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Becky Norman


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Interview: putting learning application at the heart of your L&D strategy


Without focusing on the end result of performance, your learning solutions will hamper the development of your employees and raise questions among stakeholders. We spoke to Ron Edwards, Head of Learning Solutions at Ashorne Hill, about how to change this approach and create exceptional learning journeys that deliver business results.

Is learning application an area in which L&D is currently thriving or falling short?

There is room for improvement as so many learning providers (online, classroom and/or blended) are focused on delivering content rather than directing and supporting application during the learning process.

Internal L&D teams can be just as focused on delivery and often do a good job relating the new knowledge to where it should be applied. But while this does help, application can become lost after the course has ended.

Maintaining momentum back in the workplace is often hard, which is why really effective performance support materials at the point of need work well.  

How can L&D practitioners get stakeholders on board with investing more in learning application?

Engaging a learner’s line manager at the start of a learning journey is key to helping them understand what to observe, discuss and reinforce. In turn, managers can also play a role in supporting specific projects selected to apply new skills and performing roles, providing feedback and project / outcome approval where appropriate.

This helps build a culture of learning through visible recognition of applying skills learned on programmes and doing work that needs to be done, which benefits the enterprise.

Collating the amount of cost savings or new business opportunities identified provides a tangible and visible ROI indicator – which is always a win in getting stakeholder support.

How important is collaborative, social learning for achieving effective learning transfer?

Social learning beyond the classroom can be a significant source of motivation to ‘keep up’ by trying new skills and sharing them online, thereby raising the visibility of both organisational importance and positive outcomes.

It can also help identify barriers to working differently, which, if addressed, can further help behavioural change.

Can you outline some of the essentials to transforming a learning experience into performance impact?

An effective learning experience design process involves beginning with the end in mind  – the end being performance. It also ensures the learning process is joined up to provide exercises to apply new knowledge on the job throughout the process, not just at the end.

Performance support that takes place after formal learning journeys is often overlooked or under resourced. But it is critical to helping in the moments of need because we can’t keep everything we learn in our heads nor carry course materials everywhere.

How can we identify whether the performance of an employee or team has improved as a result of a learning solution?

Observation works great when one knows what to look for. An exciting example of a line manager knowing what topics their new team leader is learning and seeing the change is in this YouTube video.

We encourage our delegates to share what they’re learning with their managers and often kick off learning journeys with induction webinars designed for both managers and their staff on programmes. This means that all are bought in, well informed and have an understanding of where application is expected in the journey.

Fosway’s interim results for its Digital Learning Realities research showed only 14% are effectively measuring the impact of learning, while around half are ineffectively doing so and a third not measuring impact at all. What challenges are we facing with learning analytics right now?

As a learning solutions provider, we sometimes find it challenging to gain agreement to study the impact of learning over time due to budgets often supporting training delivery only, without incorporating assessment and analysis.

Effective assessment requires resources many organisations don’t have to design and carry out. We help by building work-based projects into learning journeys that fit a minimum value threshold, making it easy to collate.

Our management and leadership apprenticeship programmes on the other hand have robust evidence tracking of new learning, but are still relatively new for organisations and thus haven’t yet been studied over time to assess impact.

The impact of learning analysis requires partnering across the business to measure changes in KPIs that matter most to an organisation e.g. profitability, innovation/new products, culture surveys, retention and promotion.

For great L&D leaders this is natural, but for many it is a work in progress.

For those who want to turn the dial on their learning transfer efforts, what three tips would you provide to help them get started?

  1. Build in work-based projects

  2. Engage line managers at the start of learning programmes

  3. Use performance coaches / provide performance support tools

To find out more about how to turn the dial on learning application, read Ashorne Hill’s whitepaper on transforming the ongoing actions of learners into business results.

One Response

  1. Another really interesting
    Another really interesting article as always Becky, thank you. I’ve just picked up The Knowing-Doing Gap by Pfeffer and Sutton which demonstrates building 8 key bridges from knowledge to performance so you shouldn’t need to evaluate L&D, brave and inspiring at the same time. Just need to sell it to time strapped managers in preparation for appraisals.

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Becky Norman

Managing Editor

Read more from Becky Norman

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