I been talking with a number of people recently on topics such as creating a community of practice (CoP), expanding professional development programs, and integrating talent management into learning past compliance. In all of these discussions someone has brought up the need to develop and deliver “training” programs. When I dig into the question a familiar response appears, whether by classroom or computer-based, the idea of a “course” is described.
I ask them to tell me about their best learning experience and with every response I get details about a real life scenario that happened leaving with them professional, and often personal, life lessons. Not surprising given the amount of time we spend on the job compared to the amount of time we are in “training”. So we train to perform a role, a series of tasks. I think somewhere along the way we, in L&D, became so enamored with the perfect design we lose sight of the primary purpose of training which is to prepare people to succeed in their roles, to perform effectively and efficiently.
I have discovered in these conversations that everyone’s intent is to help people, to ensure that they can succeed and the business will prosper. They want people to have the information (be it policies, procedure’s, guidelines, etc.) that is accessible and accurate at the time of the person’s need. As I highlighted in Business is changing – are we keeping up? we need to connect to the individual as well as connect them to the learning and performance objects that will solve the problem they have and, ultimately, bridge the gap of knowledge and deliver the solution that will lead them to performance success.
Harold Jarche highlighted the “Components of a Learning Environment” with the intent of providing a reference; he called it a “decision support tool for allocating time and resources for organizational learning and development.” I look at this as a tool we can use to create connections to our learning community. As I discuss the ideas people have and look past the “training” I keep returning to this diagram and see opportunities to increase performance support or as Gary Wise describes, “Change the Conversation – Extend the Blend”. If we examine the model it seems clear that we can inject learning objects that support performance needs into the Resources section, using an online content repository with advanced search tools, enhance the use of materials developed for training and reuse them again at the time of need on the job. This reinforces good design standards as well since the learning object should be directly correlated to the need the role has for performance and success. Gary stresses that these objects (he calls them Performer Support Objects, of PSO’s) “should be embedded within some experiential training activity or simulation so the learners now has a point of reference knowledge [How to use the PSO – When to use the PSO – Where to find the PSO].” Maximizing online databases, knowledge management systems, and shared resources such as those found in wikis and shared document tools we can create support for performance that is deeper than simply training. We can foster communication and shared best practices with those individuals who are performing the tasks today. Here is where professional development can expand by using podcasts, books, and online references brought to the community. As we focus on the People component the use of CoP’s, social media, professional networks, and more traditional conferences highlight professional development opportunities centered on the interactive experiences and conversations that allow shared understanding. These resources and tools should be tightly integrated into the Development Practices and Learning by Doing components to provide active monitoring, support, and connectivity to the participants who are advancing their development and moving past compliance programs into the realm of learning and education focused on improving their skills and abilities.
This is a change in how L&D, as well as many of our business partners, think about “learning, training, and performance”. It is not different in terms of how we truly learn; remember what your best learning experience has been and how that happened. Probably not in the classroom and the current “shift in educational practices is creating self-learners who will be the self-directed employees of tomorrow. The most successful students tend to be those that are allowed to grow and learn in a team-based learning environment, as opposed to the traditional individual test-based environment. They will expect this same type of interaction, collaboration and openness in their work environment.” We are smart people, and smart workers as Jane Hart highlights, are the norm and not the exception. Look at the key points made and I believe you will find that you are already doing many of them naturally in the performance of your role today and so are the people in the community that you serve too. We already work together in groups to solve problems and realize that we need to include other teams from other business unites to create solutions that will truly be effective and timely. We network, we trade best practices with each other, and we try to improve our work and our services and/or product.
When the discussions begin to close I find some people are challenged by the lack of “training” in our conversation and I am looking to find better ways to identify that their concern will be addressed and met for all “moments of need”. The resource may be a learning object (or PSO per Gary Wise) or it may be access to a subject matter expert in a twitter chat or podcast, the support is focused on the environment the individual is in at that time of need. “A well designed learning environment is curated with a specific need in mind. It may be curated by an individual (as in a personal learning environment), by a group (such as a community of practice), or by a designer who is supporting a specific complex need that can’t be met by training or other formal programs alone.” Whether we are creating content that is delivered asynchronous or synchronous, blended or one mode, formal or informal the need is to enable people to succeed and to provide them resources easily accessible that will deliver the solution they are seeking. Don’t stop at deployment of learning; move ahead to implementation of knowledge and capability.