Learning and development is becoming increasingly linked to business productivity. Learning interventions that build the capability of individual employees, departments, and organization as a whole are critical to achieving goals. This means that L&D professionals and business managers must know their employees’ ‘learning needs’ thoroughly. This is captured through training need identification exercises, typically carried out on a periodic basis (mostly annually) by most organizations.
But one must not forget that there is a compelling need to make learning continuous and real-time and not just a one-time exercise. This means that organizations must identify the exact ‘moment’ when a learning need arises. You must have heard about the ‘moment of truth’ in marketing parlance, a similar concept in L&D is defined as the ‘moment of need’- the moment when an employee needs to learn. Fulfilling this learning need can increase employee productivity greatly.
Understanding the ‘Moments of Need’
Workforce experts, Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson, have identified five types of ‘moments of need’.
1. For first-time learning: When an employee is a novice, he or she needs to develop skills in an entirely unfamiliar domain by starting from scratch.
2. For deeper learning: When an employee already has the basic skills but needs to add-on related skills in the same or a connected area.
3. When applying learning: When an employee needs to apply a concept or knowledge and get results immediately.
4. When things go wrong: When a person is faced with a roadblock or challenge, the learning intervention must be of “troubleshooting” nature, and must help resolve the issue immediately.
5. When things change: Processes, systems, work is always in a state of flux. Managing change is an important business skill which can be best done through training and practice.
Enhance learning effectiveness
It is important to identify the right learning intervention to meet this ‘moment of need.' L&D professionals must evaluate the learner profiles based on factors such as the required knowledge-depth, the time available for learning, the learning style of the learner and his/her level of engagement, the desired speed of results, etc. At the same time, L&D professionals should aim to incorporate the latest learning mechanisms into the learning strategy, wherever relevant.
Here are a few innovative options for you to consider:
1. Mobile learning: The basic idea is to create a “pull” for learning, to create continuous learning. Easy access to smartphones allows this. Also, many first-time learners are digital natives, who are already well versed and immersed in their smartphones.
2. E-learning: In-depth learning is often required in highly technical fields, like software development or domain expertise. Since the learner needs to gain an understanding of the concepts and practical elements, desktop-based instructional design courses can provide tools and content to cover topics in-depth.
3. Gamification: In scenarios where practical application is immediate and has high stakes, a gamified simulation can act as a great learning mechanism. It creates a real-life environment with real-world challenges, which the learner needs to solve. Gamification focuses on “learning by doing” and hence provides a practical, hands-on approach and builds the confidence of the learner.
4. Micro-learning: Employees sometimes need quick, usable snippets of information that he or she can quickly apply to solve the problem at hand. L&D can play an instrumental role in curating content which is easy to understand and not time-consuming.
To navigate change, one must upgrade one’s knowledge, skills and capabilities continuously. Continuous learning is more of a culture change than an intervention. L&D must cultivate a culture of continuous learning on both fronts, i.e., technical and behavioral.
As employers and employees move away from the notion of ‘learning for the sake of learning’ and instead are focused on ‘learning for the sake of outcomes,' understanding ‘moments of need’ should provide them the right resources to help bridge that gap. After all, a well-learned employee is often, a positively engaged and productive employee.