Why It Is Critical To Design For The Entire Learning Experience — Not Just The Classroom Experience
In a COVID world leaders need to remain cool under pressure, cooler than ever before while at the same time there is exponentially more stress. They are more distanced from their teams, yet they’re called on to create greater connection. There is an enormous need for clarity at a time where there’s more uncertainty. People need more from their leaders today at a time where leaders have less to give.
Leaders are being asked to raise the bar and be more things to more people when they have less capacity to give to learning just how to do or be all of that’s required of them. Leaders no longer have time to sit in multi-day, or multi-hour learning programs. They need what they need, at the time they need it. This creates a dilemma for learning professionals. We must think differently. To make learning sticky, usable, and impactful we must design for the entire learning experience, not just the classroom experience. And that means be clear on what’s critical. Build learning so behaviours can be applied one at a time, over time, and build a system that reinforces learning in the flow of work.
Script the critical moves
As a learning professional one of the most critical roles we play is creating simplicity out of complexity. We need to create clarity of expectations. I don’t just mean point to the destination, like ‘aim strengths at performance’. As a learning outcome, you need to script the critical moves. Tell people how to get there, what actions to take and what habits to build.
So when you say ‘aim strengths at performance’ that means:
- Know the strengths of your team
- Notice them in action
- Nudge them towards performance.
Critical moves. Three of them. And that’s how you get there.
Space the learning
Whilst COVID has completely disrupted how we work, I believe it has moved learning forward 20 years and I don’t think we’ll go back. Learning in a remote format demands attention. It means we’ve had to chunk learning delivery into bite size pieces and as it turns out, the results are better. If we want learning to stick in a world of constant disruption, get rid of one day or multi-day learning events. And design short sessions, spaced across time, that build in the ability for people to apply learnings one at a time, over time.
To use the example of coaching, consider breaking down the key modules or behaviours required (the critical moves) allowing learners to apply one learning at a time, over time. You’ll see in this example there are three opportunities to practice what is often the most challenging skill — listening deeply.
One learning at a time. Over time. Make it simple, clear & easy to apply.
Build the system
If we spend longer designing what happens in the classroom than we do designing what happens out of the classroom, then our ratios are wrong. We need to invest time designing the system to make learning applications stick. Make it feel like you’re running downhill, with the wind at your back, with signs along the way. Make it feel easy for the end user. Now, don’t get me wrong, designing simple and easy is anything but simple and easy. However learners demand it, and if we want to make learning impactful, we all need to rise to the challenge.
The question should be how can you build learning into the flow of work? How can you create the social system, the technology or the environmental system that makes it easy to apply?
As one simple example, change your structure of learners. Move from mixed cohorts to intact teams. You instantly create the social system to support learning application. When users go back to their day jobs, they have the social capital and support to experiment with the learning.
Consider technology, how can apps or websites support the learning experience. Keep the same example going with a strengths program. At SEEK we built ‘learning plays’ designed for leaders to access learning where the work happens. If leaders need to change or lift their current conversations, we’ve built ‘plays’ they can find for the specific conversations they need to have e.g. how to nudge strengths towards performance using feedback, or in performance conversation, or weekly check ins.
Plays. Designed for application. Built into the system. Where the work happens.
The impact? In one example we ran a coaching program over 9 months. Every six weeks the leaders would come back to extend and refine their skills for nine straight months. The results? We started with just 53% of our people being coached regularly and moved the dial to 91%. Want to know how we went with strengths? Stay tuned, it’s early days but the indicators are looking good!
What’s your experience? I’d love to know what you’re experimenting with?