How To Create A Learning Environment People Actually Want To Be Part Of
Learning leaders everywhere: I know this might sting, but unless you hire David Copperfield to do magic tricks in the background as you execute your learning programs, no substantial number of people are going to “magically appear” unless they're actually interested in the topic.
Seems pretty logical, right? You wouldn't go see a non-favorite interview with a non-favorite, non-interesting person. Why waste time or do triple the work in an overpacked, undersupported learning management system spewing non-related materials? Why the call for mandated learning programs for streamlined workforce acumen with lack of or invisible support from the organization itself? Have employees tell you what they want!
Senior leadership — the "numbers people" — see one thing: People are not showing up to your learning program, so you must be doing something wrong. What they don't see are the adverse, sour-faced reactions to continued learning that stem from repeated, traumatic cramming sessions from high school. We've always had to learn and be tested on things we didn't give two nuggets about, and the repercussions limit each learner’s potential.
What you need to focus on is how you can create a learning environment that is partly created by, and belongs to, the workforce. When they see themselves in the learning program, they will participate.
- Can you survey your workforce to determine what they want to learn?
- Can you provide learning incentives even if they're outside the normal realm?
- Do you have Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) within your organization that are willing to teach any of these learning themes?
Imagine, once you've surveyed your teams, that a number of employees wanted to learn how to do awesome magic card tricks, for example. You can implement a potential “learning carrot” for the completion of each segment of the overall learning program where a master magician comes in and blows everyone’s mind.
You have just simultaneously upped the cool factor of the learning program, proven that you listen to your employees and made everyone’s inner child ridiculously happy. How apt will your employees be to continue a learning program after all that jazz?
Many of these learning carrots can be harvested right from your current workforce. So how do we get there?
- Create a strategic curriculum. Create a high-level curriculum that encompasses what everyone organizationally needs to know. Then, create branches with learning opportunities that are aligned with people's roles specifically. Finally, add the new employee-driven learning events. For example, all of your employees have to understand the value proposition of the company — that's part of the "trunk." But a salesperson needs to understand how the value prop fits into the products they're selling. As an incentive (or "carrot") for completing and excelling in this "branch" learning, they might get to participate in a Shark Tank-like experience as part of the reward.
- Create shortcuts based on individual engagement. Let your curriculum have “learning loopholes,” where learners can test out of areas where they feel they possess a mastery of the topic, eliminating wasted learning time.
- Create incentives. Figure out what’s possible in terms of incentives to motivate learners aside from “you have to do this because your boss says so.” Be as creative as your organization will allow. For example, have teams compete for an experience based on who completes the most learning hours. Make this a public opportunity and get everyone's competitive engines running.
- Create micro-learnings to break learnings down. The less cumbersome a teaching, the better it's received. For example, if you have day-long training courses, revisit them and see if you can create shorter versions or break it into a series. One technique to consider is using e-learning as a baseline for employees, allowing you to get to the good stuff quicker during live training.
- Don't rush things. Allow for a reasonable amount of time for learning completions. Don’t overwork your workforce. Give employees enough notice to plan their time, allowing them to feel present and less anxious during training.
- Get support. Get support from management as far up as you need until it's a priority. Have management be the first at taking a crack at your new learning solutions. Your employees will be inspired to know that their boss had to do it first, which will help with adoption.
Taking pre- and post-surveys after each of your cornerstone learning solutions is pivotal to the success of your business story.
- Pre-surveys act as a baseline of the learner's confidence on a particular topic. It also serves as an excellent filter. For example, if a pre-survey determines that the needs of an employee do not align with the learning objectives, you can flag that and discuss this with them before they invest a full day in a workshop. This will give you credibility as a learning leader who is committed to creating learning experiences that matter and don't waste time.
- Post-surveys measure course effectiveness. Step out of asking about details that don't matter — you want to know if the learning moved the needle of knowledge and if they'll take action using their newfound expertise.
- Manager surveys are taken by line managers 15-30 days after a course or workshop to determine whether they have seen a shift in behavior and application post-training. This is powerful when aligning your learning to the bottom line. If you can tell the story that because of training, the error rate of X went down 20%, saving $Y to the company, you will be seen as a mythical unicorn in storybooks.
Learning is a culture-changer. It's a workforce accelerator, recruitment target, retention tool and more. Our roles as learning leaders have changed drastically within the past couple of years. To be effective requires you to come out of the caverns of Blooms and Kirkpatrick, learning the business of the business and listen to what people want.
Julie Veloz is the Vice President of Learning Development North America for IPG Mediabrands. She is also an speaker at IQPC's Chief Learning Officer 1-Day event set for April 25 in New York, NY and the CLO Exchange set for May 16-18 in Atlanta, GA.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com.