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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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Who needs to be involved in the learning experience?

Training one person isn’t going to solve your skills problems. For learning to be effective, you need their manager and peers involved.
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Many organisations are aware that investment in learning is crucial to innovation and growth, but what they don’t understand is that simply sending certain employees on a course or offering them coaching and hoping for the best won’t be enough. For learning to be truly effective, it has to be applied – and this requires the cooperation of everyone in the team.

Team members and their managers should be using learning-based questions on a daily basis to support the identification of learning which has taken place and also to identify learning needs...
Dr. Ina Weinbauer-Heidel identified 12 levers of transfer effectiveness, which have huge relevance to this discussion. In it, she explained that the transfer of learning into the workplace is impacted by the trainees, the training designers and the organisation. She breaks these areas down into the 12 levers, which include not only the learner's motivation to participate in the learning, but also their desire to implement their learning in the workplace. This sits alongside the learning designer’s clarity of purpose and, importantly, support from peers and supervisors for the individual who is coming back into the workplace with new skills and knowledge to apply. (It’s worth reading this article she wrote on transfer effectiveness for more insight on this). So how do we, as trainers, get both employees and their managers involved in learning? In this article, I’ll revisit some ideas about pre- and post-learning activities, and discuss how we can create cultures where learning is as much a feature of day-to-day conversation as KPTs and KPIs. It’s worth considering how we can embrace both human-based and technology-based solutions here.

Ask the right questions

I’ve talked about using questions in previous articles. For me, questions are so important to prompt thinking and generate resilient, self-driven employees. I strongly advocate that team members and their managers should be using learning-based questions on a daily basis to support the identification of learning which has taken place and also to identify learning needs and highlight learning opportunities. These questions don’t need to include the L-word! Questions can focus on challenges, problem-solving, strengths and successes; they can lead to insights about the next steps for development and ideas to achieve these steps.

Encourage journaling

We know that learning happens every day. I believe that individuals should have the chance to reflect on this and record it in ways that suit them.  I find that most people don’t get very excited when I mention CPD plans and learning logs to them! I wonder, therefore, what we can do to make these concepts feel more personal, current and relevant? I see much discussion about ‘living your best life’ and using different forms of journaling and perhaps L&D professionals might be able to use these concepts to engage team members in capturing their goals, identifying what they want/need to learn and recording their progress. To what extent is it possible to give individuals access to a range of tools such as physical productivity planners/journals as well as online tools so that they can choose the method that will allow them to create their own CPD habits?

One-to-one sessions

I love to hear about the ‘how are things going?’ conversations which then uncover learnings and ideas for ‘even better next time’. I am utterly convinced that one-to-one conversations, whether virtual or in person, are a vital communication and management tool which not only support productivity, but also wellbeing and development. Team members and their managers should feel that these individual-focused conversations are as important as the conversation about the to-do list and the weekly targets.

Focus on implementation

When individuals are about to embark on some formal learning, whether that’s self-paced or trainer-led, it should be normal practice to book time into their manager’s diary to have a focused conversation about the learning objectives and the outcomes that will be expected. This is the time when the individual and their manager can begin to discuss how the learning will be implemented. This is not only about scheduling a presentation to the team of what they’ve covered (although this can be a good way to consolidate and share), but also discussions about how the learning is going to make a difference at individual, team and organisational levels. Learning implementation should be planned. Individuals should have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills as soon as possible so that they don’t fade and get lost in the return to the day job.

Encourage a culture of curiosity

Since learning is about change and growth, there is often resistance from those around the individual when they try to put learning into practice. It’s the ‘you’ve been on a course, it’s ok, you’ll get over it’ syndrome. In my ideal world, where learning is as important as the morning caffeine-top up (non-caffeinated drinks are, of course, available!), team members would ask each other about their workshops, courses, coaching and job shadowing. The questions they would be asking would include:
  • What did you cover?
  • What were you hoping to get from the course, coaching, etc.?
  • What did you get?
  • What are you going to do with it now?
  • What plans have you got?
Finally the key question:
  • How can we help you to achieve your plans?
In conclusion, the quick answer to my question ‘who needs to be involved in the learning experience?’ is: everyone! This includes the individual team member, their manager, their peers and their wider network. If we can achieve this, I believe that investment in learning will see a much swifter ROI and will make the biggest difference possible. For me, this is at the core of creating a learning culture. Interested in this topic? Read The 'learning culture' debate: is the term still valid in today's climate?

One Response

  1. Jackie,

    I believe wholeheartedly in asking those learning-based questions. I have personally seen the power of one-on-one conversations on developing the team. More importantly, on helping team members develop personalized learning plans to help them grow into leaders themselves. Those conversations can help bring forth areas of development for the entire department if approached correctly.

    Interestingly I have never thought of using journaling as a team to create learning logs for each individual. These would pair great with one-on-one to help them develop and grow how they want to grow and make sure the team is progressing at a similar route.

    I have used one-on-one’s with team members by having them complete a self-assessment of how they believe they are growing compared to previous set goals by them and management. I then compare that assessment with one that I have completed seeing how they see their growth compared to how I see it.

    This method has helped me open up and uncover deeper motivators to help each team member develop and want to grow. What else would you suggest I add to this routine?

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Jackie Clifford


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