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This Is What I Believe About Learning in Organizations

Work is No Longer Work 

The nature of work is changing. This world is one in which humans no longer make things or fix things or sell things or provide basic services. Work has become mind-intensive instead of hand-intensive. People are no longer being judged on the basis of how hard they work or how much they produce. Work is no longer about simply doing a job; it’s about becoming adapting to new jobs, new technology, new ways of
working with others, and anticipating the unanticipated. Automation, robotics, and AI are eliminating Brxxto-495156-unsplash tasks that had been mundane, routine, monotonous, and, in some cases, dangerous. Now tasks done by humans are being enhanced by the Internet, providing the collective knowledge of the world at their fingertips. This is a future in which workers are smarter, more agile, and more innovative. The skilled worker today wants a different kind of experience. People realize they need interpersonal skills, creativity, reasoning, and empathy. As globalization increases and communities become more diverse, the competitive advantage of any organization will be its collective knowledge and its expanded expertise. In the past, people tolerated poor work conditions and didn’t expect much from their leaders, but now people want to be treated fairly and respected for their contributions. People want meaningfulness and joyful workplaces.  For all of these reasons, the fundamental nature of work is being transformed. 

 

The Purpose of Business is Learning

Yes, the purpose of business is to make a profit, retain customers, be sustainable, satisfy shareholders, and, for some, make a difference in the community. But none of this is possible without learning. At its core, any high performing organization is about learning; continually using new information to become smarter, better, and more effective. Every industry is faced with disruption, whether it is aviation, health care, manufacturing, mobility, hospitality, retail, education, philanthropy, etc. To survive and thrive today, industries need innovation which is essentially about learning. Innovation is how to use products and services in new ways that rapidly respond to changing market demands and create new products and services. Companies must learn more deeply about their customers and markets. They must learn how to build an organization that becomes increasingly effective in achieving its goals, learn how to use new technology to improve efficiency and safety, and learn how to compete with every new technological and competitive threat. Whether learning how to operate a machine, learning how to make decisions in a team, learning how to function more effectively as an organization, the organization must learn continuously to adapt for success.

 

Training Is Not Learning

Training is not and never has been enough. Organizations waste billions of dollars per year on training. Data indicates that less than 20% of participants apply learning from formal training programs. Unfortunately, companies continue to spend most of their employee development budget and most of their time and effort on training programs and systems tracking training activities. Companies continue to emphasize training with little payoff while these programs are more costly and less effective than other kinds of learning interventions. We know that people learn most from their co-workers and from on-the-job experience, yet we invest the most in formal, training programs. Consider the alternatives: just-in-time e-learning (desktop and mobile), coaching, mentoring, simulations, on-demand video, and experiential-learning. And in some situations people might learn best from the workflow, through action-learning conversations, through self-directed experiences, or from apprentice and internship assignments. Traditional, formal training programs are often almost never the best solution to a performance deficit.

 

Manager’s Role is People

The biggest barrier to learning in organizations are the beliefs and attitudes of managers and leaders. If they have a fixed mindset, people are not likely to learn. And if they are not invested in people succeeding, if they worry that they will be “found out”, if they come to work in fear, then managers will prevent other people from learning. Managers are the catalysts and gatekeepers to learning, so if they don’t open that gate, employees will not have access to knowledge. To be effective gatekeepers, managers MUST set expectations for learning, show people how to learn, provide opportunities for learning in the workplace, structure opportunities for application of learning, and communicate feedback for improvement. Managers are key to employee engagement and retention. Managers must be committed to developing people and, in particular, growing future leaders. Managers must learn how to learn and help employees learn how to learn. Learning is always about managers creating an environment of openness and trust among relationships. The most important role of a manager (and leader) is the learning and development of its employees.

 

It’s the Culture

Learning is not the result of a program; it is ingrained in the culture of an organization. A learning culture is expressed in the assumptions, values, environment, and behaviors of the organization. To learn, people must have a growth mindset. Learning must be valued and advocated throughout the organization. Learning must be reflected in the routines and rituals of employees. The physical setting must create an environment that supports learning. Asking questions, giving feedback, and encouraging debate and alternate viewpoints, must be the routine activity of the organization. This is even more powerful when its leaders and managers ask questions, listen deeply, and follow-up with action. Sharing successes and failures are done openly and without disapproval. Employees tell stories to draw lessons and learn from their experiences. Action-learning is essentially part of how people do their work. Managers encourage their direct reports to acquire new knowledge and skills and apply that learning throughout the organization. They advocate for collaboration in teams that promote psychological safety. The work environment is one of respect and trust and transparency. People do not feel harassed, teased, and bullied. They are not ignored and marginalized.  Importantly, people are deeply listened to each other. Feedback is considered an opportunity to develop and grow; an occasion for learning. A learning culture is all of this and more. An organization that is creating and maintaining a learning culture, is truly ready to compete in the world today!

Photo by Brxxto on Unsplash

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Push Training vs. Pull Learning

Following is an excerpt from our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy (Chapter Four).

 

Push training is a siloed, top-down, management-driven approach that sends people to formal training events Minds-at-work-150where they receive nice-to-know information—as in, it will be nice to know someday. People are not connected to one another during or after the training event, and do not collaborate. The focus is on showing up (attendance), participating (raising your hand), and passing or failing (testing). If that sounds famil­iar, that’s because it’s school transposed onto the workplace. It is a static system created to control and manage hands.

In contrast, pull learning is a learner-driven, bottom-up approach that enables people to access the information they need when and where it is needed. People are able to collaborate and make the best use of the supporting technology that links them to one another and sources of information. The focus is on performance (what you can do), sharing knowledge that leads to better performance (collaborating), and provid­ing two-way feedback about the information that affects what others will learn (communicating).

Imagine people facing a new situation in which they require more instruction. Using the push model, no one is sure where to go to get the information they need. They attended a training program, but it did not cover all the possible situations they would encounter, and they have already forgotten most of the content. With pull learning, people can quickly and easily locate and access the most up-to-the-minute infor­mation in a variety of ways, when and where they need it. They can call a co-worker who has already learned what is needed, talk to an expert, or search an interactive site for the latest ideas from other people. The pull model of learning is performance-based. The focus is on what you can do when you need to get it done. 

PUSH TRAINING CULTURE PULL LEARNING CULTURE
Event-based learning On-demand learning
Delayed response to changing needs Immediate response
Knowing Doing
Instructor-centered Learner-centered
Delivery of programs Delivery of results
Top-down centralized Bottom-up decentralized

Replacing push training with pull learning is a transformative step toward supporting and sustaining a company. It is managing minds and placing a mission-critical value on learning. By taking a managing minds approach, a company can provide relevant, usable, and on-de­mand access to the knowledge and skills people need to perform their jobs. This includes technical, operational, and managerial knowledge and skills.

Corporations that make the commitment to manage minds and emphasize pull learning experience measurable, significant, and sustain­able increases in on-the-job performance, talent-retention, sales revenue, and innovation. They are more agile, and more able to respond instant­ly to the ever-changing requirements and demands of a fast-paced, hyper-competitive marketplace. Their employees can quickly access the technology and support to find what they need to know, when and where it is needed.

