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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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Back to L&D basics: How to create learning experiences that live on in the workplace

In part 3 of this L&D basics series, Jackie Clifford explores how we can deliver experiences where learning actually happens in ways that can be transferred back into the workplace.
L&D basics, mountain, nature, adventure

Most of us are familiar with the 70:20:10 model that describes the different arenas in which workplace learning takes place. Even where the ratios don’t play out in our organisations, it’s still worth considering that the majority of our learning at work takes place on the job.  This links back to Kolb’s learning cycle and the suggestion that we should go through four processes (and not necessarily in the order listed) so that we can truly embed learning. This is one way of looking at the cycle:

  1. Have an experience
  2. Reflect on the experience
  3. Make sense of the experience by linking it to concepts, ideas, theories, models and previous experiences 
  4. Experiment with new ideas and actions based on what you’ve learned
As we design and deliver off-job learning experiences, we should keep in mind the ultimate goal of transferring learning back into the workplace. Our learning offering needs to have an impact on individuals, teams and our organisations. 
To support our focus on desired learning results we can use a form of the ‘five whys’ technique.

L&D basics 1: Where do we start with transferring learning back into everyday work?

Firstly, we must consider learning needs. This piece of the puzzle is so important. If we don’t know what we are trying to achieve in terms of skills/knowledge development and behaviour change, we stand little chance of seeing significant, targeted transfer of learning.

The five whys of learning

To support our focus on desired learning results we can use a form of the ‘five whys’ technique by asking ourselves:
  1. Why are we doing this learning?
  2. Why are we inviting these specific participants?
  3. Why have we chosen this topic?
  4. Why would the participants be engaged with this learning?
  5. Why would the participants take their learning back into the workplace?

The ‘what’ of learning

We can also use ‘what’ to frame some questions:
  1. What are we hoping to achieve from this learning?
  2. What else?
  3. What else?
  4. What might it be possible to achieve from this learning?
  5. What else?
  6. What else?

The ‘how’ of learning

We would then follow-up the ‘what’ questions with some ‘how’ questions.
  1. How could we achieve this?
  2. How can we get even more from this experience?
  3. How can we ensure that the experience has an initial and a long-term impact?
  4. How can we encourage and support participants to implement their learning?
  5. How will we measure the impact of this learning?

L&D basics 2: What does this reflective process look like in practice?

For example, we might have decided that we’d like to run a team-building event and we’ve chosen to do this by building a workplace choir. As we explore the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of the event, we will uncover different levels of impact that we want to achieve. At the first level, we might be looking to provide a different way for team members to interact with each other. We might want to demonstrate to team members that their managers and senior leaders are human.  At the next level we could be looking to have a positive impact on wellbeing (singing has proven benefits for mental and physical health). As we delve deeper, we might realise that, by bringing our team together in a different way, we are building social capital for our organisation And as we reflect on the impact for individuals, we could see that it is possible to build psychological safety, motivation, confidence and emotional intelligence by this learning method.  Once we have reflected on all the possible ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ we can go on to consider the different aspects of ‘how’. Carrying on with the workplace choir example, providing the experience itself will work towards achieving all the goals listed. If we put a bit of work around the experience we can increase the chance of having a deeper impact on workplace performance.
No experience should be seen in isolation if we want it to have a real impact on workplace performance. 

L&D basics 3: How can we enhance the impact of learning on work performance?

Here are a few L&D tactics that will deepen the impact:
  • Briefing everyone before the event about what we want participants to achieve from it
  • Supporting dialogue between line managers and participants about the potential impact of the event by providing a framework for a pre- and post-event discussion 
  • Including some facilitated activities before, during and after the event, such as:
    • Personality profiles and other self-awareness questionnaires 
    • Exploration of relevant models which might include team dynamics and leadership
    • Sharing articles and other material relating to the benefits of singing and the links between those benefits and workplace performance
    • Reflection exercises to give participants the opportunity to consider what they have learned about themselves and each other
    • Action planning exercises where participants have the opportunity to not only reflect on what they might apply in their role, but also plan for that application
    • Sharing pictures and videos of the event as a reminder and memory-jogger of what took place, which will in turn trigger memories of what was learned and the actions planned
All of this activity should be delivered lightly so that the fun element of the experience is not lost. Having said this, if we want the learning event to provide long-term value, the activities should be seen as an important part of the overall event so that a real impact can be felt.

Look at the bigger picture of your learning interventions

The overarching message to takeaway is that we need to see any learning event as part of a bigger picture. No experience should be seen in isolation if we want it to have a real impact on workplace performance.  We need to build frameworks and structures to make it easy for participants and their line managers to discuss and plan for learning transfer. We must also ensure that these are grounded in the language of the business rather than the language of L&D. This is L&D basics and we need to make it happen. Interested in this topic? Read Why it’s time to reconnect with the fundamentals of L&D  

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Jackie Clifford


Read more from Jackie Clifford

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