"The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice."
– Brian Herbert, U.S. author
When I facilitate training at large organizations, or lecture to business school students from big corporates, I often hear the same complaints.
For example: team members don't feel heard. Their managers don't understand them or their workloads. It takes so much effort to combine full-time work with study.
They often talk about being sent on courses, doing e-learning, or participating in business school programs with the expectation that they'll then apply what they've learned. However, they don't always see their managers doing the "right" things, and it demotivates them.
They also talk about organizations whose values and strategies look very appealing on paper, but whose cultures fail to live up to those values and strategies.
But it's not always that way.
I have the privilege of working with a large multinational corporation in the packaging industry. The first group I lectured from this company was full of extraordinary people. There was none of the negativity and poor attitudes that I often encounter within large corporates.
The second group I worked with was just as pleasant and teachable, as was the third… Was it something in the water?
At the start of every academic year, the organization's group HR director personally opens the program and meets all the new students. He's a stickler for education and reading (and a few other things, too, like being on time).
Although his opening speech is never the same, there's one thing that he mentions every year. He has led the L&D programs and human resources portfolio for more than two decades, but the organization has never cut the L&D budget. No matter how bad the economy was, how good or bad the company's performance had been that year, or how much resistance he got from shareholders, the L&D budget was untouchable.
These people work for a company that lives and breathes learning and development. It's an integral part of their culture, it's one of their core values, and it's also part of their strategy.
The organization's L&D program is very well structured, catering for people of all levels of education, on many platforms. And it has a successful legacy: the "graduates" end up training the new learners.
They have internal libraries, online training programs, focus groups, cross-training opportunities, formal training programs, and higher learning programs that they run in conjunction with the university that I work for. Employees who have completed the management development program can even enrol for an MBA at our business school.
When I hear that companies cut their L&D budgets because of the state of the economy, I'm always worried about what will happen within those organizations a few years down the line. This adds impact to the saying, "What if we train our staff and they leave? However, what if we don't train them and they stay?"
During last Friday's #MTtalk Twitter chat, we discussed learning and development. Many participants shared how they learned from different sources. Here are the questions we asked, and a selection of the responses:
@PeculiarBeastie I'm passionate and enthusiastic about learning and growing my skill set. I try to promote different avenues of learning and share what I've discovered to get other people excited and interested in learning too.
@BrainBlenderTec It's a constant. I’m a perpetual student so it’s often about getting others excited to step out of their bubbles and try new things, and in the process learn a thing or nine!
In some organizations, people are excited about L&D and eager to learn. In others, not so much. However, the following participants reminded us of two important truths:
@carriemaslen L&D budgets are often the first to get cut, since it's so hard to show a direct ROI on training. But that sends exactly the wrong message!
@KansasSBDC When we experience push back to learning and development, we have to ask ourselves what is causing it before we can proceed.
@goiuby I think L&D is most effective when it is done willingly. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." It's least effective when it is a micromanaged task. No one likes to do things they're forced to do!
@GodaraAR It's most effective when L&D "understands" the business and programs are created accordingly. It's least effective when learning programs are created that aren't in sync with the business.
@SayItForwardNow Self-directed learning has the advantage of enabling individuals to learn at their own pace. The disadvantage is that we miss the opportunity to learn from peers while we are learning together.
@PG_pmp Self-directed learning helps you learn anytime, any place, when it's convenient and you have time. Cons: you may miss hearing other people's views when learning alone, compared to learning in group/classroom sessions.
As it turned out, almost all our participants like self-directed learning, but they use various methods and platforms.
@amber_bando My self-directed learning includes e-learning courses, reading and gathering information on topics that interest me. I find that I work better as a self-directed learner, as I can make mistakes and learn from them.
@TheCraigKaye Short answer: lots… I learn from movies, television, Twitter, journals, articles, books, news, conversations, role observations. We can curate literally anything into practical, resourceful learning.
@MarkC_Avgi Too often, those in management do not take the time to do the training themselves, or have not bought into what the training taught. Management must be part of the learning process, as well!
@GenePetrovLMC There is a definite theory/practice disconnect, especially in an operational environment. There has to be a reconciliation. Either update the theory or make sure that the operations understands the importance of doing it that certain way.
@sittingpretty61 The simplest and more reliable measure is a pre-test and post-test of results and measures over time. I believe quarterly and yearly post assessments and metrics tell you what you really need to know. Social ROI as well.
@Singh_Vandana Every organization has different parameters of evaluation. By and large, the impact is measured by ROI/growth in business.
@MicheleDD_MT Complete a thorough analysis upfront. Involve key stakeholders. Is L&D the solution? Oftentimes it isn't. Leverage L&D where it has the most potential to achieve results.
We like that @JoynicoleM used the word "mastery," because it's not just about learning, but about knowing how to apply new skills. She said, "Capture pre- and post-measures. Set long-term impact goals and follow up. Not just three days later, but three months and three years as well. Mastery doesn't happen immediately, and follow-up (even with refreshers) keeps the information relevant and engaging."
A number of participants said that they are brutally honest. And @MarkC_Avgi asked the interesting question, "Are you brutal if you have to sign your name to the evaluation? Many people are less brutal when their comments can be identified with them."
We really liked @ZalkaB's approach. She said, "I know some people have issues with giving feedback if it's not anonymously. They fear how it'll be perceived if feedback isn't positive. I like getting feedback from people, because it enables me to reach out and chat to them for further info and explanation, if needed."
@Yolande_MT Some of the most memorable sessions were great simply because I was ready to learn.
@snowarriors_lou The programme that springs to mind made me become more self-aware (to the point of being very self-critical, positive and negative, tears at times). Reflection was key, and working in collaboration with the rest of the group.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.
Many people would like to improve their goal-setting and time management skills. During our next #MTtalk we're going to talk about the things you want to start doing NOW. In our Twitter poll this week, we'd like to know what you've wanted to do for a long time, but you've been putting off starting. Please vote in our Twitter poll, here.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to effective L&D. (Please note, some of the resources listed below are only available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club.)
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