The image above. taken from Degreed’s How the Workforce Really Learns in 2016 report, has recently become the most popular item I’ve shared on LinkedIn, by quite some way, and its interpretation has been much debated in the Comments section of that post.
What this image represents to me is that for each individual employee, formal L&D touch points are few and infrequent.
You might also challenge whether all employees are being mentored or coached – and even whether eLearning and classroom training are less frequently experienced by workers in your organisation than shown here? In fact, in another study (referenced in The Empowered Learner white paper), only 23% of respondents had completed a course at their company in the last 2 years!
I see an opportunity for L&D to operate more in this top left-hand corner and have greater impact because this is where you continuously influence performance in the direction that the organisation benefits and how you incrementally develop capability towards achieving the strategic goals, supplemented by the less frequent courses and programmes. After all, it’s fair to say we are not transformed in the classroom, we are ‘transformed by our efforts to respond to the demands of our environment’, which is the very definition of evolution, according to Oxford Dictionaries. And if this is the case, then we should be looking for ways to support learning in the workflow and providing resources to help employees when they face their everyday challenges. You could easily do this today by creating digital resources that answer questions that groups of employees are asking or by fulfilling specific needs that are not touched by your formal learning solutions.
For example, we all know that running days long induction to let new starters know all-the-things-they-need is counterintuitive because they could not possibly remember all that information, let alone when they need it to perform their new role. So by identifying the questions that new starters will be asking and answering them in the form of short online resources, designed to get the employee from ‘not knowing’ to ‘doing’ in the shortest possible time, can help us to positively influence their performance during their first few weeks at the company.
The same for new managers. There are dozens of questions that every new manager will have when they start in the role, such as:
All of these could be answered in a short resource or two that work like a web search, an article, a blog or a video that equips the employee with enough ‘know-how’ to perform with confidence and with organisationally-specific advice. Not only that, resources can be created and shared in minutes and improved over time, like they have done at ASOS recently.
To be clear, this is not a devalued experience compared to classroom training or eLearning, after all, do we not spend time preparing delegates to take their ‘learning’ back to the workplace? How about not removing them in the first place unless absolutely necessary? I challenge in-company L&D to think of all the things that could be popped into a short digital resource to act like a virtual response to a tap-on-the-shoulder-of-a-colleague who knows and knows-how.
Ok, so how do you know that ‘learning’ has taken place with short digital resources like this? Perhaps that’s exactly the same for any other type of learning experience but the difference here is that the gap between the employee facing their ‘challenge’ and then ‘applying’ what they have just picked up is so short that learning does not need to occur before application, just read, see, interpret anddo. The learning occurs after doing – just like in real life.
There are organisations now doing this on a large scale and taking their flagship face-to-face programmes and flipping them to be ‘resource-first’, recognising that they have a better chance of catching employees when they need the support, and influencing their performance this way, rather than having them wait until they attend a face-to-face programme. They then use live sessions to discuss, question, challenge, debate and practice.
This agile ‘resources-first’ approach is now increasing both the reach and impact of L&D departments, helping them support all employees and solving real business problems as fast as it would take to write an email.
If you’re interested in operating more in the ‘every day’ and ‘every week’ space rather than ‘every now and again’ then read some more about how ASOS are actually doing this and think about how much more impact you could have on your business with your L&D on-demand.
David James is Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with more than 15 years of experience in the field. Until recently, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.
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