One of the most powerful ways to achieve training that really sticks is to ensure ‘relevance’ throughout the L&D strategy and find as many ways to emphasise that relevance within the business and with individual learners and their managers…
By Judith Hirst, Head of Leadership Development, Greenbank Ltd
Successful businesses in today’s knowledge driven world recognise the importance of having the right skills, knowledge, and abilities in order to compete and thrive.
However – we live in a world of tight budgets where every cent or penny spent is scrutinised – so a key challenge for HR and L&D professionals (and one that comes up time and time again in conversations and linked-in group discussions we are involved in) is how best to respond to this need with learning and development strategies that really do deliver lasting results and value to both individuals, customers and the organisation as a whole.
One of the most powerful ways of doing this is to ensure ‘relevance’ throughout the L&D strategy and find as many ways to emphasise that relevance within the business and with individual learners and their managers.
This article briefly explores this subject and offers some idea from our own experience that might help…
Building relevance at all levels – organisationally and personally
Perceived relevance is one of the strongest correlations with learning transfer. Why would a business or an individual invest their budget, time or energy unless they can see that it will help them achieve their goals and deliver a return on investment? So relevance is key – why is learning important to the businesses – to individuals – to managers – to colleagues and to customers?. Each stakeholder needs to see the relevance and importance of learning and it’s the role of L&D professionals to facilitate the understanding of that relevance.
Here are 5 suggestions that can help develop that shared understanding and drive the need, energy and focus on learning and making learning stick….
1. Provide individuals with relevant feedback upfront
For people to see learning as relevant, they need to agree that the new skills will be recognised and valued by key stakeholders – and they may of course be perfectly comfortable where they are right now….So increasingly we are seeing the need to help participants understand how they are doing right now; where they have strengths and have built a strong reputations as well as helping them to identify areas where they could be stronger. A relevant and well-delivered 360-degree or 180-degree feedback survey can help here are with the advent of web-based, mobile (phone/tablet-friendly) tools, these are becoming more popular. This feedback creates a more accurate self-perception and the focus needed to translate it into a personal development plan.
2. Create individualised learning ‘journeys’
Help individuals use their personal feedback to create their individual development plan. ‘Sheep dip’ training or public/open programmes may have a place especially when there is a mandatory need, for instance with compliance training but otherwise don’t waste participants’ time by getting them to do things they don’t need or don’t think that they need. Personalised learning journeys create relevance and build engagement because people feel the development is unique and directly useful to them.
3. Communicate how learning activities support career success
What’s in it for me? Learning usually involves change and making the effort to make that change. Some make the effort worthwhile from the very start. In a customer service intervention with a highly cynical group of learners from the U.K.’s Royal Mail, a 78% application rate occurred because of a strong focus on what participants cared about — coaching their children — as opposed to solely the corporate interest.
Once the skill had been mastered in a family setting, people were happy to apply it in a corporate context. Psychologists refer to this type of learning transfer as “spillover.”
4. Promote the benefits of learning programmes using role models and examplars
Learning transfer can be tough – new skills need practice, practice, practice before they become a habit and things don’t always go right first time around. So it’s good to find a way to share success stories and share best practice. Find ways to keep the momentum and enthusiasm for learning through action learning sets, co-coaching and on-line communication/sharing of experiences.
5. Help participant’s managers to get involved
Most managers understand the importance of learning transfer. They do not need to be convinced. What they do need is the time and practical support to help them follow up with their people because they’re likely to have a long list of other priorities that makes supporting learning something of a ‘nice to have’ rather than an everyday priority.
So L&D professionals need to find ways to do this – perhaps by reinforcing learning transfer in the appraisal and talent management process. Or developing the tools to make this vital task easier to manage using a range of approaches from workshop briefing packs to more sophisticated online action/development tracking systems.
But there’s no Silver Bullet
There is no one way to ensure learning transfer happens quickly and effectively. It will be dependent on individual motivation, style of learning as well as the support that L&D bring to learning design and follow up.
Greenbank and Making Training ‘Stick’
Making training both relevant and ‘sticky’ is key to everything we do and if you are as keen on this subject as us, you might be interested in two tools that help both our clients – and other training consultancies – keep learning relevant and ‘front of mind’.
PRISM is our flexible, multi-lingual, mobile 360 tool that can be used to measure performance before and after training and coaching.
It is now being used by leading business schools and other training consultancies for their clients as well
PROMPT! is our goal tracker / ROI measurement tool which keeps goals front of mind for participants, helps them track progress and reports on Kirkpatrick Levels 1-4 !
It would be good to hear how you are tackling this issue in your organisations
- What issues are you facing?
- What is working?
- What are you developing?
- How are you making your learning initiatives ‘stick’?