Can a training, or L&D, department be held accountable for the happiness of its employees? Probably not. But I do think we impact happiness. Unfortunately, I think in some small way training has contributed to unhappiness in the workplace over the past few decades. The last decade has corrected the sins of our past, but we should acknowledge where corporate training fell to the dark side.
The Unhappy Side of Our Industry's History
Let's face it, at least before technology training, "going to training" meant you were valued enough that the company wanted to invest in your potential. And all courses were instructor-led, with some classes lasting several days or even weeks. It was like a vacation away from the job. You enjoyed fun "ice-breaker" activities where you learned more about your colleague sitting next to you. And good corporate classroom training had great food, prizes, and engaging activities to help the learning content feel less painful. Old school, pre-tech era, classroom training took you away from the stress of the job and engaged in the joys of human connection and hopefully the joy of learning something new. Then technology came along and spoiled everything.
Technology based learning invaded the workplace. Training now could be "efficient" and reduce the overall cost of training by eliminating everything about training events that made us happy. Eliminating the people part of training was a fantastic cost savings. And companies were all in. But was that a good thing?
eLearning had the potential to revolutionize corporate training. In many ways it did. But all too often it did not. It simply made things worse. Instead of enjoying a powerpoint presentation immersed in a classroom with your colleagues and an engaging presenter...the people who made it fun...you were now expected to sit through the entire powerpoint on your own. Not fun.
And to make matters worse systems were introduced that made the distribution of self-paced learning more efficient and now trackable. These systems were less than friendly, and not only not fun, but downright frustrating to use. These early learning management systems had achieved the impossible. They had taken good content that was simply not enjoyable, to be consumed alone, and now made that content unbearable. Those system still exist today.
L&D Has a Role in Employee Happiness
Thankfully, new learning management systems have emerged over the last decade and we are now back on track to putting some joy back into the workplace. There are many complex human issues around happiness. And L&D will never be completely responsible for happiness in the workplace. But we can, at the very least avoid creating unhappiness. And at the very best cultivate a happy workplace.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing the fabulous Allison Rossett speak at The Training Learning and Development Conference. The audience was the first to hear her about her latest work on cultivating happiness. She didn't talk about technologies. In fact, she made it clear that "you signed up for a people job". And I think most of us know that what we do is more about people than technology. But sometimes the tech takes a front seat, and we forget about the people. When you rephrase the conversation around happiness you can't help but focus on the human side of learning.
Allison made it clear, with data, that "Happiness matters at work".
"Happiness at work is job satisfaction. And much more. It’s engagement, commitment, motivation, and feelings related to self at work, on tasks, on team, and in the organization." Allison Rossett from TLDC Presentation
And she also reminds us that it's "Not us only, but us for sure."
Everything we create for our learners is an opportunity to make them happy. We can make them happy by removing barriers to knowledge. We can give them learning content when they need it, where they need it, and in the format they need it. We can support reflection and practice. We can support training instructors, subject matter experts, and training administrators. There is actually quite a lot that we can control in cultivating happiness. And with a leader like Allison driving the conversation, I'm certain we've not heard the end of happiness.
Even Learning Management Systems Can Cultivate Happiness
Early LMSs were not easy to use and did not make anyone happy. When your LMS is overly complicated with a bad user interface, you start with unhappy users. And then by presenting bad training content you only enforce and strengthen that sense of unhappiness.
This is why ease-of-use is at the forefront of the Litmos success story. When customers with legacy LMS experience discover the ease of Litmos, there is always immense joy. I know it's hard to believe that an LMS can bring happiness but it's true. I've experienced it. And I've seen it in my colleagues who also use Litmos.
With a powerful, easy to use, flexible, extendible system like Litmos even YOU can be happy in your job. And the system in turn will give you the power to make add joy to the work of the employees and customers you serve.