360-degree view of training

Things have changed

Today’s workplace has changed and there are many references to the “Modern Workplace” in a variety of publications. Yet, we as an L&D industry are still designing training from a central point – that of the “learner”. This is not a bad thing; however, it is not the only view we should be using. We need to make like owls and turn our heads to see the 360 view. 

Let me offer up a few questions:

  1. When it comes to creating training, we as an L&D function have got that in the bag. Most learning professionals are aware of what it takes to create training for their organizations. Right? 
  2. Many in the L&D field have taken classes and received certificates to boost up our instructional design skills, and adult learning knowledge. This is great. Right?
  3. Most L&D professionals understand what a targeted training model looks like, and most might even try to apply to their learning designs. This is how it should be. Right? 

The answers? Perhaps. The problem is not with the quality of training or its design. Most of us have become well versed in designing interactive, engaging courses that employees seem to like and rate highly on our smile sheets. The issue is that these courses do not seem to have much impact on our organizations and are being seen as less and less relevant. Why is this? 

Time to shift mindset

When it comes designing training for the workplace today our myopic view needs to shift. Let’s take a recent, ripped from the headlines, example. Sexual Harassment. There is no organization (that I know of) that is saying, “Yes, we approve of sexual harassment!” 99.9% of organizations have some kind of harassment policy on the books. Yet, they fail. 

In rapid fire, we have executives from a variety of companies apologizing for an employee’s actions, stating they do not condone harassment in any form. So, what happened? I’m sure someone in their HR department created a solid policy, I’m sure that someone in the training department created (or purchased) a training program that checked all the boxes and I’m sure that in partnership they ensured everyone participated in the training. 

Two Issues: Learning Reinforcement and Culture

The issue lies in two areas. First and most common, there wasn’t a plan for learning reinforcement. I do not mean the reinforcement variety of making people take the same training, at the same time, every year.  I’m talking about the kind of reinforcement that comes immediately after the training ends. This ties with the second and biggest issue, that we are not taking a 360-degree view on training creation. 

This means that L&D departments everywhere need to develop training that is supported by their organizational culture. According to Edgar Schein, who wrote the book, the Corporate Culture Survival Guide, there are three levels that make up an organizational culture: deep underlying beliefs and assumptions, values and principles that structure action, and the symbols and artifacts that are visible in the workplace. These are the keys to getting the organizational culture to support the learning culture. Without the overall culture support the learning eco-system or infrastructure, training will not stick past people leaving the room.

Ultimately, this is why training such as corporate-wide sexual harassment, fails. Training programs and policy adjustments only attack the surface, and only for a nanosecond. 

360 Degree View

A 360-degree view of learning design looks like this:

  • Frontline managers need to encourage employees to learn and develop competencies.
  • End-users (whomever the training is targeted toward) must have the opportunity to learn in the workflow. Meaning they need to be able to seek out knowledge and skills on their own. When it fits into their process.
  • Leadership must ensure the structure of the organization is aligned with sharing information between business units. Is the workplace conducive to social learning? 
  • The business sponsor needs to work with L&D to ensure the training request has a feedback loop and learning reinforcement embedded into the solution. Then identifying who is to be accountable. 
  • The subject matter expert works with the frontline and end-users to ensure content supports the culture. 

All the parties must be involved in training creation because all of these roles support the culture. Remember, all training initiatives, at their heart, are change management issues. We put training out because we EXPECT something to change. A culture that supports learning, supports change. Culture shapes the behaviors of people in the organization

The circle goes around. You can have support at the top, and training along the sidelines – but without the reinforcement mechanism, the training just bumps along the edges without penetration. 

To wrap up:

If L&D continues to focus training through siloed blinders and as long as leadership thinks of training as the panacea for low performance and change, we cannot be shocked when learning doesn’t stick. It takes a 360-degree approach. Only when leadership and L&D realize that they need each other to create a culture of innovative, continuously learning, and problem-solving employees is when more effective learning in the workplace will succeed.