Part 2 discussed five outdated Learning and Development (L&D) practices and why they don’t work. This final installment is going to visit the other side of the coin. Here are five updated practices that will help improve your Learning and Development for everyone, not just millennials.
Updated Practice 1: Treat Learning as a Process
People remember things they encounter often, even if it’s only for a few seconds or minutes at a time.
That’s part of the idea behind microlearning. Give learners bite-sized pieces of information a little bit at a time. For example, if you spend five minutes a day on something every day for a year that’s about thirty hours. Microlearning aims to avoid information overload and learner fatigue, easily fit into daily schedules, and speed up the production process. It takes less time to draft, review, approve, and create something that covers one idea than it does to validate and build an entire course all at once.
Microlearning isn’t always an option and it doesn’t work well for everything. That’s where memory boosters come in. After a primary learning event (like a webinar or classroom training) sending learners brief, systematic “boosts” about the topic will improve their ability to recall what they learned. The goal is to keep the content fresh in their minds.
Job aids and other forms of performance support are also great ways to give learners access to “refreshers” and references without taking them away from their jobs.
Updated Practice 2: Make “Professional” Interesting
“Professional” training should be useful, engaging, and thought provoking.
Give your learners something to look forward to! Motivation is incredibly important. There are lots of creative examples and articles on the web you can mine for inspiration. Look for things that grab your attention or that you end up voluntarily trying more than once. Because if you don’t honestly like whatever you make, your learners probably aren’t going to like it either.
In terms of making content interesting, try adding real-world decisions, consequences, and emotions. This could be humor, a storyline with multiple possible endings, or a number of other possibilities. If you can get someone to feel, you have their attention.
The idea of adding motivation and interest to training is the main reason gamification and game-based learning have become increasingly popular.
Updated Practice 3: Investigate the Problem Before Picking a Solution
If your car won’t start because it’s out of gas it needs more gas, not a new battery.
The process of looking into the source of a problem is often called needs analysis or root cause analysis. It may take a little more time upfront to diagnose what’s wrong, but it pays off down the road. If you’ve pinpointed the source, or sources, of a difficulty you can be more focused and specific with your approach for addressing it.
This boils down to problem solving and “detective work.” One common method is “The 5 Whys.” Basically keep asking “Why?” until you get to the heart of the matter. The five isn’t literal. You’re supposed to keep going until you find the source. Once you have that information it’s much easier to craft an appropriate solution. For example, if sales are down at a store and your analysis shows that it’s probably because a lot of associates have been out sick, sales training isn’t going to help. Stocking the break room with hand sanitizer and some vitamin C-rich snacks might though.
Updated Practice 4: Include Learners in the Process
It’s natural to be excited about getting a gift off your wish list. It’s something you told others you wanted or needed and they listened to you.
Including learners not only lets them know that the organization values them. It’s also a great way to get ideas and feedback. You could have a few of the target learners brainstorm with the Learning and Development team on approaches that might work well for them. Collecting actual stories, testimonials, and complaints about the subject from learners creates a valuable data base of content and realistic examples. If a course is digital, usability testing can help reveal places where the learners are getting lost or confused. Contrary to popular belief, most usability testing can be done properly with as few as five people. Focus groups can fulfill a similar role, but are usually more concerned with a course’s content. Allowing learners to rate courses or training after they’ve completed them is another good way to see what they have to say. Written reviews give you additional data to work from, beyond simple star ratings.
It’s the learners’ training. Let them be involved in it.
Updated Practice 5: Seek Out Problems
Be proactive so you don’t need to be reactive.
Preventative maintenance is always better than damage control. It can be hard to admit failure or difficulty, but the rewards for facing it and moving forward are substantial. Ford Motor Co. is a great example of a turnaround. What was once a culture of glossing over problems transformed into a collaborative problem-solving environment. Think of problems more as challenges, opportunities for improvement.
In the big picture, Learning and Development exists to address performance gaps and business goals. When you look closer at how that happens, it’s about communicating with people. It’s about connecting them to the skills, tools, knowledge, and practice opportunities they need to grow and improve. It’s past time we acknowledge the human component and use it to help make training not only more efficient but also more helpful. After all, that’s what it’s supposed to do, help people. Regardless of what generation they’re part of.
If you’d like to read more about instructional design best practices, check out the rest of this author’s blogs.
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