Last week one of our team got married (congratulations Daniel and Miku) and it reminded me of the quote “It’s not about the wedding but the whole marriage” and how relevant that quote is when creating a learning experience or training program.
The wedding is a single event, but is actually the start of a much longer (hopefully) experience. There would have been a number of smaller events and experiences that lead up to that day. Just like training is not just about the ‘one and done’ training event but the experience before and after.
However, too often a single training event is rolled out with the expectation that this will solve the problem (if the problem was diagnosed correctly in the first place – but that’s a whole other article). Training organisations or departments roll out the ‘one and done’ training event, often with a list of learning objectives that will be achieved. While the knowledge component of these objectives may be achieved, I would argue that the performance aspect (or competency) can be achieved through an isolated event.
To develop competency (or mastery) individuals must develop an understanding, learn the required skills, practice developing and integrating the skills and know when to apply them. This takes time. As learning and development professionals we are being deficient in the service we provide if we think that the ‘one and done’ event will achieve this.
We need to consider the development of a greater learning experience delivered over a period of time to allow for the required skill development occur. But what should this learning experience look like?
The learning experience will vary based on the context, the learners and the technology used. But there are several common elements that we should be considering.
Ben Betts in his publication The Social Learning Playbook for High Growth Businesses talks about one the plays being inspiration.
Inspiration is the trigger that sets the mind off running. It is the reason to investigate further, the impetus to get involved and research a new idea or a new way of thinking. Without inspiration, there is no motivation to learn.
Our learning experiences should include an opportunity to provide the inspiration to motivate the learner.
Learners also need to see the WIIFM – what’s in it for me – to be motivated. They need to understand how the learning experience meets their needs – how it is relevant to them. They need to connect the relevance to their personal learning needs, not just the learning needs that have been determined for them.
If we are focusing on a major learning event (such as a face-to-face workshop) then we also need to prepare the learners. One could assume that there would be an underlying level of prior knowledge that is required before moving into practicing skills, or exploring higher level content. One method would be to use time at the start of the major learning event to cover off this prior knowledge (regardless of what people might know) or we could provide a learning event before this – an article, video or webinar as examples – to prepare learners days before they attend. Not only will this provide more time for other learning during the day, but also assist in spacing the learning and avoid cognitive overload.
Practice and Reflection
It’s not about the wedding but the marriage. After the major event people need to be provide further opportunities to have practice. The major event might have been the first time they had ever practiced a certain skill (others might have had practice before the event). To assist in developing competence we need to provide opportunities for practice as part of the learning experience. Realistic practice that mirrors the real life expectations needs to be provided. Opportunities to reflect on this practice and how they can improve also needs to be provided.
Will Thalheimer talks about the need for spacing repetition over time, not just spacing learning. In providing practice and reflection there needs to be an element of repetition. An opportunity for people to practice skills or practice the decision making practice in deciding to use the skills.
One size doesn’t fit all. We need to be able to personalise the learning experience for all. We need to provide opportunities for learners to learn what they need, at the pace they need. Based on the experiences people have, everyone has different gaps in knowledge or skill. Everyone needs a personal learning journey to reach the objectives. A journey that allows them to fill the knowledge and skills gaps they require.
In an ideal world we would create the ongoing learning experience (or learning campaign) with learning events spaced over time, before and after a major event (or events) and it would provide the results required. The reality is that not everyone is a totally motivated self-directed learner. Other factors interfere and distract or divert learners from the opportunities to practice and reflect. We need to build in support mechanisms to help prompt these learners, to reach out to them (watch this space) and provide opportunities to help them reengage.
We never stop learning. We should never consider the ‘one and done’ learning event is going to be enough. We should be providing an opportunity for learning experiences spaced over time to provide better learning, better outcomes and better returns.