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Reprise: Training Will Not Eliminate Racist Behavior in Starbucks

In a letter that Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman of Starbucks, published in today's New York Times, he describes what his stores and offices will be doing this afternoon to address the problem of racial bias in the company:  

More than 175,000 Starbucks partners (that's what we call our employees) will be sharing life experiences, hearing from others, listening to experts, reflecting on the realities of bias in our society and talking about how all of us create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong - because they do. This conversation will continue at our company and become part of how we train all of our partners.

Again, I commend Starbucks for attacking the problem but I continue to have my doubts about the long term effects of their approach. On April 19, 2018, I wrote about these concerns. That blog post is repeated here:

 

In response to a racially charged incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia that resulted in the unnecessary Clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash arrests of two black males waiting for a friend, the company has announced that it will “…close more than 8,000 of its stores on May 29 to conduct anti-racial bias training for nearly 175,000 employees.”

While this response is commendable, if that’s all Starbucks does to eliminate racism among its staff, it will be a significant waste of time, money, and effort. I understand, putting all of their employees through training is good optics for the company and might provide some protection from lawsuits. But change in the culture requires so much more.

In the wake of the Starbucks incident, The New York Times asks the question, “Can Training Eliminate Biases?” The answer is “no”. Diversity and inclusion in companies is not achieved through a workshop. That’s not how people change behavior. Only culture change can eliminate biases. Training might be a good first step in raising awareness for some, but attitudes and actions must be supported consistently by the entire organization over time. Diversity and inclusion must be rooted in the processes and life of the organization.

As I wrote in a blog post on May 31, 2008 titled, From Diversity to Inclusion and Engagement:

Third Sector New England has, from its nearly five decades of experience, identified the following as key drivers of successful diversity initiatives:

  • A diversity committee/task force, representing all levels of the organization, that regularly communicates with the entire organization
  • Unflinching commitment by the CEO to convey the benefits of organizational diversity to the organization’s mission, vision and values
  • An organization-wide assessment or cultural audit to determine major challenges and barriers
  • Prioritizing those challenges
  • A clear designation of key participants, action steps and timelines to address challenges
  • Skill-building for moving beyond differences to develop an organizational language and culture of inclusiveness
  • Alignment of diversity planning with the organization’s strategic plan, so the former includes an assessment of funding and other resources needed to support the effort
  • A consultant to facilitate developing and implementing a diversity plan
  • Evaluation of progress at regular intervals
  • Reassessment of priorities as needed

In addition to these elements of comprehensive planning, an organizataion has to make some fundamental changes in how it works. Employees need to hear their senior managers talking frequently about diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough that the value of diversity and inclusion is listed on a laminated poster in the employee lounge. This value must be visible in the day-to-day actions of the company. Employees must see diversity in hiring and promotions, as well as among Board members and executives. The ability to accept differences must be in the criteria for hiring. Employees must see evidence that their company partners only with other companies that make a sincere effort at improving diversity and inclusion and eliminating racism. Managers need to step up and take responsibility for creating a welcoming and supportive culture in every part of the organization.  

Managers must recognize that not everyone has the same receptivity to change and act accordingly. Amber Madison has identified four archetypes of diversity and inclusion: the champion; the newbie; the bigot; and the bystander. She suggests that managers address each type differently. I recommend hiring "champions" and "newbies" and avoiding hiring "bigots" and "bystanders" as much as possible.

As we argue in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, managers must help to develop the people around them. And this means eliminating the discrimination that contributes to a hostile work environment. Racism is bad enough, but if there is racism, then there is sexism and antisemitism and antimuslimism and every other kind of discrimination. In addition to the immorality of that kind of workplace, that environment is not conducive to learning and people doing their best work, whether you’re a barista in a store or CEO of the company.

In fairness to Starbucks, a company that I admire, let me say that they are facing the same kind of racism that all companies face and is ingrained in our society. With over 27,000 locations worldwide, it's surprising more incidences of racial bias haven't been reported. But that's not an excuse and the company must do more to ensure that diversity and inclusion permeate its culture. However, training is not the answer.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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Training Will Not Eliminate Racist Behavior In Starbucks

In response to a racially charged incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia that resulted in the unnecessary arrests of two black males waiting for a friend, the company has announced that it will “…close more than Clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash 8,000 of its stores on May 29 to conduct anti-racial bias training for nearly 175,000 employees.”

While this response is commendable, if that’s all Starbucks does to eliminate racism among its staff, it will be a significant waste of time, money, and effort. I understand, putting all of their employees through training is good optics for the company and might provide some protection from lawsuits. But change in the culture requires so much more.

In the wake of the Starbucks incident, The New York Times asks the question, “Can Training Eliminate Biases?” The answer is “no”. Diversity and inclusion in companies is not achieved through a workshop. That’s not how people change behavior. Only culture change can eliminate biases. Training might be a good first step in raising awareness for some, but attitudes and actions must be supported consistently by the entire organization over time. Diversity and inclusion must be rooted in the processes and life of the organization.

As I wrote in a blog post on May 31, 2008 titled, From Diversity to Inclusion and Engagement:

Third Sector New England has, from its nearly five decades of experience, identified the following as key drivers of successful diversity initiatives:

  • A diversity committee/task force, representing all levels of the organization, that regularly communicates with the entire organization
  • Unflinching commitment by the CEO to convey the benefits of organizational diversity to the organization’s mission, vision and values
  • An organization-wide assessment or cultural audit to determine major challenges and barriers
  • Prioritizing those challenges
  • A clear designation of key participants, action steps and timelines to address challenges
  • Skill-building for moving beyond differences to develop an organizational language and culture of inclusiveness
  • Alignment of diversity planning with the organization’s strategic plan, so the former includes an assessment of funding and other resources needed to support the effort
  • A consultant to facilitate developing and implementing a diversity plan
  • Evaluation of progress at regular intervals
  • Reassessment of priorities as needed

In addition to these elements of comprehensive planning, an organizataion has to make some fundamental changes in how it works. Employees need to hear their senior managers talking frequently about diversity and inclusion. It’s not enough that the value of diversity and inclusion is listed on a laminated poster in the employee lounge. This value must be visible in the day-to-day actions of the company. Employees must see diversity in hiring and promotions, as well as among Board members and executives. The ability to accept differences must be in the criteria for hiring. Employees must see evidence that their company partners only with other companies that make a sincere effort at improving diversity and inclusion and eliminating racism. Managers need to step up and take responsibility for creating a welcoming and supportive culture in every part of the organization.  

Managers must recognize that not everyone has the same receptivity to change and act accordingly. Amber Madison has identified four archetypes of diversity and inclusion: the champion; the newbie; the bigot; and the bystander. She suggests that managers address each type differently. I recommend hiring "champions" and "newbies" and avoiding hiring "bigots" and "bystanders" as much as possible.

