As Learning & Development professionals, there are phrases we hear often that spin us into a flurry of planning, executing, hoping and praying. But what's just as important as these sentences? The unspoken additional context that goes with it:
"I liked that course! [...I just don't remember any of it when it's time to apply it to my job.]"
"We need to create a training for customer service strategies [...because that seems like a good next step, maybe?]."
"We need more training [...but I'm not sure what training already exists and why it's not working]."
These words, both spoken and unspoken, are symptomatic of one-off learning events, which are well-intentioned, but still missing the mark due to their lack of depth and ability to produce real results. Learning within your organization should be both continuous and relevant in order to be successful.
Let's break that down.
Learning that is continuous:
We would all agree that learning leads to growth, growth leads to improved performance, and improved performance leads to measurable, sustainable success for your organization. So how do you create a never-ending pipeline for that type of achievement? Build a culture of unceasing learning.
The best way to accomplish this is to digitize as much of the learning journey as you can. There is certainly a time and place for on-the-job learning, and even lecture style trainings. But in order to make sure that meaningful learning can happen at any given moment, you first must ensure that your learners can always access content to build their skillset. This is often referred to as "just in time" learning (as opposed to "just in case" learning). You may be thinking that this seems like more of a luxury rather than a staple.
Think again. In a recent report, CEB cited that 66% of learners expect to learn new information 'just-in-time'.
Today's learner's expectations are far different from those in years' past.
Learning that is relevant:
Let's say you've mastered the aspect of offering 'continuous learning'. Great! But if you're not also ensuring that each touchpoint along your employees' learning journey is highly relevant, then (as my grandmother would say) "that doesn't mean a hill of beans." Some practical tips for increasing the relevancy of your training components are:
Purposeful employee grouping - it may not be enough to simply split your training experiences into managers and ICs, or technicians and sales. Perhaps the data is showing that customer service agents at a specific location are underperforming. You should segment the audience for targeted trainings accordingly to increase engagement and respect everyone's time.
Prescriptive learning - Within your organization, I'm sure you can name anywhere from 1-5 roadblocks that are keeping you from meeting your collective goals. And guess what? Education can alleviate (and maybe even eliminate) those struggles. Identify what needs to be fixed, and equip your learners to be the fixers.
Anticipation - If you only built training experiences around what's wrong right now, you will spend your career putting out fires instead of making a real impact. Look beyond what's wrong right now. Are there several little issues that are a symptom of a larger problem coming down the pike? What will you be facing a month from now? A year from now? What did you learn from last year's 'busy season' that you want to get ahead of before the rush hits this year. I know it sounds intimidating, but as you practice this way of thinking, it will come more naturally, and even reduce the time you have to spend putting out those proverbial fires.
Take a hard look at your existing training. Is it merely a series of isolated events? Or are you building a holistic learner experience using every medium at your disposal? Crafting a learning journey may be daunting, but think of the results you'll see in performance, engagement, and retention.
Now that's worth more than a hill of beans.