Real Learning vs. Checking the Box

Posted on Posted in TheCurve

I was recently working on a consulting engagement and I needed to build some analytics in Excel. Even though I have attended advanced Excel classes, I couldn’t remember much from my training. Guess who came to my rescue… Google. And that made me think; corporate companies spend millions of dollars every year on classroom training.

Do these trainings really go all the way to make their employees more productive or are they more like check the box?

In this age of internet, everyone is looking for instant, accurate and relevant information, I am not sure we can rely just upon class room training which is usually one way, one time and soon to be out of date delivery mechanism. The only reason Google has become integral part of our lives is because we can access it anytime from anywhere and really search for relevant and specific information.

Now don’t take me wrong…I am not saying companies should do away with classroom training. I think it’s good for learning concepts and basic features but it’s very likely that you may not be using all the learning’s for a while. So there is a good chance that you may forget or information may become outdated by the time you need to use it (Hence my example of Excel skills).

I can further vouch from my last job experience. In my last job, training of technicians was high priority to ensure quality maintenance. Although it was a huge challenge to have technicians be taken away from their day job and locked in a room for 2-3 days to learn about new engine technology or diagnostic tools. And even if you achieve that, how do you keep up with employee attrition and changing technology every 6 months?

So here are the 4 basic things, which every company can do to make learning more effective:

1. Learning Strategy:

When I say learning strategy, that doesn’t mean you need a big PowerPoint deck with lot of consulting buzzwords. This means that you need to clearly identify critical success criteria (aligned with department goals) for every role in the company. Based on these criteria you should identify the training needs, which in turn must be tied to employee’s performance. Ex. Every technician needs to have goals for safety along with their day job and must be trained accordingly.

2. Effective learning material:

Now if you really want your employees be able to learn on their schedule, your learning material must be specific and easy to learn. If you are going to publish big manuals online and expect your employees to self-learn, that won’t work. Your course material must be supported by real life scenarios, graphics, animation and some humor. And most important there should be a quick assessment questions at the end of course. Also try to split each subject into various sub-components so that employees can choose to spend 5 minutes and learn something new. Sometimes short learning’s are much more effective than all day learning. http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/study-smart.aspx.

3. Strong learning platform:

In order to deliver the right content to right person, you need a robust learning platform. Imagine if you were to sift through 100 of websites to find relevant content (without Google). There are tons of learning management platforms available in the market. The key is to setup and use them effectively. It should be in sync with HR system with your employee data and their roles. The learning courses should automatically be assigned to relevant roles. Employees can be engaged with strong notification system using emails or text alerts. And most importantly it should be accessible from anywhere using laptops, tablets or phones. Imagine the power of this platform, if technician while working on the bus is able to check on key diagnostics without leaving his job by using tablet or phone.

4. Reporting and Analytics:

Now I understand that companies need to ensure compliance for certain key courses along with flexible learning. OSHA training course for mechanics and drivers is just one example. So its very important to have strong dashboard to track compliance. In addition, to dashboard you also need smart analytics so that you can measure the performance of employees and effective ness of your learning curriculum. As I say, there cant be continuous improvement without continuous learning.

So my question to you … does your company believe in real learning or check the box learning?