As we argue in our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, managers must help to develop the people around them. And this means eliminating the discrimination that contributes to a hostile work environment. Racism is bad enough, but if there is racism, then there is sexism and antisemitism and antimuslimism and every other kind of discrimination. In addition to the immorality of that kind of workplace, that environment is not conducive to learning and people doing their best work, whether you’re a barista in a store or CEO of the company.

In fairness to Starbucks, a company that I admire, let me say that they are facing the same kind of racism that all companies face and is ingrained in our society. With over 27,000 locations worldwide, it's surprising more incidences of racial bias haven't been reported. But that's not an excuse and the company must do more to ensure that diversity and inclusion permeate its culture. However, training is not the answer.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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Managing Hands or Managing Minds, It's Your Decision

The workplace is changing and the way organizations manage and develop people is changing in response. In the last century Industrial Economy, people were hired basically to work with their hands and do what they were told to do. In the new Knowledge Economy, enlightened companies hire people to work with their minds, to think for themselves, to be creative and collaborative, and to add to the collective wisdom of the organization.

We can no longer rely on formal training programs. People need to learn continuously and in the flow of their work which requires the support of the entire organization. The following infographic, designed by ATD, presents the essential elements of the managing-minds approach.

Minds at work infographic-jpg (002)

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Short Course on Evaluation of Training and Learning in Knowledge Economy

LAD Global, in partnership with the Singapore Training and Development Association, has made my short course on evaluation of training and learning available for free online. I hope people involved in talent LAD course on evaluation development will find this course to be a helpful introduction to measuring the impact of all types of learning interventions, not only formal training.  

My emphasis in this course is on using measurement and evaluation for learning. Much of evaluation in organizations today is still focused on formal training programs and limited to Kirkpatrick’s “level one”. In other words, L&D professionals are using “smile sheets” that measure immediate reaction to classroom instruction, collected at the end of training. Of course, we all are curious about what participants think of our programs and us as trainers. Great to know for marketing purposes.

But this information is not particularly helpful to the organization. It doesn’t tell us why the program was the right solution in the first place, what was learned, why that learning is helpful or not helpful to participants and other stakeholders, what happens when participants apply the content in their organizations, what are the intended and unintended consequences, what can be done to ensure that the content is applied in a positive way in the future, what organizational factors beyond the training are affecting impact, and what difference, positive and negative, the training has contributed to achieving organizational goals. This is the kind of information we need if we want to increase the impact of our learning interventions.

Given this purpose, the course covers methods that can be used to measure and evaluate the process of learning in organizations. I summarize three major approaches to evaluation: Kirkpatrick’s four levels; Phillips’ ROI; and Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method. And then I explain how to select the best method for the situation and how data (quantitative and qualitative) from any of these methods can be used to improve learning across an organization. If you take a look at the course, I welcome your feedback.

For more on this topic, see our new book, Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy, published by ATD Press, available now on Amazon.

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Training Isn't the Answer

Every day, it seems, another high profile case of sexual harassment comes to light. And then there are the many workplace complaints of sexual harassment that are no less harmful to women but, perpetrated by RosietheRivetermid-level managers, don’t get the same attention as the one’s involving celebrities and CEOs. The experience of women working in Ford Motor factories, as reported by Susan Chira and Catrin Einhorn in The New York Times, makes us aware that a hostile workplace is not unusual and can be created by managers at all levels of an organization. Clearly, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment are a pervasive problem.

However, the answer to eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace and creating a climate supportive of all employees regardless of gender, race, age, background, etc. is not more training. Most companies have been offering training since the 1990s, primarily in order to manage their risk of liability. A ruling by the Supreme Court in 1998 lent support to the widely held belief that offering training to educate employees about sexual harassment and providing a grievance procedure would shield companies from liability.

Training alone will not and cannot create a fearless work environment nor can training prevent sexual harassment. First of all, formal training programs have never had much impact on behavior in the workplace. On average, less than 20% of participants in training programs apply learning back on the job. There are many reasons for this, such as: poor training; lack of preparation for training; unreasonable expectations; forgetting content; lack of support from managers; lack of opportunity to apply new knowledge and skills in the short term; and little or no support from the CEO.

Secondly, even if the individual learner has changed in some significant way during training, the workplace culture is still the same. A hostile work environment with a long history of demeaning talk, threatening actions, and violence toward women will undermine learning from even the most outstanding training program. If people attend the training without a clear understanding of how the information relates to their jobs and they have low expectations, a manager that doesn’t care, no opportunity to apply what they know, and no accountability for their behavior and improving the work environment, then we can’t expect them to change.

Without getting into all of the psychological and social reasons why men behave badly, let’s just say that companies need to create a culture of respect and dignity for every single human being in the workplace. This is not only the right thing to do (that should be enough reason) but it’s also essential for business success.

Employees in the past, industrial economy only knew command-and-control leadership. They were expected to do what they were told and discouraged from thinking. These organizations were all about control and power and loyalty. Those values at the top of the hierarchy get translated into managers and co-workers exerting power over the most vulnerable employees throughout the pyramid.

In the current, knowledge economy, this kind of management no longer works. Given the rapid change due to technology, globalization, diversity in the workforce, and hyper-competition, people have to be continually learning, collaborating with others, working in teams, and being creative and innovative. Nobody can do this in a hostile work environment. If you come to work every day fearful of how you will be treated and simply trying to endure, you will not be able to contribute to creating the kind of company that will survive and thrive in the 21rst Century. Employees deserve better!

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Learning Ethical Behavior in the Workplace

“We’re no longer asking everybody to do the next thing right; but to do the next right thing.”                   -Dov Seidman

Ethical behavior in the workplace has never been more important, yet companies continue to act as if a workshop or elearning program during onboarding is all an employee needs in order to behave ethically. That Rightwrong might meet the requirements of a regulatory agency, but don’t expect your employees to learn “…to do the next right thing.” A training event, classroom or virtual, is no way to develop ethical behavior in a workforce.

BP’s oil spill. GM’s faulty ignition switches. Takata’s airbag ruptures. Volkswagen’s emissions fraud. Simplicity’s crib deaths. Samsung’s phone fires. Wells Fargo’s customer deception. In each of these cases, somebody knew about the ethical violations long before lives were affected significantly, but company culture at the time either discouraged those individuals from speaking up or motivated leaders to sell products even with the knowledge that the risk of failure and criminal negligence was high. They chose sales and profit over doing the right thing.

I’m sure all of those companies include ethics in their employee training programs and list ethical behavior among the values in their employee handbooks. The problem is not with training compliance; it’s with the way people learn about ethical behavior and the way that behavior is supported by the culture of their companies.

Companies that make ethics a priority, need to be managing minds, not hands. It’s not about getting the task done; it’s about doing the task with integrity. You don’t learn this in a training program, even a highly interactive and gamified program. This means that managers must become facilitators of that learning. People need to learn ethical behavior in the workplace, with all of its ambiguity, tension, pressures, and consequences. People need to be faced with an ethical dilemma and learn from working through that problem in a real life situation, and receive feedback from their managers during the process.

