Learning leaders can make sure learning is taken from the classroom to the boardroom by planning carefully and making use of external resources.
“We in the learning and training development field tend to focus too much on the event and we let [learners] go when they graduate from our experience,” said Dave Basarab, founder of V.A.L.E. Consulting, a training consulting group. “We don’t think beyond the event.”
Basarab said despite learning leaders’ efforts, the techniques being taught in most corporate learning programs aren’t being successfully transferred to on-the-job experiences.
“The idea is that from a training and development perspective, that’s just the starting point of the race,” Basarab said. “There’s got to be a new finish line that the learning and training development professionals and organizations need to think of. Six, nine, 18 months after people have come through our courseware, have they actually made a difference? What can we do?”
Learning must be thought of as a continuum. It starts off with designing the program, where learning leaders must decide what expectation they have of participants based on the course design.
“What do we want people to adopt?” Basarab asked. “We want to make sure our objectives and our content are supportive of adoptive behaviors.”
But reality should guide the design. “You want to design the course so that it mirrors the real-world environment,” Basarab said. “You need to be sure whatever you’re debriefing, practicing [or] doing in the training session is clearly tied to the workplace and demonstrates how the skills can be used.”
Just how can leaders make learning more realistic? Basarab said one way of doing so is by action mapping.
“You want people to draw up their own personal transfer plan,” Basarab said. In it, employees examine what aspects of their workplace will enable the knowledge they gained and point out inhibitors.
“What are the strategies that can reduce [inhibitors] or even eliminate them?” Basarab asked.
With one of V.A.L.E. Consulting’s clients, Basarab has begun a series of virtual retreats with a cohort of learners.
After an initial learning experience, each student logs on every two months for an hour via a webinar. The webinar is facilitated by the teacher and students submit their successes to be discussed as a group.
“Over the year’s time, their application and proficiency with coaching upped and upped,” Basarab said.
With any new learning techniques comes a question of budgeting. But according to Basarab, many techniques don’t require extra money, just extra time; and some of the cheapest methods have a large payoff.
Bud Kulesza, dean emeritus for the Institute of Management Accountants Leadership Academy, which teaches financing and accounting professionals, said there are resources companies can take advantage of that enable learning and do not require any more from the budget.
“Oftentimes everyone — both employees and the folks that are in the training session — overlooks the fact that many of our employees are members of organizations as part of what they believe to be good practice in terms of continuous learning, and yet they don’t utilize those assets,” Kulesza said.
For example, industry-focused organizations offer employees learning opportunities to gain technical and leadership skills. Memberships in such organizations are often paid for by the company on behalf of the employee.
“You often overlook them because they’re an intrinsic part of your membership dues,” Kulesza said. “You pay for them and yet they’re not fully utilized.”
Learning leaders can make employees aware of where and when such opportunities are available and see them through to completion via the learning process.
“They’re a resource every bit as much as if I had an in-house trainer,” Kulesza said.
Kulesza said a company has an obligation to transfer any knowledge gained toward its own ends — even if that knowledge was gained externally.
“You can’t leave it up to chance or serendipity,” Kulesza said. “If you’re not providing the training, you have to provide at least a vehicle where you know what training people are getting. Then, it’s an obligation between the employee and the employer to literally integrate that into their job.” Kulesza said opportunities to utilize the new skills have to be created.
“There is absolutely no magic bullet for this,” Basarab said. “I don’t have it. No one has it. However, careful thought and planning [provide] the opportunity to increase [transfer].”
Natalie Morera is an associate editor at Chief Learning Officer. She can be reached at nmorera@CLOmedia.com.