Are you investing in ‘sticky’ learning?

So you are thinking about investing in your people.  Of course you are…. you maintain your plant and machinery, you maintain your office spaces, you maintain your computers….so naturally you want to invest in ‘maintaining’ your people.

So what kind of programme do you invest in?  The ‘sticky’ one, of course.  That is, the one which ‘sticks’ with people.  The one which, when people get back to work, has stuck with them so they put their new learning into practice.  Right?

So how do you know which programmes are the ‘sticky’ ones?  I say it depends on the thing you are trying to develop.

The tried and true training paradigm of ‘knowledge transfer’ and the training processes used to effect this transfer have some use, but it’s limited.  This style of learning is more transactional, the transaction being: you sit there and pay attention and I’ll repay that attention with some useful knowledge.  However, the needs of the modern worker and modern organisation have changed.  While this transaction is still useful for some kinds of learning content, if you want to develop communication, teamwork, greater customer focus or leader capability, the ‘sticky’ programme is most often not the one that is laden with information; it’s usually the one that is more about the people than the information.

Furthermore, people want to participate in learning experiences which grow them as human beings, and organisations need people who have honed the kind of capabilities the 21st century world of work actually needs; capabilities such as empathy, courage, increased self awareness, and greater ability to communicate and say challenging things to their peers, their staff and their bosses.

The new paradigm is also one that stops looking at the training budget as something that should solely serve the organisation or deliver a quantifiable return on investment.  You know that if you spend money on an MYOB training course, you have got a return on your investment if the accounts folk use it effectively and productivity in the accounts department increases.  How, though, can you quantify increased empathy skills?  Yet you know in your heart, in your mind, in your gut that when your customer service staff have greater empathy, they go the extra mile for dissatisfied customers and stop them from moving over to your competition.  You know that when your team leaders can have more robust performance conversations with their teams, morale increases, productivity increases, turnover declines.  I’m constantly reminded of the quote that Einstein allegedly had on his wall: “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”  We are in an age where this is deliciously applicable.  Yes, we do need to know that investment in developing people gives a return to the organisation, but let’s expand our minds and our ideas of how we ‘measure’ this added value.

In order to develop these things, a new paradigm of learning and development needs to take hold.  People need to be able to participate in learning programmes which are directly relevant to them and which grow them as a person.  Transformational methods, those which Phill Boas of the Melbourne Business School calls ‘high intensity relational processes’, and those which we apply in our work at Quantum Shift, are just the ticket.  These are processes which are sometimes confronting and which “truly stretch people outside their comfort zones to really review their own style, values and preferences and those of others. It’s not always warm and fuzzy. But that is the reality of work and working relationships”.  We can get a picture of the two approaches in this table:

TRANSACTIONAL LEARNING APPROACHES
TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNING APPROACHES
One-off training events
Learning over time, with follow-up
‘Chalk and talk’ transfer of information
Experiential and interactive
Content-orientated
Orientated to learning as a process
Predominantly factual
Involves feelings and relationships
Methodical, step-by-step, logical-sequential
Divergent and unpredictable
Linear
Developmental
Conceptual
Behavioural and attitudinal
What to do
How to do it

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