Doing “the next right thing” is also dependent on having a learning culture that supports development of an ethical employee. This is a culture in which managers have the support of corporate leaders who make ethics not only a marketing tag line but also model this value in everything that they do. If leaders are condoning behavior that crosses the line, whether explicitly stated or not, employees will interpret that as permission to behave badly. If the only measure of success is number and amount of sales at the end of the month, people will do whatever they can, ethical or not, to hit those targets. If employees see their male bosses treating women like second-class citizens, they are likely to do the same. We need managers to show employees that ethical behavior in what they say and do every day is an essential aspect of being a successful, respected, 21rst Century company.

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Culture Eats Strategy at Wells Fargo

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast," a quote famously attributed to Peter Drucker, is being played out dramatically in the crisis at Wells Fargo Bank. Apparently, the culture in the Wells Fargo workplace is not Stagecoach aligned with the espoused values of the company. This misalignment has tarnished the brand built on an image of trust and customer care, resulted in the dismissal of over 5,000 employees, poses a threat to the tenure of top executives, and resulted in a precipitous decline in the market value of the company.  

Wells Fargo CEO Stumpf has acknowledged that employees had opened bogus bank and credit card accounts for customers and then collected millions of dollars in illicit bank fees. In reporting on Stumpf’s testimony before the Senate Committee, Michael Corkery writes:

Mr. Stumpf disagreed with senators when they described the illicit sales as part of a deliberate scheme to increase the bank’s bottom line. He said the 5,300 employees who had been terminated over the issue — many of them earning $12 an hour — deserved to lose their jobs.

“The 5,300 were dishonest, and that is not part of our culture,” Mr. Stumpf said. “That is not scapegoating.”

This statement by Stumpf indicates that he does not realize that the dishonest behavior IS part of the Bank’s culture. It might not be what he hopes is the culture, but it surely is the normative actions of employees, recognized and supported by managers, and incentivized by the organization. The behavior is guided by the beliefs and assumptions of employees; it’s how they do their work, regardless of what it says in the company’s statement of values.

If you tell 12 dollar an hour employees that they can make more money by opening credit card accounts and “everyone is doing it” and maybe even, “Don’t worry about it, customers can always cancel”, then the company is rewarding unethical and, in some cases, possibly illegal behavior. And evidence suggests this has been going on for years. That’s culture trumping strategy!

Ethics training required of every employee seems to have had little impact on behavior. This is understandable given the culture of the organization. Whatever employees learned about integrity, honesty, and trust in the classroom was quickly forgotten under the pressure of cross-selling and making their numbers.

Wells Fargo is not alone in its failure to align workplace expectations and behavior with the strategic goals set by management. This disconnect can have very serious consequences for companies, as we are seeing at Wells Fargo. Every organization needs to periodically check to make sure that the actions being rewarded on-the-job are consistent with its espoused values and goals.

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Aligning Employee Learning with the Organization

Improving employee learning and performance in organizations today means systems change. I wish it were otherwise, but learning is not just a classroom activity anymore, it must be a total system activity that takes Boysinboat into account strategic goals of the organization, the culture of the organization (values, beliefs, artifacts, structure, etc.), external inputs (home life, economy, social network, competition, etc.), and the quality of the learning interventions (formal training, coaching, mentoring, self-directed study, action learning, etc.). Learning that makes a difference occurs when all of these factors are aligned.   

Braidio CEO, Iain Scholnick, takes up this systems perspective when he says that companies need to fit learning into the workflow of each day. In a Chief Learning Officer interview, he said:

How we deliver learning today in the organization is an artifact of our K-12 experience. We went physically to a building, and we learned from a teacher. That model has impacted our LMS design and how we approach learning. It’s not in the workflow. You have a workflow inside your organization — the crowd learning within your organization and how you structure that based on a day-to-day: What projects am I working on? What information do I need? Who has that information or can give me some guidance? Now, think about what you’re doing with the LMS. You’re going to that K-12 experience. You’re going to that laptop with a very long-winded instructor to lead content. It’s driven from the top down to all their employees who then take a timeout from their workflow to learn. That’s not exactly the most productive model.

He is calling for learning to be integrated into the life of the organization, i.e., into the system.

David H. Maister, in a 2008 article for T+D titled, Why (Most) Training is Useless, implored us to look beyond training and pay attention to the various elements of the system. He wrote:

…I now believe that the majority of business training – by me and by everyone else – is a waste of money and time because only a microscopic fraction of training is ever put into practice with the hoped for benefits obtained.

Unfortunately, training and other kinds of meetings and conferences are too often organized as stand-alone events, with a life of their own, disconnected from the firm’s progress.

What companies don’t seem to understand is that… training is a wonderful last step in bringing about changed organizational and personal behavior, but a pathetically useless first step.

Maister says that in order for training to have impact on the organization, first top management needs to communicate their support, the organization needs to prepare for the change in behavior, managers need to monitor, measure, and follow-up on the change, and there must be recognition and rewards for applying the new knowledge and skills.

A similar argument is made by Michael Beer, of the Harvard Business School. In an interview for the HBS blog “Working Knowledge”, Beer said:

Organizational transformations around the world would be more rapid and cost effective if executives were willing to create the context for effective management training by starting with honest conversations about the system and changing it first.

Before you introduce new training programs, or any other kind of learning intervention, take a systems perspective. Create a context for learning. Prepare the organization for the intended change. Work with managers to develop alignment. Make learning part of the workflow. Otherwise, employee learning will not have the impact you want.

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The Great Training Robbery Continues

When I ask the training and development leaders who participate in my ATD Essentials of Developing an Organizational Learning Culture workshop to say what percentage of employees who attend training programs Trainrobbery actually apply what they’ve learned on the job, the answers range from about 10% to about 50%, with most at the lower end of that range. This indicates a dismal state of affairs. It’s what some authors have called “The Great Training Robbery.”

Rajeev Peshawaria wrote about “The Great Training Robbery” in a Forbes blog post in 2011. He was talking about the failure of leadership training to have a significant impact on companies. He argued that before leadership training can make a difference, leaders must have “clarity of purpose and values.” Then the training must be followed up with more learning on-the-job. He writes:

Emotional energy fueled by clarity of purpose and values, accurate knowledge and attitudes acquired by the right training, and on-the-job experience including failure are all important aspects of leadership development. Careful planning about how to spend a company’s training & development investment can yield long lasting excellence, but it is key to avoid the all-too-familiar traps of maximizing butts in seats in programs that offer formulaic recipes for leadership effectiveness. Unfortunately, what we see all over the world is the great training robbery, in which over $60 billion is wasted every year on ineffective [leadership] training and development activities that don’t make a difference.

Michael Beer, Magnus Finnstrom, and Derek Schrader, in a Working Paper for Harvard Business School titled, “The Great Training Robbery”, make the point that companies are not getting much from their investment in training and education programs. They write:

In 2012 U.S. corporations spent $164.2 billion on training and education Overwhelming evidence and experience shows, however, that most companies are unable to transfer employee learning into changes in individual and organization behavior or improved financial performance. Put simply, companies are not getting the return they expect on their investment in training and education. By investing in training that is not likely to yield a good return, senior executives and their HR professionals are complicit in what we have come to call the “great training robbery.” 

