I have a few questions.
- What does it mean to learn?
- What does that moment of learning look and feel like?
- What catalyzes learning?
- How much learning occurs during training?
There may be some corporate university training programs out there that I don’t know about that are doing a great job producing a high concentration of learning moments. That said, most of what I have seen is a waste of time and resources.
Yep, those are fightin’ words.
Learning means different things to different people. If your definition of learning is that people hear information and at the time can recall it, then perhaps many training programs are a smashing success.
We trainers dump a lot of information into heads.
I would like to propose a new definition of workplace learning.
Learning occurs when the trainee actively seeks and acquires knowledge and is then motivated to use it.
I like this definition because it relates more directly to performance and is focused on the trainee (not on the class). If we held ourselves to producing THAT form of learning, I think we would do things differently.
1. The new learning does not occur when we offer sheep dip (means everyone has to go to the same classes) training. People don’t want to buy that way, travel that way, work that way and they sure don’t want to LEARN that way.
2. If you define successful learning based on the learner’s motivation and application, they the focus would shift from offering what WE think THEY need to connecting to the learner and creating an environment that enlivens their desire to seek and apply new information.
Some corporate trainers out there are thinking – yeah right, that works for a small company, but I can’t train 5,000 this way. It is too expensive.
My response? So be it. It is cheaper than wasting millions on training programs that people dread and that don’t work. Much cheaper. It’s not easy to get rid of one size fits all, but this is our job and obligation as educators. It’s why we are here and needed.
Think about the last time you were on energized to learn something. You were connected to the business, you had a new challenge, you were working closely with someone you admire, you were having fun, you were letting your curiosity take the lead.
As trainers, coaches, and managers, the way we approach helping employees learn is more important than anything. We need to understand the significance of creating a learning-ready environment and we should let learning be a personal and customized experience. For some people, it will be a project assignment, another person might love and respond to more one-on-one time with you. Brainstorming sessions. Brown bag book discussion sessions over pizza and beer. Three people debating at the local coffeehouse. A great book. Inspiration from nature. Meeting someone you admire at a conference. Being asked to teach others. Benchmarking others. Quiet time with a big white board. Reading blogs. Writing a blog. Research. Watching others. Practice. Telling stories. Comparing several approaches. Group goes through a new process together. Repetition. Theories. Trying a new productivity tool. Good example. Bad example. Blended learning. Coaching. University classes. Professional associations. Listening to audio on the way to work. Simulations. Games. Dissonance. Long classes. Short classes. Daily reminders. Newsletters. Music. Mentors. Assessments. Tests. Computer-based training. iPods/podcasts/videocasts. Weekly conference calls. Daily huddles. Giving a presentation. Solving a problem. In response to a challenge. Asking great questions.
We are all unique and what turns us on – for learning – is an individual thing. Instead of overplanning your training to the point of sapping all the learning out of it, try unplanning instead. Get to know people at a deep level. Use your resources to create a provocative and evocative work environment and train learning catalysts (and you can’t sheep dip here either) to help provide great learning experiences.
No sheep dip!
Lisa Haneberg, author of the Management Craft blog, is a professional management and leadership trainer, coach, and organization development consultant. She is also the author of H.I.M.M.: (High Impact Middle Management): Solutions for Today’s Busy Managers, Organization Development Basics, Coaching Basics, and most recently, Focus Like a Laser Beam.