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Why the learning process needs to change (and 7 ideas to get started)

A traditional format for professional development looks somewhat like this: there is a need for learning about a change agenda. Everyone is invited for a meeting, classroom sessions or watches a digital communication pushed down from the top.

This activity creates a great deal of motivation and inspiration (if well received especially when focused on personal development and learning). Team members often feel engaged and ready to take action during the live training, yet it has been shown that most of that initial energy doesn’t translate into actionable change. It wanes when the meeting or classroom is over and the piles of work and to-do tasks take priority.

This traditional landscape of leadership isn’t creating value, not because it’s broken, but because the environment of business and learning has changed. There is a deep need for a format that encourages and nurtures the acquisition of new skills.

To discover a better way to create employees that are inspired to learn and grow, consider these three questions.

What can be learned from what isn’t working?

Not all hope is lost when failure occurs. In fact, studying what doesn’t work provides great opportunity for growth. In the traditional format of knowledge disbursement there are some wins. Employee’s feel inspired and engaged during training.

The problem occurs when the employee has to translate what they’ve learnt in the classroom into their specific context. This can be solved through new formats of learning in the workplace

Which leaders have the best results?

One world renowned leader, Nelson Mandela, provides an excellent example of effective leadership. From him Simon Sinek, another commentator on leadership, surmised two key principles: sit in a circle and be the last to speak.

In essence, great leaders must listen to their workers first, not themselves. This means that learning experiences need to be tailored to the individuals who will be engaging with them and a one-size-fits-all-approach will not work, no matter how large the company is.

So how can a large business owner manage all of these demands and focus on upskilling people who engage with the process? The answer is to change the style of learning for everyone..

1. Progressive Training Techniques

To meet the need for continuous development, progressive thinkers and leaders are changing the face of learning within their companies.

Fundamentally, new styles of learning are more akin to the natural process of learning to communicate. They take into account the best aspects of traditional formats, such as inspiring and engaging their audience, and they also incorporate some new, key facets of change that allow them to meet the diverse needs of their workers, and the current climate of their business simultaneously.

2. Continuous Learning

Meetings that set a fire in employees for future possibilities, strategies, or work do not always translate into actionable change. When paired with a series of follow up enhancement opportunities, the opposite is true. Continuous learning allows employees to develop the skills through a process that naturally builds their capacity.

3. Agile Learning

A business with more than 1,000 employees has more barriers to acquiring new skills and information than the short term nature of meeting inspiration alone. Coordinating and tailoring experiences to large numbers of individuals is daunting and seemingly impossible. Agile learning is one of the solutions. It is an iterative process that incorporates speed, flexibility and collaboration. It is less linear and more cyclical, allowing for individualisation in its format alone. With this style of learning the consumer generates the path.

4. Adaptive Learning

“If you can’t beat them, join them.”

A 2013 Gallup poll found that approximately 13% of employees feel engaged while at work. In comparison, people check their smartphones 46 times per day on average.

Employees are more engaged with their phones than their jobs in many cases. Adaptive learning embraces this cultural shift and uses technology to disseminate information in a variety of formats. Not only does this change meet the workers where they are, on electronics, it also has the added benefit of allowing them to learn when they aren’t in the office using their mobile devices.

5. Context-Based Learning

Learning happens in the moment. When it occurs within an experience-based opportunity, it creates more profound understanding of the process and skills because it mirrors real life. Context-based learning allows employees to visualise and apply their new information and skills in the realm of its application. This leads to greater mastery.

6. Mastery Learning

Skill acquisition is often compared to learning to ride a bike. Once you’ve actually acquired a skill, it sticks with you forever. It isn’t enough for employees to gain new skills within the context of their position. The current workforce needs to truly master them so that they can be transferred to new roles and become part of the fabric of the business. This is necessary due to the ever changing face of the world of business. It increases adaptability and competency of employees.

7. Measurement of Learning

The efficacy of training and development needs to be measured. This allows it to become part of the leader’s agile learning and decision making. When learning is measured, it allows employees to recognise the progress they’ve made and feel motivated to do more. It also allows those in charge to better identify where the gaps are and what next steps are necessary. This information is most valuable when it is provided in real time.

It is obvious to anyone in business how essential quality training is, and more so how difficult it is to provide it. There are a lot of finer details and existing opportunities in the new frontier of acquiring new skills and information. I will be putting together a series of articles that delve into each style of progressive learning and training techniques.

It isn’t enough to point out gaps and current needs in the traditional organisation and leadership and programmes. It is crucial to provide solutions as well. Read on in the following weeks to learn more about how these styles of learning can be implemented in your company’s training model.

What will “learning” look like in five years?

Your company needs to design strategies focused on the learning process outlined. You need to provide a platform, an opportunity for employees to action what they need and forget about controlling the knowledge gap. The ability to take ownership of their learning and upskilling in the employee will be the biggest critical factor to how your business changes, adapts and acts with speed. Remember, people need daily nudges; reinforcement as true learning happens in the moment.

It begins with a spark of curiosity, interest or inspiration in both cases. It has to be reinforced. It is then developed naturally through experience, using new tools and techniques and exposure to a variety of contexts.

Deliver this experience and people will change.