Why the Learning Journey Mustn’t Begin and End in the Classroom
Ralph Ballard, Consulting Director at Total Negotiation Group delves into the importance and benefits of continuous learning and development.
Research last year revealed that the UK’s best-performing businesses put their success down to learning and development. The UK L&D report surveyed and analysed more than 100 companies, with the top performers claiming that staff training is at the heart of their growth strategies.
This shows just how much learning has evolved since my first experience of it in the early 2000s. Back then, I was a learning recipient and it was very much a traditional teacher-‘tell’, classroom-based, ‘one size fits all’, sheep-dip approach. It’s long since been acknowledged that this approach fails to encourage sustained learning and once the delegate leaves the classroom, their ability to retain what they’ve learnt decreases rapidly over time. However, the conditions for transforming learning as a key growth strategy have never been stronger than they are today.
With recognition that a ‘classroom only’ approach limits sustained learning, the 70:20:10 model is increasingly becoming the standard for many workplace learning programmes. 70:20:10 combines formal learning (10%), such as classroom-based; social learning (20%), mentoring or coaching from a line and manager; and self-driven learning (70%) which comes from day-to-day experience of doing the job.
70:20:10 combines formal learning (10%), such as classroom-based; social learning (20%), mentoring or coaching from a line and manager; and self-driven learning (70%) which comes from day-to-day experience of doing the job.
Blended learning is an approach to learning that combines multiple opportunities to learn through a variety of different mediums, and as such supports the 70:20:10 learning principles. Blended learning is not limited to only these and can use all of them, or just a selection of these types of learning assets; educational videos, podcasts, webinars, reading articles, delegate lead sessions, facilitator lead workshops, learning interactions, infographic assets, quizzes, gamification, review sessions – and all of these can be done together in one location, or remotely but at the same time, or even at very different times in your own learner-led time. Ultimately a true blended learning approach gives multiple learning opportunities, at different times, using many different learning methods. The key is that the learning journey needs to be continuous and encourage employees to develop their own knowledge and skills.
The need to succeed more rapidly
In today’s competitive markets, where businesses are moving at a faster pace than ever before, it’s imperative that organisations build employee capability and ensure they develop the skills they need quickly.
Aside from boosting employee performance, learning and development programmes also help businesses to recruit and retain the best talent. Ambitious individuals will want to work for companies that invest in their capability development. One key finding from the UK L&D Report is the striking correlation between organisations that prioritise learning and development and those with the lowest staff turnover. The research also shows that those who spend above average on learning programmes per employee are twice as likely to have highly satisfied staff.
It has also become apparent that some employees are landing big roles early on in their careers and therefore need a way to accelerate the learning process. Blended learning techniques can help individuals build capability rapidly and enable them to develop the skills they need while fully immersed in their new jobs.
It has also become apparent that some employees are landing big roles early on in their careers and therefore need a way to accelerate the learning process.
Learning is a dual responsibility
This approach to learning enables continuous improvement and development. It also encourages employers to support staff on their learning journeys. Providing employees with access to learning materials at their exact moment of need urges them to learn in the moment and helps them to prepare for any day to day challenges. For example, they may be facing a difficult meeting with a customer, client or supplier and decide to prepare for it by watching a video on dealing with negotiation tactics beforehand.
Today, we are far more cognitive of the fact that successful learning is highly personal to the individual. Some of us take in information more effectively visually; others respond better by listening to others and talking; while for others, role-play and the hands-on approach is the best way to learn. Blended learning supports these individual styles as it allows employees to access and choose the resources best suited to them, when and where they’re ready to learn.
Blended learning also helps employees to learn in the most efficient way. One aspect, flipped learning, is where delegates are encouraged to engage with online resources, to familiarise themselves with various concepts and theories before they even enter the classroom. This helps to ensure they get the most from their workshop or classroom-based session and time with a facilitator, as the focus then becomes either transferring the new knowledge learnt into skill development and/or applying the new knowledge learnt into a live commercial situation. It allows for discussions around on the topic to be generated in the workshop, for the facilitator to understand the delegates depth of knowledge and rapidly move the learning from theory into real-life scenarios.
An organisation’s employees are among its greatest assets and people development has become crucial for business success.
In my view, capability is a combination of process, knowledge and skill. While it’s essential that learning programmes are designed for delegates to build capability through process and knowledge on the job, when it comes to skill, it’s different. Learning new or honing existing skills is crucial to a shift in capability, and this is when face to face support in the classroom or workshop environment is most beneficial.
The learning and development landscape is evolving rapidly, with technology and digital content playing an increasing part in blended methods. It’s exciting to be part of this and see first-hand how easy access to innovative online resources is boosting self-learning. Technology also gives us the opportunity to be more innovative and engaging with our learning techniques; sharing video with workshop groups over social media is an example of a quick and helpful way to share resources with delegates and to generate discussion.
We’ve become an ‘always-on’ society and today’s delegates enjoy the freedom to be able to access the learning materials they need at a time that best suits them, whether that’s during the working day, from the comfort of their own home, or even remotely while travelling for business.
An organisation’s employees are among its greatest assets and people development has become crucial for business success. Organisations can no longer afford to rely on the classroom, or equally a pure on the job approach. They either risk delegates never fully putting their newly learnt skills into practice, or never fully grasping the base knowledge they can acquire through flipped learning and workshop sessions. Organisations that invest in learning programmes focussed on embedding workplace skills and building capability based on real-life work-based scenarios stand to make the greatest sustainable gains.