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James Larter

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Four ways businesses can hardwire learning


Businesses often focus on engaging employees during training, but embedding learning should take centre stage. Find out how the L&D sector can help UK firms hardwire learning.

Digital technology has helped revolutionise learning and development. Not only has it brought new delivery methods and ways of engaging staff, such as online video content, webinars and even virtual reality, it is fundamentally shifting the balance of responsibility of learning from the employer towards the employee.

YouTube perhaps embodies this change best – you can find a ‘How to’ on just about anything. Clearly the quality is varied, but there are a surprising number of in-depth educational videos available and often dedicated to niche subjects.

Paid-for services, such as and SkillShare, take this concept even further by merging the interactivity and visual engagement video offers with a more structured framework and qualified lecturers or experts.

Embedding learning is the end goal and it’s up to the learning and development sector to help guide their clients in achieving this endeavour.

People vs. platforms

However, it’s absolutely crucial UK businesses don’t rely on platforms such as these, nor the eagerness of employees. We simply must continue to offer effective training in the workplace that can be applied in the real world and to make sure that training is hardwired.

Embedding learning is the end goal and it’s up to the learning and development sector to help guide their clients in achieving this endeavour.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are some key steps any business can take to move towards hardwiring learning. Here are four ways we can begin to ensure training at work is both engaging and effective.

1. Develop a strategy

It seems so obvious to us in the L&D sector, but many UK employers don’t have a strategy in place for training.

Depending on the brief from the client, we aren’t always able to directly influence this, but where possible we should aim to place embedded learning at the heart of any strategy.

Essentially we need to establish:

  • is there a training strategy?
  • is it aligned with the business objectives?
  • are the staff equipped to achieve those objectives?

Asking these types of questions provides an idea of what you have to work with, as well as beginning to shift how the client approaches training. Our role is then to support every training programme, so that the learning is effectively transferred back into the workplace.

Consider showing some example strategies you have developed in the past to debunk the myth that a strategy has to be a great tome - a simple sheet of A4 will do.

2. Make it personal

One of the first stages in hardwiring learning is to ensure it is personalised. This doesn’t mean a bespoke training programme for each individual, but making sure the programme fits the employee. If he or she can’t see the reason for the training, it’s unlikely to sink in.

An effective way of achieving this is by using interactive theatre techniques, such as forum theatre, to clearly demonstrate the need for learning. By experiencing how ‘not to do it’, individuals engage with the need to change and start to take ownership of finding appropriate solutions. It’s also key to get your clients’ line managers on board to enable a personalised training scheme, as they should know their teams best.

You can’t learn to swim by reading a book - individuals need to have the opportunity to practise - if they are to gain confidence, improve their skills and relate learning to their workplace

3. Make it real

There are still too many organisations that are offering great classroom-based training or engaging e-learning, but without sufficient thought to how the new skills will be used in real life.

It’s clear that the imbalance between enhancing knowledge and the ability to transfer that knowledge to the workplace needs to be addressed. With a greater focus on relating training to the actual workplace, we can continue to improve the working environment, productivity, worker skillsets and, ultimately, the bottom line of the business.

Drama-led training techniques, such as interactive theatre, real-play and hot seating are a great way to let employees explore and test out new skills. It’s a fantastic way to make the training relevant to the actual job.

After all you can’t learn to swim by reading a book - individuals need to have the opportunity to practise - if they are to gain confidence, improve their skills and relate learning to their workplace. The benefit of practice as an integral part of the training, means they can ‘trial run’ in a safe, consequence-free environment.

4. Reinforce it

It’s important to make sure the investment in training has a real effect on the business. To do this, training solutions simply must include opportunities for learners to practise their new-found skills and knowledge so they can ‘hardwire’ it.

The previous stages of learning - engage and explore – are crucial in this process, but it’s the final reinforcement stage where the learning is truly embedded and hardwired.

It’s not a one-off, either - continual reinforcement and practice is needed to ensure the learning actually becomes a learned behaviour.

In addition to real-life practice, allowing the learner to continue his or her development can also help reinforce the new-found skills. This is where blended learning and self-directed learning can have the most impact, alongside learning foundations already in place.

No time for complacency

With Brexit looming, the skills required to move the economy forward will increasingly be homegrown, so it’s an absolute necessity that UK businesses put the measures in place to enable this.

We must ensure we are not left lagging behind other economies and make sure the training is not lacklustre, half-baked or rushed.

Embedding learning is absolutely crucial to ensure training is effective, efficient and has a lasting impact on the staff and business.

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