Converting learning programs into sustainable learning platforms

Traditionally, all learning in organizations has been driven through training programs. Several organizations also offer elearning modules to facilitate, what one might call, learner-led learning.

Now for those in the learning and development function, this brings up some common concerns:

  • Uptake of elearning is low while investment on licenses is high
  • Participation in training programs is less than adequate and often what is there has had to be chased

Business has concerns too. It’s not like this model works well for them. The programs don’t translate into business results, takes away people from a whole day of work for something seemingly unrelated to performance.

Learning/ training programs are an important method of organizational learning. The key lies in converting learning programs into sustainable learning platforms that excite people to be part of.

While there are several things an organization could do to make this happen, it helps to start with simple, familiar changes that don’t feel drastic or alient to people. Here are some such ideas to implement that will make the system work better for everyone and can be applied to both classroom and elearning programs.

Switch to shorter module format

Learning programs do not always need to be one day (8 hours) or two days (16 hours) long. A recent research study by Microsoft in Canada showed that smartphones and social media have reduced human attention span to less than eight seconds and increased our ability to multitask.

Basically this means where any form of prolonged attention is needed, engagement is very low.

So switching from long-form to short-form programs, especially for millennials, is a logical next step. A one hour or two hour program is likely to keep participants way more engaged than an eight or 16 hour program.

Focus on one tiny topic

It’s really an outcome of switching to shorter learning modules. Shorter time frame means a shift in topics that are generally considered for behavioral and technical training. It makes us focus on what is really important. For example, a common behavioral skills program is one on “Influencing Skills”. Now, it doesn’t make sense to have a one or two hour workshop on influencing skills. But it could leave people with a useful skill if the program focused specifically on how to expand one’s circle of influence or how to use the power of networks to influence.

Shift to self-nomination

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to professional training programs is that adults learn only when and what they want to learn. All of us do the same – we don’t really learn when we are forced to. Shifting from manager-nomination to self-nomination where an individual decides what they want to learn and therefore attends a program is a great way to keep them engaged in the learning process in a sustained manner.

Use a variety of speakers/ facilitators

Internal or external trainers are only one kind of speaker that can be leveraged for learning programs. Add variety to that mix to keep people engaged. Think about bringing in an external speaker from another company or client, a motivational speaker, business heads from various internal departments/ businesses, peers – managers, project managers, individual contributors.

Keep the learning alive beyond the classroom

When what is learnt in class stays in class, no training program is going to keep people’s attention. They know they are attending it for attending’s sake and its not going to make any difference to their work lives at the end of the day.

An important aspect of learning is to ensure it survives and thrives beyond the class room.

Designing on-the-job experiences, getting managers involved in learning, ensure barriers to living learning are minimized are perhaps the most important aspects of creating sustainable learning platforms that truly engage participants.

Implementing these ideas will make learning programs feel like platforms where facilitators, business leaders, peers come to exchange experiences and learn from each other. It will also ensure that these program forums become platforms for organizational change and transformation where what people discuss and learn in these programs goes out and gets implemented in everyday business operations.

Which of these have you tried in your organization? What kind of results has it got you? Leave a comment to share your experience.

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