As the authors point out, the cost of low transfer of learning is not only in dollars, but also employees become cynical towards training and organizational change and leaders remain misguided regarding their critical role in learning and performance improvement.

This failure of training to change organizations has been known for decades. Rob Brinkerhoff and I wrote about the shortcomings of training in our 1994 book, The Learning Alliance, which was based on the research and experience of others who came before us. So why do organizations, after decades of contradictory information, continue to try to solve problems with more training?

Roberta Holland, in her summary of an interview of Michael Beer for Harvard Business School’s “Working Knowledge” blog, provides an answer:

Too often CEOs turn to HR to create a training program when faced with a problem. The CEO avoids opening a Pandora’s box of larger organizational flaws, and HR is happy to comply because it puts the function more at the center of things and avoids a risky conversation with the CEO about why training might not solve the problem.

Because organizational problems remain undiscussable, and HR and trainers don’t want to admit that training is not the answer, HR and training departments keep "robbing" their organizations of precious resources.

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The Power of Beliefs

Beliefs shape work behavior and influence the culture of an organization. If you want a culture in which employees are learning, developing, and contributing to the organization’s success, you need to address the beliefs that they carry in their heads, and whether, according to Chris Argyris, their espoused theory (what they say they believe) and their theory-in-use (beliefs that direct actual behavior) are congruent.  Underlying assumptions about oneself and others can have a profound impact on what and how people do things in the workplace.

Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, in his new book The Power of Beliefs in Business, the fourth book in the series, Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, writes this about beliefs:

It works like this. When we have a belief, it’s very likely that that belief will lead us to take some sort of associated action. For instance, let’s say we believe that our ideas aren’t really worth much and no one really cares about what we think. The action that follows might likely be that we rarely voice Book on Beliefsour views at work. That behavior will likely feed the belief in others that we have little to oer, or perhaps aren’t very committed to the company’s success. Which will, in turn, lead those co-workers to take action accordingly—they might not ask us for our views on important issues or include us in discussions. Which will then reinforce our original belief that others don’t value our views.

The cycle will surely continue onwards from there. Imagine what it will feel like after twenty or thirty years. We start to believe that the reality we’re experiencing is “who we are” rather than a result of how our beliefs have been acting steadily, if surreptitiously, on our reality. We know from studies of brain change and development that when we think in a certain way fora long period of time, the “routes” in our brain grow ever more deeply embedded. The deeper they get, the more we follow along the same path onto which our beliefs long ago led us. And on and on the cycle goes, each element reinforcing the existing beliefs of others in the cycle. As author Barry Schwartz says, “These eects can arise because sometimes when people act on the basis of ideology, they inadvertently arrange the very conditions that bring reality into correspondence with the ideology.

We know from the research of Carol Dweck that what people believe about learning can have a profound effect on employee development. Employees who believe that they can learn and grow (“growth mind-set”) as contributors to the organization and managers who believe that their direct reports can learn and grow as contributors to the organization, create the possibility for performance improvement. If employees and their managers don’t believe that people can change (“fixed mind-set”), it is unlikely that learning will occur.

The belief system of an organization, whether “growth” or “fixed”, starts with the leader. In the case of Zingerman’s, Ari Weinzweig is a model of congruency between espoused theory and theory-in-use. He believes that everyone can learn and grow and find his or her role in contributing to the success of the organization. Read his stories about how his beliefs and those of his employees have helped him build a very successful, triple bottom-line (people, planet, profits) business.

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Mindset: Barrier and Driver of Learning in Organizations

A key to learning in organizations is the belief system of managers and their employees. Yes, training and Brain-image-picture-clipart-4 other kinds of on-the-job experiences are important interventions that contribute to learning and performance improvement, but without a belief that all people can grow and change, the best designed and delivered learning interventions will have little lasting impact.

In her HBR post titled, “People Won’t Grow If You Think They Can’t Change”, Monique Valcour writes:

Have you ever worked hard to improve a valuable skill and made real progress, only to have your development go unnoticed by the people who told you that you needed to improve? Perhaps this led you to look for a new job. Or maybe you’re a manager who’s been disappointed by poor performance and concluded that your low-performing employees are simply over-entitled? So you gave up on trying to help them improve and vented your frustration with colleagues behind closed doors.

Both of these commonplace experiences point to problems caused by a fixed mindset, in which we find it hard to believe that people can change. In the first scenario, an employee is judged as having low potential—and this assessment blinds leaders to the progress he’s made. In the second, the manager’s conviction that her employees will never change makes her less likely to engage in leadership behaviors that support development. The bottom line in both cases is that employees are less likely to reach their potential.

Valcour is making us aware of the self-fulfilling prophecy that is a result of having either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Carol Dweck has addressed the fixed-mindset vs. growth-mindset dichotomy in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” She makes the point that whether one has a fixed mindset or a growth mindset has a profound effect on learning. I wrote about this in a previous blog post:

Organizational leaders can talk about training, learning, and performance improvement all they want but unless they confront the underlying beliefs that are a barrier to learning, all of that activity will have little impact. Those with a fixed mindset do not develop themselves and do not support the development of others. They do not value training and other types of less formal learning opportunities because they don’t believe people can learn and change. They do not create and encourage learning experiences because they believe it’s a waste of time and resources.

The expectations managers have for employee learning are critical to the impact of any learning intervention (This is the “Anticipation” element of the 5As Framework.). If managers expect that employees can’t or won’t become more effective in their jobs, then this becomes a barrier to the acquisition of new knowledge and skills and to applying that learning in the workplace. If managers expect that employees can and will become more effective in their jobs, then this becomes a driver of learning and performance improvement.

If you want a high performing organization, you need managers who believe in employees and employees who believe in themselves.  This starts with hiring and promotion. Look for people who have a growth mindset. Belief systems can change, so make sure your leaders communicate their own beliefs about growth...if they believe that employees can learn, change, and become more successful in their work.  

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Beyond Training: Three Models

Organizational learning is so much more than training. Three models of learning convey the breadth of options that, depending on what an employee needs to learn, are more effective, cheaper, and easier to implement than formal training programs.

One of these models I call “50 Ways to Lever Learning.” The "50 Ways" includes training but also suggests many Push and pull other options. This list fits into the push vs. pull model of learning in organizations. Knowledge and skills that employees need to learn are decided on by SMEs and managers and then pushed at employees, or knowledge and skills are pulled from the organization by employees when and where they want this information. The first 25 Ways on the list are typically push learning and the second 25 are typically pull learning.

Another model is what Bersin by Deloitte calls the “Learning Technology Stack.” This model is made up of digital technologies that have been designed for or adapted for learning. The model makes it obvious that digital technology has become an important part of enhancing learning in organizations.

