Exploring The Three E’s of L&D at ATD 2024

At the ATD 2024 conference, learning leaders Dr. Jill Stefaniak and Pam Ramsbott discuss how to improve effectiveness, efficiency, and ease of use when building an L&D program.

Most leaders recognize the need for infrastructure that bridges the gap between business and learning goals. In fact, mapping learning programs to business goals is the #1 priority for L&D according to LinkedIn’s 2023 Learning Report.

Yet only 34% of respondents to Brandon Hall Group’s Strategy and Reality Survey report that they “collect data to assess how specific learning content has impacted organizational performance or individual job performance.”

In a recent live session at the 2024 ADT conference, Litmos’ Chief Learning Officer Dr. Jill Stefaniak, and Litmos’ Global Head of Talent Management, Pam Ramsbott, discussed how to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and ease of learning in L&D programs by using and key frameworks for overcoming common L&D challenges.

This is a summary of the most notable highlights from their discussion.

What are the 3 “E”s of L&D?

Dr. Stefaniak and Pam Ramsbott began their session by outlining the three “E’s” of L&D:

  1. Effectiveness – Workplace learning should be designed to enhance employees’ skills, productivity, and job satisfaction.
  2. Efficiency – Busy employees need efficient training that meets their needs, not check the box training that can feel like time wasted.
  3. Ease of Learning – Employees learn best when learning is easy to find, consume, and is relevant to their roles in the organization.

These three principles, they argued, put the learner first and should be at the core of every L&D strategy. Although, they conceded that putting these principles into practice is easier said than done.

The challenges facing L&D teams vary, depending on the size of the organization and the resources made available to those employees charged with building an L&D program. However, some barriers to L&D success are more common than others. Stefaniak and Ramsbott proceeded to explore these challenges and offer tips for overcoming them.

Most common L&D challenges

Some of the common challenges facing L&D professionals are keeping up with technological advances, keeping content engaging and relevant, finding the time and resources to implement L&D, measuring training effectiveness, ensuring the transfer of learning, and managing resistance to change.

Stefaniak and Ramsbott offered a few tips for how to handle each of these common L&D challenges:

How to keep up with technical advances in L&D

  • Stay up-to-date: Regularly research and integrate the latest L&D tools and trends.
  • Invest in training: Provide ongoing professional development for L&D professionals who lead your training efforts.
  • Innovate through pilot programs: Test new technology by launching small pilot programs.

How to make learning content engaging and relevant

  1. Refresh content regularly: Continuously update training content to keep it current.
  2. Real-world applications: Provide case studies and examples for how to integrate training content on the job.
  3. Leverage multimedia: Incorporate video and interactive elements to support knowledge acquisition.

How to handle time and resource constraints in L&D

  • Prioritize key objectives: Focus on the most critical skills and knowledge areas.
  • Plan for capacity building: Integrate L&D into strategic planning discussions to support overall organizational performance.
  • Leverage just-in-time training and microlearning: Implement short, focused learning materials that employees can digest quickly.

How to measure training effectiveness

  • Clear and obtainable metrics: Define clear, measurable objectives to measure training and workplace performance.
  • Track employee progression: Allow for time to track employee progress, as well as time for employees to actually apply their newly acquired training.

How to ensure transfer of learning

  • Practice: Incorporate opportunities for employees to engage in deliberate practice.
  • On-the-job training: Provide opportunities for employees to apply new skill skills.
  • Support employees with just-in-time training: Provide employees with resources they can access on the job.
  • Leverage microlearning: Reinforce important concepts and new skills through easily digestible nuggets of information.

How to manage resistance to change

  • Clear communication: Clearly explain the benefits and goals of L&D initiatives within the organization.
  • Involve stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders to gain buy-in.
  • Positive reinforcement: Recognize and reward employees who embrace new learning initiatives.

Using Gilbert’s Behavioral Engineering Model (BEM) in L&D

Gilbert’s Behavioral Engineering Model (BEM) is a framework that helps identify and address performance issues by examining various environmental and individual factors that influence behavior.

According to Stefaniak and Ramsbott, applying this model within an L&D program can enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and ease of learning in several ways:

  1. Environmental Supports

  • Information: Ensure employees have clear, relevant, and timely information about what is expected of them. This includes detailed job descriptions, performance metrics, and access to resources. In L&D, this translates to well-defined learning objectives, transparent assessment criteria, and comprehensive course materials.
  • Instruments: Provide the necessary tools and resources to perform tasks efficiently. In a corporate L&D setting, this might involve ensuring learners have access to up-to-date technology, software, and any other materials needed to complete their training. When an employee participates in a company training on a new software, then goes back to their workstation and discovers they only have access to the previous version of the software, that’s an example of lacking environmental support.
  • Incentives: Establish a system of rewards and recognition that motivates employees to engage in learning activities. This can include monetary rewards, career advancement opportunities, or public recognition for completing training programs or achieving high scores. Gamification features like leaderboards and shareable certificates are a good example of a learning incentive.
  1. Personal Factors

  • Knowledge: Assess and address the knowledge gaps that employees have. This involves pre-training assessments to tailor programs to individual needs, and continuous feedback mechanisms to help learners understand their progress and areas needing improvement.
  • Capacity: Recognize individual differences in capabilities and provide support accordingly. Some employees may need additional time or alternative learning methods to grasp certain concepts. L&D programs should be designed to accommodate different learning needs.
  • Motives: Understand and align training with the personal goals and motivations of employees. This requires identifying what drives individual employees and incorporating elements that satisfy these motives, such as linking training outcomes to personal career goals or interests.

Integrating the Three E’s into L&D Strategy

How can L&D professionals leverage the frameworks discussed above, to make learning more effective and efficient, while easing the learning process? Stefaniak and Ramsbott provided a few suggestions for making the “three E’s” a reality within a learning organization:

  1. Conduct a learning assessment: A thorough needs analyses identifies gaps in performance and learning needs. It can also help L&D professionals more systematically evaluate both environmental and individual factors affecting performance. Stefaniak and Ramsbott advise that needs assessments should:
  • Ensure that we are addressing the right problem
  • Address recurring performance problems in our organizations
  • Identify strategies to improve the quality of existing organizational practices and initiatives
  • Identify opportunities for growth and expansion
  1. Customize learning paths: Develop tailored learning paths that consider individual capacities and knowledge levels. Use pre-assessments to place employees in appropriate learning modules and adjust content delivery based on their progress.
  1. Foster a supportive learning environment: Create a supportive environment with clear information, necessary tools, and positive incentives. This might include a well-organized LMS, access to mentoring or coaching, and a robust system for feedback and rewards.
  1. Aim for continuous improvement: Implement continuous feedback loops and performance support systems to ensure learning is applied effectively on the job. Regularly update training materials based on feedback and changing job requirements.

By prioritizing the needs of learners, personalizing their learning experiences, making them feel supported, and consistently revisiting learning programs, Stefaniak and Ramsbott believe that L&D professionals and instructional designers will improve the alignment and impact of their training initiatives.

Regardless of your organization’s size or industry, viewing L&D through the “3 E’s” lens is an effective way to improve learning performance, engagement, and the efficiency of your L&D processes.