Learning must impact the bottom line, consider that “80% of CEOs surveyed say their top strategy to enable digital transformation is to reskill current employees” (CLO Insight Summit, September2017). Employers are not finding a talent pool filled with qualified applicants and learning can step up and meet this need to grow a changing and evolving organization. So the question becomes what techniques do you need to put in place to upskill and prepare the workforce of tomorrow without disrupting the work they are doing today?
Start by broadening your view of how learning occurs. No longer must the focus be on traditional, formal, instructor-led training (be it in class or virtually) it’s time to return to our roots of learning where apprentices gathered together, where groups watched a process, where teams created solutions. Besides, learning from others is fun and effective! Broaden the definition of learning materials, interactions, and pedagogy to go beyond learner guides and start to include social collaboration in small groups and online. Use informal learning materials from outside sources like YouTube, and open up project opportunities to provide stretch assignments. Recognize and reward employees as leaders of their learning experiences and broaden the expectation of “your job” to include the responsibility each employee has to share insights and lessons learned (what did and didn’t work) as a part of their role. The content generated from their experiences can be used to develop and post best practices that are continuously improved upon to ensure that everyone in this working & learning community can truly learn from each other.
Broaden the view that if it is not invented here then it isn’t good enough. What do you think employees do when they are searching for where to get their license (Google it!) or how to unclog the kitchen sink (YouTube that!) or need a referral for a deck clean & stain (someone on Facebook will know!). Leverage their knowledge and comfort with these tools to make the information they need at work easy to find by using existing tools or by putting in place content repositories with Facebook (or LinkedIn) with interfaces that make it easy for employees to use keywords to search for anything just like the tools they are using already do. Broaden the view to allow search results to include procedures, policies, external articles, videos, and create connections to experts using messaging tools. Learning must learn to broaden the performance solution to include enterprise social networks that encourage community curated content and group problem solving. Learning can moderate communities of practice focusing skilled and experienced employees on business specific problems while providing guidance and facilitating learning from the group that leads to solutions.
Then build. Focus on building a relationship with the business and begin by listening to the operational leaders about the performance issues their teams are dealing with. Discuss their concerns and build the definition of what success will look like for them and their teams. Build the rubric of how they will measure success in the business and build agreement on the ways you will measure, monitor, and monetize these results. These are metrics that matter and this process begins by working backwards to build success. When working with the business leaders focus on:
- Defining the business outcomes (results) the team will create/produce;
- Describing the desired performance expectations the successful employees will demonstrate on the job;
- Detailing how success is measured on the job. From these begin building assessment strategies that will allow practice towards mastery of performance;
- Designing, developing, and creating multiple learning opportunities that provide employees access to content, practice, and communities that support them at the time and place of need.
Now build new ways to learn. Leverage existing tools such as a Learning Management System (LMS) with social portal and Learning Record Stores (here is a primer that might help titled Learning Record Store Guide for Dummies.) Like an LMS the LRS stores and tracks data but the key is the LRS is tracking xAPI content, this is real time data collection at the point of performance. Build learning into everything, a key theme is that learning has impact when in context and when needed so it doesn’t have to be long, it has to be right and timely. Learning is an ecosystem of its own so consider how you can incorporate the various kinds of tools, from paper to performance support, into the work flow. Build learning moments into the key points of process and training will go down while efficiency goes up. Here is where measurement is vital to clearly identify the impact learning has on the success of the organization.
Build new connections to the business to measure and monitor. Internal Audit, Quality or 6 Sigma teams are partners in identifying where issues are occurring and can provide a quicker update on business trends allowing for content updates and these groups usually have identified cost factors. The business case of learning includes retention and engagement however the business impact of learning is improved performance, sales, quality, and other success criteria the business monitors.
Build connections to the employees who will be using the solutions. Involve them in the conversation where they work and include those components of placement, visual and manual access into the design process leading to learning solutions that live in their workspace. Involve the learners on how they want to be supported and what can help them improve their performance so you know you are delivering a solution they will want to use.
Broadening your ways of learning using multiple delivery channels and building broad relationships into the organization will demonstrate that learning is a strategic business tool.