Change is rarely easy. We get stuck in ruts. We fall into patterns, and the learning industry is no different than any other. But we can still create the change our learners need. In part one of this two-part series, I discussed the danger of learning becoming irrelevant and we had the following list:
- Too much information is floating around at any given time.
- There are multiple sources and ways to get information.
- There is a difference between facts/data/information and knowledge.
- Knowledge needs to be curated and focused on maximum accessibility and usability.
- Knowledge needs to be made readily and easily available in multiple ways.
- Knowledge and performance must be connected.
Barriers to Training Transformation
In this part two, let’s take a deeper look at each point to understand how one can transform learning and development by adding a skill to the learning leader’s toolkit: curating and providing, or C&P.
- There are multiple sources and ways to get information. These days if I want to know something or learn to do something I can read it in a long or condensed version, watch it, listen to it, call someone to talk about it, take an actual or virtual course alone or with other people, go to a chat, watch a webinar—and more. If I speak a language other than English, I can find it in my native tongue. There are many roads leading to what people need to know.
- There is a difference between facts/data/information and knowledge. We live in the Knowledge Era, which is driven by data; yet data by itself is useless. It takes time to transform data into facts, then facts into information and finally information into know-how.
- Knowledge needs to be curated and focused on maximum accessibility and usability. We need human intervention and time to transform data into facts, facts into information, and information into usable knowledge. Even then, there’s often too much knowledge to be useful. Curation can refine knowledge to produce what I call Maximum Value-Added Knowledge (MVAK). Focusing it makes knowledge useful and powerful, like when you concentrate a beam of sunlight with a magnifying glass and use it to start a fire.
- Knowledge needs to be made readily and easily available in different ways. There are many ways to present knowledge, and some of them work better than others. If I’m going to be responsible for my own learning, I don’t want someone else telling me how to learn; I want to decide. That is common thinking among developers and software engineers who prefer a hands-on learning approach.
- Knowledge and performance must be connected. Some kinds of learning really do need a push. There are times when all employees must get the same knowledge at the same time. This is often true regarding legal, regulatory and compliance knowledge, for HR, safety, etc. It’s also useful when a team of developers is learning something new.
Push training can provide a baseline of common language and definitions for conversations, communication, and collaboration. What is often missing is the ability to determine whether everyone understood the information, that everyone is using the same language, and that people can use what they learned.
To provide that missing piece, training will have to change—and quickly. Learning professionals have a lot of work to do to ensure they will be relevant and effective in the Knowledge Era, and they may need a vendor’s help to get what their learners need.
The Focus on Curating and Providing
The role of C&P will be more important to anticipate what employees might need, and ensure that employees can source knowledge at any time. Knowledge should also be available in multiple formats to accommodate different learning styles and preferences.
C&P skills learning professionals may need to develop or acquire include the ability to:
- Treat developers as knowledge consumers; listen to what they want to learn
- Help developers find the unknown—answer to skills gaps they didn’t know they had
- Parse and curate knowledge to provide maximum value-added knowledge
- Use push training to easily pivot to meet pull learning needs when self-learners are back at work
- Ensure that knowledge is always available, accessible and useful. This includes choosing formats and languages, etc.
- Constantly update knowledge to ensure it’s accurate, timely, relevant
- Monitor employees to ensure they find, understand and apply knowledge on the job
- Change or improve information as soon as necessary based on new information, learner feedback, or changes in business and employee needs
The new focus for C&P requires customization and accessibility. Learning partners need to keep an ear to the ground to find out what developers want. Invest the time to determine how busy developers need to learn.
Be creative. Stop depending on the LMS to do all the knowledge transfer work. Create a community of learners in every class, and turn those into ongoing communities of practice. Customize learning as much as possible, don’t forget to add labs, and remember different roles require different knowledge. Forget the one-size-fits-all push training model.
When employees are enabled and empowered to learn what they want and need to know, they’re happier, employee turnover drops, and the organization becomes more successful. C&P may be the next important piece in the learning leader’s role, but the mission to help people learn remains the same.
David Grebow is an author, speaker and workshop leader who, with his co-author Stephen J. Gill, wrote the bestselling “Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy.”