The Continuous Learning Technology Stack

Jane Hart is the author of the third model, “L&D Roles to Support Learning at Work.” This model incorporates the ways employees learn in organizations, the activities that support these various ways of learning, and the roles that training and development professionals need to play in order to enable these ways of learning.

JaneHartModel

Of course, any model is only a representation of the real world. These three models oversimplify the true process of learning in organizations and do not show all of the ways and combination of ways that people learn, as well as all the aspects of culture that drive or block learning. The main point is that there are many ways employees can learn in organizations, beyond formal training programs, and integrated into the daily life of the organization. These models provide useful tools for starting the examination of options.

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Leaders Learning about Learning

Recently, I conducted a workshop for the leadership team of a company that wants to increase the impact of its training programs. I explained the limitations of formal training and the need for taking an organizational learning perspective. I argued that in order for any kind of learning intervention (training, coaching, mentoring, action learning, etc.) to have a positive impact on achieving the organization’s goals, managers had to take an active role in supporting learning.

This message was well received by these senior leaders. They immediately understood the vital role they play in developing individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole. They wanted to know specifically what they could do to facilitate learning.

I suggested the 5As Framework as a place to start. This is a useful model for ensuring that, regardless of the 5A logo learning intervention, they will achieve performance improvement and organizational success. The 5As are: 1) Alignment – align learning with strategic business goals; 2) Anticipation – expect success; 3) Alliance – form a learning alliance between learner and boss; 4) Application – apply new learning immediately; and 5) Accountability – hold learner and organization accountable for business results.

We discussed what leaders can do to ensure that these elements are addressed. Here are their suggestions:

  • Alignment: explain to employees the importance of a particular training program and how that learning will help them help the company be successful; make this conversation part of employees’ performance reviews.
  • Anticipation: clarify expectations for what you want employees to learn and communicate high but reasonable expectations for their learning; make this part of informal conversations they have about performance on a frequent basis (not only at annual performance review time).
  • Alliance: meet with employees before training to identify learning goals, meet with employees during training (if possible) to discuss progress, and meet with employees after training to identify what was learned, how employees will apply that learning in the workplace, and what additional learning they need
  • Application: provide opportunities for employees to immediately apply learning in their work in a way that will make a difference
  • Accountability: give employees feedback on their application of learning and measure the impact of that learning on their teams and the organization

I was encouraged by the enthusiasm and understanding that these company leaders had for their role in learning. I can only hope that higher level executives and the company's CEO will support this role and recognize and reward what my workshop participants are doing to facilitate continuous learning throughout the organization.

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The Self-Directed Learner

The most common way in which companies train employees today is basically the same as organizations have been training for the past hundred years (some would say thousands of years). Instructional designers, with input from managers and subject-matter-experts (SMEs) decide what employees should know and then “push” that content at the learners through formal training programs.

That model of training worked adequately in an industrial economy where jobs and equipment changed slowly and executives had relatively low expectations for productivity. Things are quite different now and, therefore, training needs to change. In the new knowledge economy, the pace of change is such that the push model of training can’t keep up with organizational needs and with the way employees learn best.

Now companies need self-directed learners who can “pull” the knowledge and skills required for their jobs, when and where they need it. To be successful today, learners and their managers must work together to ensure that employees acquire the competencies they need to help the organization succeed. They can no longer rely on a centralized training function for this. Managers and their direct reports must rely on each other.

In a learning culture, dependent on pull learning, the parallel roles of managers and learners look like this:

MANAGER ROLE

LEARNER ROLE

Develop a growth mindset

Develop a growth mindset

Hire for ability & motivation to learn

Be actively learning how to learn

Help learner identify strengths & weaknesses

Identify one’s own strengths & weaknesses

Encourage employee learning

Learn continuously

Make it safe to learn

Take risks; learn from risk-taking

Create opportunities for employees to learn individually & in groups

Take advantage of opportunities to learn as individuals & with/from others

Give feedback effectively

Receive feedback effectively

Co-create & co-curate information with learner

Co-create & co-curate information with manager

Convey high expectations for learning

Strive to do best; exceed expectations of manager

Recognize and reward learning

Use recognition and rewards to further one’s learning

The learning relationship starts with a “growth mindset”. Carol Dweck defines this as the belief that people can develop their talent. Without this belief, people will not be motivated to learn and improve. This belief needs to be shared by managers and their direct reports. You need to hire people who have this belief, are motivated to learn and to learn how to learn.

You want employees who make learning part of the way they work. You want employees who are constantly assessing their strengths and weaknesses and seeking out the knowledge and skills that will position themselves to be more successful. You want managers who encourage this and create a psychologically safe environment where employees feel they can be open about their strengths and weaknesses without being criticized, ridiculed, or judged less competent.

You want opportunities for employees to learn, to apply newly acquired knowledge and skills to important work on the job and to do this shortly after learning. Employees can arrange some opportunities for themselves but this requires managers giving permission, making time, and providing the resources to apply that learning.

You want managers to give performance feedback in a helpful and productive way to employees. You want employees to hear and understand that feedback and make use of it to learn and improve their performance. This must be more than an annual performance review. Performance feedback, positive and negative, should be given at every opportunity throughout the year.

Your managers and learners must co-create and co-curate knowledge. The amount of information that is available to employees today is massive. Anything learners want to know is at their fingertips…literally. However, some if it is accurate and useful and some is not. Managers and employees need to work together to make sense of this information, sort out what is accurate and useful, and apply it to their work.

Your managers should have high but realistic expectations for their direct reports. Employees should be clear about these expectations and how these expectations are linked to organizational performance. This gives learners a clear direction and path to performance improvement which motivates learning and application of learning.

Managers should recognize and reward the impact of employee learning on achieving the goals of the organization. This could include public statements about the learner’s success, a promotion, new responsibilities, or special compensation. Whatever it is, learners need to see clearly how their learning resulted in this expression of appreciation.

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Learning to Learn from Evaluation of Learning

The Kirkpatricks have four levels, the Phillips have ROI, and Brinkerhoff has the Success Case Method. Each approach to evaluation of training has something to contribute to assessing the impact of formal IMG_1191 training on employee learning. However, the value of evaluation is not in the data. The real value is in organizational learning from evaluation. That is, from reflecting on the meaning and significance of those findings for improving performance and achieving the goals of the organization.

As I wrote in a previous post titled, Good Evaluation Facilitates Learning:

As organizations seek to be more accountable and measure the impact of learning interventions, they will need facilitation skills to help people think more deeply about what they believe and what they need to do to improve. Measuring change is part of good evaluation, but unless we can get leaders in an organization to learn from that data and apply that knowledge to improving performance, what’s the point?  

In a learning culture, employees are continually acquiring knowledge and skills not only from training but also from a myriad of other formal and informal learning interventions. These interventions might include coaching and mentoring, after-action-review, assessment centers, mobile apps, internships, experiments, or any of the many ways in which adults learn outside of the classroom. The combined success of all of these activities depends on other organizational factors, such as executive and manager support, availability of resources, opportunities to apply newly learned knowledge and skills, and incentives.

