Irina Ketkin: “Learning and Development is not the same as training”
AcademyOcean interview

We are pleased to present you a new interview in the L&D category! And we have a new cool expert who is ready to share her knowledge and experience. 🤩

Meet Irina Ketkin!

Irina Ketkin AcademyOcean interview

Irina Ketkin is a Learning and Development Consultant with 10+ years of experience. She helps organizations implement their own learning and development programs. Her approach is collaborative, interactive, and engaging. She work with individuals and teams from all levels of the organization, including C-suite executives. 

Irina holds a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD). 

In 2018, she founded Learning Adventures — a boutique Learning and Development consultancy providing B2C and B2B solutions in the field of personal, management, leadership, and team development.

Irina is also one of the most popular course authors on Udemy. More than 13,000 people have taken her courses on Learning and Development.

Well, let's start our interview!


AO: Irina, You have a lot of different projects, and we noticed that they all have in common, the fact that you strive to digitalize information, processes, etc. Tell us how you came to what you do? Why do you like your job?

Irina: 

Digitalizing content is the fastest way to democratize learning. 

I firmly believe that everyone has the potential to create greatness. And by making learning content more accessible, we unleash this potential.

When I first came into the Learning and Development field, I had very little training. I pursued expensive courses, purchased tons of books, attended conferences, and looked for best practices all over the internet. But none of the information I found could be applied immediately back on the job—it was theoretical and summarized by academics. I needed something to apply immediately back on the job and solve my day-to-day challenges. That’s why I launched The L&D Academy.

L&D Academy is an online educational space for (current and aspiring) L&D professionals — practical tips without the fluff!Facebook / LinkedIn

AO: Now companies are striving to automate and transfer the maximum number of work processes online. What set of online tools is needed for the effective work of an L&D specialist?

Irina: 

Tools need to support the work of L&D, not dictate it. 

And nowadays, there are plenty of tools that can do that. Any tool that adds value to the learning process, enhances knowledge transfer, and makes our lives even a little more productive is a good tool.

When it comes to online facilitation, there are several tools L&D needs to have at their disposal:

  • Content — libraries, articles, repositories, studies—anything that can help L&D understand topics better.
  • LMS — having a place to host all the content is also essential. Without a way to quickly find and access knowledge, it deems the content useless.
  • Communication — regardless of your preferred tool for emails.

AO: What do you consider the key to successful learning, a person’s personal ability to learn, or the right approach?

Irina: Ideally, it would help if you had both. And in a certain way, the ability to learn, and the right approach are connected. Without a growth mindset and an environment that supports learning, the effectiveness of the process is going to be questionable. 

I would even argue that the environment is more important than the willingness or ability to learn. The right environment can motivate a person to build learning skills. But a learning skill cannot thrive in an environment that doesn't support feedback, making mistakes, and challenging the status quo.

Irina: The 5 adult learning principles tell us that for any learning event (training, coaching, mentoring, etc.) to be effective, people need to:

  1. know what the end goal is
  2. have content that is relatable and applicable to their day-to-day
  3. be motivated to attend
  4. be supported by other people, and
  5. have freedom in their learning exploration

My experience shows me that if even one of those is missing, it will be next to impossible to have an effective training.

Irina: 

Embrace mistakes! Striving for excellence is a good thing, but not when it turns into a perfectionism that stops the achievement of progress in its tracks. 

No one was born knowledgeable and skilled. And some lessons we need to learn the hard way—by making tons of mistakes. However, it is also vital that we learn from those mistakes and don't make the same mistake twice.

This is why the role of management is vital in building a culture of continuous learning. 

Mistakes should be encouraged. And once a mistake happens, managers should try to extract the lessons from their team, not berate them for any mishaps. 

This should be done through regular feedback and coaching.

Irina: That will depend on the leader and their teams. Any skills that the teams believe will make their work easier and more productive should be in that leader's development plan.

Irina: Absolutely! While it is important for a leader to understand the high-level picture, what the teams on the ground are working on, and what are their most common challenges, the same leader will not be able to truly lead that team to a better future without understanding themselves and other and using empathy in every single interaction.

If we assume that emotional intelligence cannot be developed, then we assume the world never changes. And that is just not true.

Everything can be learned with enough drive, practice, and repetition. And, maybe most importantly, support from others.

Irina: Again—empathy. 

Being able to step into someone else's shoes, see things from their point of view, and communicate with them from their perspective can make a world of difference.

AO: There is a practice of drawing up a personal development and training plan. Why is this useful to you?

Irina: A personal development plan and a training plan are different things in L&D.

A PDP is a helpful way to gather information on each employee's learning and development needs. 

When L&D has access to the PDPs across the business, it becomes easier to plan and sponsor just-in-time learning opportunities.

Where a PDP can focus on any learning opportunity, a training plan focuses exclusively on training needs.

One of the most common misconceptions is that L&D = training. 

And that couldn't be further from the truth. 

Research shows that training is responsible for approximately 10% of the learning transfer, which means that 90% of what we learn comes from other things (i.e., engaging with others and doing the job). 

And if that is the case, it makes no sense for L&D to only focus on training if we know there are more effective learning tools.

Irina: I have two.

The first one is adopting a mindset of a business consultant. 

I wish I had known this when I started in the field more than ten years ago. There is a famous saying: 

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail” — Abraham Maslow 

I used to think that Learning and Development are responsible for all training activities in the business. But, ironically, nowhere in the title does it even mention the word “training”. It wasn't until years later that I discovered that L&D needs to propose (learning) solutions to solve (learning) challenges. 

And that is ultimately what consultants do—stay close to the business, understand its pain points, suggest appropriate and customized solutions and follow up to measure the results.

The second hack is to take time to prepare and rehearse. 

It sounds like a cliché (and it absolutely is)! But it works. Even a quick run-through of the material will help you commit to the content, decide on the best delivery, and increase your self-confidence. 

L&D and trainers are performers. You wouldn't expect your favorite artist to walk on stage without doing a soundcheck or rehearsing their dance moves. And the same should be valid for every type of learning performance we do—be it a training session, coaching, or even a consultation.

AO: Wow Irina, thank you for this incredible interview. A lot has been said that makes us rethink our views!


And we do not say goodbye and are preparing new interviews for you!

See you soon!

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