous job experience with professional services firms (KPMG) and technology companies, what are the differences in the way learning needs to be delivered at the Red Cross Blood Service ?

Les: I don’t think the challenges we face are unique to us. The skills that I’ve found important in financial services and in consulting are the same skills we need here. One of those is around having a dispersed work force where getting time away from the donor centre is quite challenging. It needs us to include e-learning (and webinars etc) and 70-20-10 in the mix.

Jeevan: In addition to the 70-20-10 model, what are the other learning delivery methods you are actively looking at?

Les: First is the performance analysis model. The key thing in that model that we are progressing at the moment is a deeper upfront analysis around the factors that impact performance. This includes looking more broadly than just the skills and knowledge component and partnering with other functions such as business process improvement and organizational development.

Second is measuring results, really demonstrating our value based on the business metrics such as KPIs. Third is embedding learning into the way we do the work and providing performance support.

Jeevan: It has been a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much for that.

Side Bar

What is a book/ podcast/ blog that you have read recently that has impacted the way you think about learning and performance?  

The New Social Learning, by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner.  A great introduction to using social media in the learning landscape.

The top three capabilities that learning professionals need to develop to be more effective?  

1.    Business acumen
2.    Focus on performance rather than learning
3.    Demonstrating value

How do you keep yourself updated professionally?   

Lots of reading and access to social media.  The Learning Café has been a great addition to my network.

What is the aspect of Learning Cafe that you enjoy the most?  

Ready access to an experienced network of learning and performance professionals to discuss key challenges.

Calling Learning To Account : Learning Conversation with Les Lisz