Therefore, evaluation in a learning culture must examine the impact that the entire organization has on learning…and then use data from that systems-wide assessment to improve the environment for learning and performance improvement. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown ask us to imagine this kind of environment:

… Imagine an environment that is constantly changing. Imagine an environment where the participants are building, creating, and participating in a massive network of dozens of databases, hundreds of wikis and websites, and thousands of message forums, literally creating a large-scale knowledge economy. Imagine an environment where participants are constantly measuring and evaluating their own performances, even if that requires them to build new tools to do it. Imagine an environment where user interface dashboards are individually and personally constructed by users to help them make sense of the world and their own performance in it. Imagine an environment where evaluation is based on after-action reviews not to determine rewards but to continually enhance performance. Imagine an environment where learning happens on a continuous basis because the participants are internally motivated to find, share, and filter new information on a near-constant basis.

Learning from evaluation depends on asking the right questions. In a previous blog post, I posed evaluation questions that an organization should be asking itself to assess the extent to which it has a learning culture. In Top 10 Questions to Evaluate a Learning Culture, I wrote:

These are my top ten but not my only questions for a company that wants to evaluate its learning culture. What’s important here is to realize that questions like these are a tool for learning, not blame. I want to help leaders reflect on the culture of their organizations and how well that culture supports learning so that they can make changes that help individuals, teams, and the whole organization be successful.

Another way in which evaluation is essential in a learning culture is in reinforcing learning and making it much more likely that new knowledge and skills are retained over time. As I wrote in the post, Evaluation Reinforces Learning:

Evaluation is not only a way to judge the quality of the learning intervention; it is essential for retaining learning and being able to apply that learning when it is needed. If you want to get the most out of programs intended to improve leadership and management, the evidence suggests that you must follow-up with an assessment of learning and of the application of that learning.

Evaluation in a learning culture can be and should be a tool for learning. The main reason evaluation of learning interventions often faces resistance in organizations is that in the past those efforts haven’t contributed to improving performance. End-of-training surveys and ROI do not tell us how to do a better job of preparing employees to help the organization be successful. We need to be evaluating the totality of learning activities, as well as the beliefs, values, and behaviors of the organization, and use that data to improve employee performance and achieve the strategic goals of the organization.

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Informal Learning and the Pivot Point

As David Grebow explained in his post about The Learning Curve and The Pivot Point, unless formal training (courses, workshops, seminars, webinars, etc.) is followed by informal learning interventions, at the Pivot Point in the learning curve the knowledge and skills acquired in those formal experiences will not be applied and will be forgotten. In a learning culture, continuous attention to learning reinforces, reinvigorates, and magnifies learning over time, prevents a falloff in competency, and builds on individual ability to contribute to the success of the organization . This process is represented by the chart below.

FullSizeRender (3)

This chart identifies only some of the many ways in which learning can be supported over time. In an earlier post titled, 50 Ways to Lever Learning, I listed many, but not all, of the different ways in which people can learn in organizations.

As this chart suggests, if you fail to attend to the Pivot Point, your investment in training will be wasted. However, if you do attend to the Pivot Point, you can build on formal learning experiences to continue to increase competency of individuals, teams, and your whole organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does Your Organization Need a Learning Culture?

If this post describes your organization, you need to make the transition to a learning culture.

The amount and complexity of knowledge and skills that each of your employees needs is increasing dramatically every day due to technology and globalization. Simple, repetitive tasks are being automated (e.g., banking) and online technologies are disrupting traditional businesses (e.g., transportation). Employees that survive automation and disruption will need to know more and do more.

Employees need to learn quickly. They need to acquire new information, new skills, and develop new Businessmeeting abilities and they need to do this in a way in which that learning will be retained and applied immediately. They can no longer rely on formal training events. Stephen J. Meyer, addressed this issue in his blog for Forbes online:

Any corporate learning professional will tell you that sales and leadership training need to be processes, not events. The learning cognoscenti know there are no shortcuts to effective learning. If sales managers want their inside sales team to conduct powerful discovery, they’ve got to teach an approach, listen to tapes, let reps self-evaluate, give feedback, listen to more tapes, give more feedback, and so on. Leadership training requires a similar process. For high-level soft skills training, organizations need to create a path to mastery, and accompany people down that path.

Current onboarding and training programs are not helping you achieve your business goals. Dani Johnson, writing for Bersin by Deloitte, explains that the old corporate training model worked because information moved top-down, there was one way to do things, and the corporate sponsored job-training was all an employee needed (or so they believed). Now, according to Johnson, this is no longer the case. Johnson writes:

…advances often mean that people who show up to training events know as much as, if not more than, the facilitators. They also have other options for learning than just company training. Information is ubiquitous, free, and comes from many, many sources.

Likewise, today’s knowledge workers are asked to do more than just complete tasks. Now the focus is on “thinking outside the box,” embracing innovation, improving processes, and helping the company to better compete.

This shift in focus leaves L&D in uncharted waters. The processes and infrastructures that L&D organizations have built over the years are reinforced by architectures, systems, and technology which support antiquated thinking. L&D departments need to completely reinvent themselves; and they need to develop new skills, capabilities, and behaviors in order to do it.

In the past, your L&D department could get away with delivering well attended, well-liked training programs. Today, L&D is being asked to show evidence that learning interventions are contributing to the bottom-line. The approach of Jenny Dearborn at SAP is an example of this. In January 2016 issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine, Kate Iverson quotes Dearborn:

Justifying and inciting change in an engineering organization like SAP requires hard metrics. Dearborn would argue that’s the case for CLOs in general. “As a learning professional, if you can’t provision your program without affecting those metrics that an executive thinks about, then you really shouldn’t be having this conversation,” she said. “If you can’t speak that language, you’re out of your league.”

The pace of change is making it difficult for your organization to compete effectively in the marketplace unless the organization is constantly learning. You need a work environment that is supporting learning all the time so that you can respond quickly to trends and disruptions in your industry and your customers. You must be able acquire new knowledge and skills in anticipation of these changes and as they take place. For example, if customers are demanding same-day delivery and some retailers are meeting that demand, then any company that can’t adapt will be faced with a tremendous loss of business.

You have a multi-generational and diverse workforce that requires a learning culture. This is a workforce that is clamoring for personalization. One size does not fit all. Increasing and maintaining employee engagement and productivity depends on being responsive to the individual learning needs of workers. Some older workers are waiting for management to push what they need to know to them; some younger workers want to pull what they want to know and do it now. Elliott Masie puts it this way in January 2016 issue of Chief Learning Officer:

The future of learning has embraced the fascinating reality of personalization. More than ever, our workers expect to be able to select, sequence, manage and access learning resources in a manner of their choosing.

Personalization is the ability to choose time, device, style and even intensity of content, context or collaboration. But is personal choice the learning goal?

The learner might have some ingrained preferences. [The learner] might like video more than reading or practice more than theory. A learner might be drawn to one topic and have no interest in another key element of a curriculum. Or, [a learner] might feel fully competent in an area and skip a learning offering altogether.

