Training just isn’t working* article 3

Training just isn’t working* article 3

Previous articles have looked at the WHY and WHO of learning – that the ultimate purpose of L&D is to improve individual and collective performance through helping to solve the real-time needs of employees in organisations.

Now it is time to move onto the WHAT and HOW. What actually is the learning offer and how is it most effectively delivered?

We have mentioned a few times that the learning offer to people working in organisations is often a catalogue of available courses that is ‘pushed’ out. The programmes are often well designed, have clear deliverables and outcomes, include latest thought leadership and theory / models with practical toolkits and are delivered with professional aplomb by highly skilled internal and/or external experts.

But…very sadly… they rarely have real impact. Despite all of the positives above, the chance of meeting the real-time, role specific needs of every attending delegate within their ‘information and concentration span’ is remote. There are usually two or three absolute gems of learning for each individual within a half day workshop, but these can be hidden within four hours of ‘other stuff’ that may be interesting, but is just not currently seen as a learning need or priority. The session then is… well… just not delivering because the learning is not immediately transferrable into performance.

The last article covered some key questions that should be asked to individuals to really understand their current needs, one being..

“If you had an hour to spend on YouTube right now, what would you search for to help with your work performance?”

The WHAT, the learning offer, would be far more effective if it could be pulled down by the individual (like YouTube) to help to satisfy that current need.

The thing is…. The answers may well already be there. If we dissected every element of every programme and session included on the ‘push out’ catalogue then we would likely have reams of answers, ideas, stories and toolkits to help solve a wide array of specific needs.

So, wouldn’t it be sensible to do just that? Break material down into clearly referenced portions, explaining clearly what each will ‘give’ and offering a suite of practical guides and tools. Flipping a lot of the ‘push’ learning into more accessible and focused ‘pull’ learning.

Not that ‘push’ learning doesn’t have its place. There will be times when a business, or team, needs to pass on key messages and information to large numbers (and here is where the HOW of effective delivery kicks in). And bringing a team together to collectively learn and work on improving interactions can have real impact.

‘Push’ development programmes can work effectively – but more work needs to be undertaken in understanding delegates, finding out what they really need to learn and develop and how they prefer to work – and then explaining the context of each session, how it can benefit them in role and improve individual and collective performance.

As an example, we are in the midst of running a Leadership programme for 30 delegates – an investment that historically had limited success. Each of the delegates was interviewed prior to programme commencement, and given a pre-programme learning pathway consisting of a personalised list of recommended Tedtalks, books, case studies and articles depending on their work situation, leadership challenges and performance improvement needs.

But what seems to have really made a difference is communicating exactly WHAT outcomes we are intending to drive from each group session with an outline of approach – and then asking several personalised questions, linked to their current challenges, for them to think about ahead of the session. This means more of each session is relevant and ‘pulled’ down by the individuals because they better understand the context in respect of solving their personal challenges and the impact on performance. There is a greater level of engagement. Sessions become more ‘facilitated discussions’ around real role and business challenges with limited ‘telling’ of information and knowledge.

This moves us nicely into the question of HOW can learning be most effectively delivered? We would never profess to having all of the answers here – but we are continually working on this, experimenting and challenging ourselves to think differently. And that is the point. The HOW question is dynamic and needs to constantly be in the line of focus, and L&D professionals have to work harder to find more and more effective ways to deliver solutions.

And this isn’t just about technology. Tech is an essential component of the learning ‘operation’ and will continue to grow in importance. There are some brilliant tech based learning solutions out there and organisations with bigger budgets are investing in cutting edge Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence tools.

However, unless the actual learning that these cool and engaging tools are delivering is the right learning (our WHY/WHO/WHAT discussions – user defined, focused on performance and improvement and aligned with the business) then they will not be adding much more value than traditional learning delivery. There is the danger of becoming obsessed with the amazing interfaces that tech can offer and losing sight of the other components of an effective learning offer. This can lead to too much focus on gimmicks and too little on the fundamentals.

Some thoughts on more effective delivery:

  • There needs to be a shift towards ‘in flow of work’ learning, which is providing individuals with options to find ‘learning’ answers to the problems and challenges that regularly crop up during the process of work. This could be access to mentors, colleagues, learning material, forums and recommended external sources. Applying learning drives straight into performance.

Most current learning offers are ‘away-from work’ – workshops, programmes, e-learning modules, discussion groups etc which reduces the chance of it being embedded into work behaviours and performance as effectively, simply because there isn’t the immediate ‘need’ to do it. The challenge for L&D is to find ways to keep the key messages in ‘line of sight’ so that individuals are able to pull them down into ‘flow of work’ when needed.

We all know that ‘doing it’ is where real learning happens. The 70:20:10 model has been around since the 1980’s as is generally accepted (70 percent of development comes from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others, and 10 percent from formal educational events)

  • The key is going to be utilising intelligent learning platforms. Something like a Netflix for learning, which can hold different types of learning material, videos, modules, podcasts, articles etc. This would become predictive based on what you explore and watched and therefore enable you to have access to a personalised, relevant learning resource. This could deliver learning opportunities that encourage exploration, agility and curiosity. The more you use it, the better it becomes at suggesting appropriate learning content. And, there is still the option of searching the database for anything else the learner may be interested in.

Such a platform can also address the current huge shift in human behaviour. Increasingly, all aspects of people’s lives (friendship, romance, careers, education, news) is being led by the technology in their hands with constant sharing, collaboration and ‘tribal’ behaviour. People are led by others recommendations, reviews and stories – particularly by identified influencers.

Being able to share learning with others, to promote the value of material through ‘liking’ or sharing learning ‘playlists’ and having access to conversations, networks, forums and groups to chat and discuss ideas, will have a huge impact on learning effectiveness.

There are already some great solutions available that can transform the value of learning (Degreed, SAP Jam, EdCast, Udemy, Curatr, EdX etc)

  • Building on from the last point, we are seeing so much user curated knowledge, opinion and stories on platforms such as LinkedIn. L&D should be encouraging the curation and share of such information across organisations.
  • We firmly believe that traditional classroom learning is certainly not dead. We have reiterated the point that L&D needs to re-think the purpose of bringing people together to ‘learn’. Despite the point above about building learning around tech based connectivity – nothing can replicate bringing people together to collaborate and be ‘immersed’ in the learning experience. It is the perfect environment to deliver real development – the practice, practice, review, feedback, practice – to embed key skills and behaviours.

Next time – improving the ‘locking-in’ of learning into continual performance improvement.

theGrogroup are experts in advising organisations on how best to improve performance by effectively executing and embedding required change. We do this through our proven framework; clarifying strategy and change needs, enabling people through skills, behaviours and mind-set development and creating the systems, processes and infrastructure to lock in change as the new normal.