Can a learning strategy really impact my business results?

What’s the difference between training and learning? … and does it matter?

Training is something done “to me”; quite often whether I need it or not.  Learning is something “I do” for myself.  It’s a pull rather than a push.  Training is one-size fits all.  A mass-market workshop for example, or an online course directed at a group of people.  Learning is personalized; just what I need, just when I need it.  How many times have you been frustrated because you’ve done “training” yet still feel we just don’t get it.

There’s often a negative unintended consequence of many training programs, creating a negative filter that reduces the likelihood of retention and application on the job.  It’s one of the things Ken Blanchard discussed in his book “Know Can Do”.  If you give me the training I don’t need and don’t give me the training I want, then I will not learn as much.  If you make me take 6 modules when only 4 apply or sit through 6 hours of training when I already knew and had proficiency in what was covered during 2 of the hours, then I will not learn as much.  If you schedule the training at the trainer’s or manager’s convenience rather than mine, then I will not learn as much.  In fact, the negative impression that gives me of the training you provide makes it less likely I’ll apply it on the job.

So what’s the solution to achieving record performance improvement and productivity increases through learning?

  1. The Learners know:  Get the end-learner involved immediately.  Have them help create the strategy, be engaged in the design and give feedback throughout the development process.
  2. Throw out the kitchen sink: Another key point addressed in Blanchard’s book; LESS is MORE.  Train on less but more deeply and more often for shorter periods of time.  What are the breakdown points, the mistakes, errors, failures?  You don’t need a lot of training on the stuff we get right most of the time. 
  3. Variety is the spice of life: All to often you train the way you like to learn.  That’s only good for about 25 - 33% of your team.  The rest of us learn differently.  To be most effective you need to train they way THEY like to learn.  That means a blended learning approach. Instructor-led workshops for some, sometimes; online courses and simulations for others,  other times.  Mobile learning - short 5 minute burst of knowledge I can consume daily.  Social learning so I can both learn from my peers and share my expertise. Video learning and I’m not talking about the Subject Matter Expert video, think YouTube, again peers-to-peer.
  4. Just In Time: Don’t make me “go to” training.  Bring the learning to me, right on the job, right where I am already working.  Embedded performance support in the tools I use every day; my CRM software, my smartphone or tablet.
  5. Personalized: Help me assess my strengths and weaknesses and tailor a learning plan to meet my needs. 
  6. Agile:  The workplace, marketplace, consumers and employees are changing faster than our processes or our learning.  Jack Welch said; “If the pace of change on the outside is faster than the pace of change on the inside, the end is near.”  You cannot update your training content every 5 years, or in many cases even every 3 years.  Your knowledge content and skill development needs to be as agile as your business.

If you’d like some help or guidance developing a learning strategy that works for you instead of against you please call me.