Your work teams are not as efficient and effective as they need to be. Meetings are tedious, time consuming, and unproductive. Team projects are late and over-budget. Team members are not engaged in the work. Often, this is because team leaders and members do not know how to be successful. This is something the team can learn. To do that they need to learn how to learn about teamwork.

And your organization as a whole could be better at communicating across silos, strategic planning, making decisions that affect everyone, managing information, and creating a positive climate. In other words, your organization needs to "get better at getting better." This takes learning; learning how to continually improve as an organization.

A training culture, which is what we’ve had in most organizations for the past 100 years, cannot meet the needs of workers, teams, and organizations in the world we live in today. The pace of change, the need to adapt quickly, global competition, personalization of learning, and a demand for results, are all forces that make it necessary for learning to be constant, for everyone, using many different methods . If that's not your organization, start making the transition now.

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50 Ways to Lever Learning

(My apologies to Paul Simon.)

In a learning culture, formal training is just one of many methods used to facilitate employee learning. In a learning culture, we start with the performance goal and then select the mix of methods that will help employees acquire and retain the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs they need in order to achieve those goals. This is a list of 50 of those methods. The first 25 are primarily instructor-directed; the second 25 are primarily learner-directed.

  1. Instructor-centered class (fact to face) – traditional classroom in which instructor controls the content and learning Classroom trainingprocess
  2. Instructor-centered class (virtual) – similar to classroom except instructor delivers instruction via the Web and class can be synchronous or asynchronous
  3. Instructor-facilitated seminar – meeting convened by an instructor; learners discuss a topic relevant to their work and chosen by instructor
  4. Instructor-facilitated workshop – meeting convened by an instructor; participants learn from experience of working together on solving a problem or creating something new
  5. eLearning  – content delivered to learner via computer; usually desktop computer
  6. Mobile learning – a form of elearning that is accessed by a mobile device such as smart phone or tablet; can be anywhere, anytime
  7. Coaching – a relationship in which a trained coach helps an employee develop the knowledge and skills to be a more effective manager by addressing real situations that manager faces in workplace
  8. Mentoring – a relationship in which senior leaders impart their knowledge and wisdom on employees who are learning to be leaders
  9. Learning alliance – a relationship between managers and their direct reports that focuses on employee learning and how managers can support that learning
  10. Game –engaging employees in learning by applying principles of gaming (scoring, competition, rules of play, etc.) to create an experience that is interactive and fun
  11. Simulation – replicating real-life problem solving within a safe environment; for example, learning business acumen by working with a team to solve a typical business problem and receiving immediate feedback on their performance
  12. On-campus college courses – attending for-credit courses or non-credit courses that are relevant to one’s job
  13. External online courses (e.g., MOOCs) – taking relevant courses online from leading institutions and from renowned faculty
  14. Webinars – participating in a Web-based program using video conferencing software; usually a one-session offering by an expert on a specific topic
  15. Internship – working in a temporary position for the purpose of learning about a job, the work environment of that job, and the organizational culture
  16. Apprenticeship – working under the guidance of experienced employees for the purpose of learning specific skills
  17. Business case-study – drawing lessons from discussing the documented story of actual events in another organization
  18. Performance measurement – learning from measures of performance such as sales figures, production numbers, and customer service feedback
  19. Success Case Evaluation Method – a method of evaluating training (or any learning intervention) by identifying those participants who successfully applied learning in the organization and telling their stories; learning comes from analyzing those stories and drawing useful conclusions from successes and failures
  20. Assessment center – a dedicated space where employees participate in exercises designed to simulate the conditions of their jobs; observers look for specific behaviors that indicate the employee’s suitability for the work; learning comes from receiving performance feedback and planning how to improve
  21. Department meetings – often a lost opportunity for learning, these gatherings can be designed so that participants learn about processes such as planning, project management, innovation, and evaluation
  22. Testing knowledge – using results of knowledge tests to facilitate more learning
  23. Testing performance – using results of behavioral demonstrations of learning to facilitate more learning
  24. Training evaluation – learning from evidence (quantitative and qualitative) collected to show the impact that particular training programs have on individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole
  25. Learning Management System (LMS) – using the data from training program tracking software as a focus for discussing employee learning goals and progress toward those goals
  26. Roleplay – people (usually two or three) acting out roles to learn about themselves and others by putting themselves in Groupmeetingsomebody else’s shoes
  27. Reflection-in-action – learning from reflecting on an activity while doing it
  28. Reflection-on-action – learning from reflecting on an activity by looking back on what happened
  29. Reflection-for-action – learning by applying what was learned to a new situation
  30. Daily log – individual employees writing or recording learning from each day of work and then discussing their observations with co-workers
  31. Survey debrief – meeting with co-workers and other stakeholders to discuss what can be learned from the results of company surveys (such as pulse, employee satisfaction, and climate)
  32. Experiments – gathering evidence in a controlled environment to support or refute a particular change that is being proposed (for example, testing an innovation in the product development process)
  33. Prototyping – testing a new design of a product or process by constructing an example or model and then trying it out and learning from what happens
  34. Content apps – using a software application on a mobile device to provide information and instruction on-the-job, just-in-time
  35. Job share – splitting the hours required for a job with someone else and sharing experiences with each other for the purpose of learning
  36. Job rotation – trying out different jobs in an organization for the purpose of discovering the best fit and, at the same time, learning about the organization and its culture
  37. Community of practice – people who share the same interests or responsibilities in an organization come together to learn from each other
  38. Social media – using computer-mediated platforms for sharing information, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs
  39. Benchmarking – learning by comparing the structure, policies, practices, products, and programs of one’s organization to the best in the industry
  40. Structured observation – learning about some aspect of individual, team, or organizational behavior by observing what occurs according to a set of questions and criteria
  41. Books and articles – reading books and articles that have information and expert advice about an area of needed performance improvement
  42. Video – learning as-needed from high-quality, relevant videos on sites such as TED and YouTube
  43. Recordings – learning as-needed from high-quality, relevant recordings of presentations by business and organizational experts
  44. Team reflection – working with team members to find useful meaning in data about team performance
  45. Enterprise-wide reflection – working with co-workers across the organization to find useful meaning in data about organization performance
  46. Performance support tools - print or electronic tools, such as checklists, micro-lessons, and video demonstrations, used post-training to ensure on-going performance improvement
  47. Interactive performance support system (IPSS) – performance support tools that allow the user to interact with Web-based materials for the purpose of shaping the support being provided so that it’s just-in-time and just-enough
  48. Professional conferences – attending local, regional, national, and international meetings that have presentations of content relevant to one’s work; learning comes from reflecting on that content and discussing application with others
  49. Book groups – groups of employees meeting during the workday to discuss a book they have all read; they learn from the discussion about how it applies to their work
  50. Internal wiki – like Wikipedia, this is a company Web site where any employee can contribute content that might be helpful to every employee’s learning; this could include relevant books and videos, tools such as checklists, best practices, survey results, project results, etc.

I’m sure you can think of more ways to lever learning. What would you add to this list?

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