Article: Learn-ability matters effectiveness of learning initiatives

Learning & Development

Learn-ability matters effectiveness of learning initiatives

Creating organisational value through learning

Effective learning programs have emerged as ane of the most vibrant and viable drivers for firms


Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process



If you travel forward in time and peer at an organization 10 years hence (something we like to call ‘Organization version 2.0’) and you look at how workplace learning is being supported by that organization, what will you see? …

• Firstly, in organization 2.0, a large proportion of employees work from home, thanks to technologies such as Cisco TelePresence.
• Secondly, most learning is pull-based; employees are ‘responsible’ for their own work and requisite learning, even though push-learning still exists.
• Finally, learning departments are small and are known as performance support units, whereby they ensure performance by providing frameworks, systems and content through pod casts, videos, etc. Every user of the system is a content generator and consumer; the system and its interface only act as an intermediary.

Let us now take off these futuristic glasses and add some caution:

Even in future, only a few organizations would be a true and complete embodiment of ‘Organization 2.0’. So we will continue to see Instructor Led Training, e-Learning courses, whereas organizations would still have large L&D departments that create and deliver push-learning. As often said, in predicting the future you could be “directionally right but specifically wrong”. We hope this one is at least directionally correct.

Globalization of trade and liberalization of business is racing ahead at a scorching pace. All organizations need to reduce production costs and improve operational efficiency. Organizations need to develop their human capital by identifying their insufficiency and lack of knowledge, and thereby providing sufficient learning and development programs to fill the gaps.
An effective learning program is emerging as one of the most vibrant and exhilarating drivers for firms to solve their managerial and human resource issues, and thereby gain competitive advantage in the market. But companies don’t always evaluate the business impact of a learning program.

Why Learning Initiatives Fail?

The great training robbery
Around 72% of delegates at a British Learning Association’s conference in 2006 agreed that learning initiatives tend not to lead to any significant change. Only 51% of delegates said they evaluate for results several months post-learning intervention. David Wolfson, Chairman of the British Training Association commented, “We have to do more - much more - to ensure that learning interventions really make a difference.”

The robbers of learning effectiveness

Ambiguity: Concepts are built using shorthand labels rather than the full use of language. Trainees leave with multiple interpretations of concepts, instead of just one.
Ignorance of business impact: Learning needs are assumed and not analyzed. Instructional designers do not focus on business outcomes.
Personal Influence of Trainers: Trainers train in their own preferred style, ignoring ithe desired style of the trainees, thus creating a hindrance.
Superficiality: Learning is aimed at the first level of Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation only.
Complexity: Learning is not delivered in chunks that can be internalized by average trainees who fail to remember what they are taught.
Remoteness: Trainers remain aloof from their audience.
Dissonance: Theory clashes with practice during the Learning. Trainees do not learn as they feel the concepts are irrelevant for their daily working life.

Can Learning be More Effective?

Yes it can be. Explore this….

Learning designs that typically start with, “What are the expected learning outcomes?” tend to miss the point. The first question must be, “What are the expected business outcomes?” followed by, “What change in behaviors must be impacted to arrive at the desired business outcomes?”

This is followed by crafting the appropriate nature and timing of reinforcement techniques as well that improve knowledge retention and build skills.
The design method can be woven around the following questions:
”What measures do we need to change and reinforce the desired behavior and discourage the undesirable behaviors?”
“What processes and policies do we follow that make it impossible for our people to exhibit the desired behavior?”
...and finally “What are the requisite knowledge and skills that will enable our people to exhibit the desired behaviors?”


Improving learning effectiveness improves the bottom line through the following steps:
• Focus on Business Goals
• Accurate learning needs analysis
• Appropriate instructional design
• Relevance and application of learning
• Timely evaluation of learning
• Make “investments” in learning and look for measurable returns.
• Guarantee learning stickiness

How can Learning Effectiveness be Evaluated?


  The problem for many organizations is not so much why learning should be evaluated but how. Most of the organizations overlook evaluation because financial benefits are difficult to describe in concrete terms.

The Kirkpatrick Model
The most well-known and used model for measuring the effectiveness, post the learning program, was developed by Donald Kirkpatrick in the late 1950s.
In a 2000 study, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) reported that only 3% of learning reached Kirkpatrick’s “level 4” of learning evaluation “results” where there is an impact on the organization. In contrast, 95% of learning reached “level 1” where the participants liked the learning.
The model is still effective in its original form. But Jim Kirkpatrick suggests that it would be useful to consider the following to really reflect Donald Kirkpatrick’s true intent.
• The end is the beginning
• Return on Expectations (ROE) is the ultimate indicator of value
• Business partnership is necessary to bring out positive change
• Value must be created before it can be demonstrated
• A compelling chain of evidence demonstrates your bottom-line value

How to Make Learning More Effective?
Fortunately, there has been more brain research in the last 25 years than in all of human history combined. The triune brain theory has gained a lot of popularity which asserts that we have three separate but interconnected areas of specialization: the neo-cortex, the limbic system and the reptilian brain.

To optimize the process of learning, the focus should be to involve the whole mind and the body while engaging our emotions, senses and receptors to integrate and develop new knowledge and skill.

The neo-cortex can be engaged through abstract thought, problem solving, forward planning and creativity.
The limbic system is involved in bonding and emotions and contains our long-term memory.

The reptilian brain governs our automatic functions such as heartbeat and our circulatory systems. By incorporating spaced repetition into learning, we allow for engagement of the reptilian brain.

Incorporating these insights into a learning program produces dramatic results. Practice by doing has a retention rate of 75%. If organizations introduced something like a revision test, the potential for a return on learning investment increases by a factor of four.

In addition, the learning design must also be able to reinforce positive behaviour and needs to include negative reinforcements to eliminate the undesired behaviour. as much as it includes positive reinforcement for desired behaviour.
Recently, InspireOne conducted an intervention for a manufacturing organization, where another critical element of learning design was used: transference. Participants must be able to transfer what they have learnt from the classroom to the workplace.

Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process
- Kurt Lewin

Linnet Furtado is Client Partner-Consulting and Solutions Team
Jithesh Anand is Branch Head – Mumbai at InspireOne

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Topics: Learning & Development

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