The intent of learning and development is to create sustained behavioural change so as to enhance performance on the job and drive organizational performance. However, the current state of L&D practices is such that only one out of six people attending a training actually succeed in sustained behaviour on the job. Even within this gamut, four out of six try and fail, and one doesn’t even try. This is appalling, it is clearly not successful L&D. There is a compelling need to change what learners are doing every day. Kirk Patrick had once said that training is on trial, and this was never further from the truth than now. People are questioning the L&D function, asking where the value-add is happening. One of the primary reasons for this failure is the event-based process design that most organizations follow, making learning a disconnected “event” with little linkage to business metrics.
High-Performance Learning Journeys: The Construct
We must seek the solutions for the above problems at the design phase itself. This can be done if we work on the performance barriers that prevent a person from applying the acquired knowledge and skills in his or her job. One such solution is a high-performance learning journey, which is characterized by spreading the learning journey across various dimensions, some of which are:
Time: Spreading the knowledge dissemination across time helps prevent information overload. Smaller modules allow sufficient time to digest, implement and practice, and then proceed to the next level of learning. Pre-training and post-training interactions along with in-event reflections can help in this regard.
Space: The 70-20-10 theory of learning says that 70% of learning happens through peers, 20% happens on the job and 10% in the classroom. Today, these three mediums have extended to many more- virtual, classroom, on the job, social learning, supervisor as coach etc. L&D must employ a mix of learning channels for a holistic learning experience.
Relationships: An employee develops professional learning-relationships with his or her key stakeholders- the supervisor, customers, peers, course leader/instructor, etc. L&D should involve all the relevant stakeholders in the learning design process.
Tools: Today we have a wide spread of learning tools- eLearning, gamification, mobile learning, social learning platforms, and so on. We must create an integrated, yet customized learning journey by mixing and matching these tools, which can be used to complete and track learning objectives.
Business linkage: We must keep the right KPIs in mind and build targeted assignments to ensure application on the job.
When all these things happen in tandem, then only can we start thinking about a high-performance journey i.e. one that takes the focus away from the event. Learning can happen in multiple different ways, and it is high time we leverage all these ways.
How to design a high-performance learning intervention?
We have seen that a high-performance learning journey (HPLJ) has a “Learning” element (classroom, eLearning, gamification etc. related to tools and structure) and the “Develop and Practice” element, which is built continuously. To incorporate both these elements, L&D must design the learning experience as follows:
Build commitment to the journey continuously: Participants are the torch-bearers of an HPLJ success and hence must be ultra-committed to the process. L&D professionals and line managers must show them the value (WIIFM) by making it personally relevant to learners. One such example is the Program Performance Path which highlights the business results, so that participants know that they are moving in the right direction, and they foresee a behaviour change on the job. Plan interventions to ensure re-commitment, for example, tailor a personal benefits list or have focus discussions. Social interactions with peers is a great way to encourage recommitment, so encourage social participation.
Create a knowledge foundation: Till date knowledge-sharing was restricted to pooling together everyone in a classroom and sharing core concepts. The way ahead is to break free from the classroom and use other means to enhance know-how, such as technology. Give learners pre-work to help build the foundation and then use the classroom to practice and reflect.
Develop and practice skills: L&D facilitators must help participants develop knowledge in various ways. Make learners ask themselves the question- “Am I developing or not?”. Invite self-critique or practice journaling to better reflect on feedback received.
Strengthen results: Once implementation is done, be sure to prevent a slip-back. Become a mentor, include coaching elements in post-training, reinforce through follow-up activities or build recognition basis the learning outcomes. Think of ways in which you can help strengthen the result.
All the above four elements work to-and-fro and continuously to help achieve the end objective i.e. sustained behavioural change on the job.
Where should you apply HPLJ?
High-performance learning journeys need not be created for every learning program. Technically, any intervention can lend itself to a high-performance learning journey, but it is high time and budget intensive. Hence it is best to use the HPLJ design for mission-critical programs. This will create a large impact on the organization. L&D must think about which programs need definite behaviour change. When you have a mission-critical program with leaders willing to invest heavily, it is important to ensure that learning gets transferred to behaviour. Else it becomes only a lip-service. Identify those 2-3 programs a year, they may be leadership programs, Hi-potential programs or anything else; and make an ongoing commitment. This will help drive learning effectiveness in an optimized fashion.
(This article has been curated from the Session High-Performance Learning Journeys by Preeti B Rao, head - Learning Effectiveness, C2C Organizational Development at the L&D League Annual Conference 2017.)