5 Truths You Can’t Change About Learning in the Workplace

Let’s be honest – a lot of organizations (most, in fact) play lip service to the concept of learning and development.  We say it’s important, but our spend per employee is a fraction of what’s reported by the Bersins of the world, our managers can’t generally make time to pull people off the floor/out of the field for L&D activities and worst of all – our employee base is a segmented freak show when it comes to ability and willingness to learn.

That’s why I come forward with these 5 truths you can’t change about learning in the workplace.  I was going to do 10 of these, but it was too much for the man (NatX reference intended).  So these 5 will have to do:

  1. Employees will tell you they want training, but most aren’t interested in learning.  Translation – training is an event that can be attended – it’s social and even fun at times and there’s generally not a lot of accountability related to your attendance.  Learning, however – well, that’s more about the individual and what gets applied.  To say employees love training but hate learning is fair and balanced, but in a different way than a one-on-one coaching session with Roger Aires at FOX News.
  2. People hate to role play.  When I say “hate”, I mean hate like the Hamas hates Israel (and vice versa, PC police) and Bill Belichick hates Roger Goodell.  I also love it when your Director-level employees don’t want to role play in leadership training.  You know, because they are “directors” and got this.
  3. If you’re going to tell me that L&D has to be delivered “just in time’ to the Youtube generation, you might want to make your LMS videos look more like what appears on YouTube. Which is to say a lot more cats, bloopers, rude human interactions and yes, grainy videos that make your employees feel like they’re watching something they shouldn’t have access to.  If you’re going to feature someone reading over slides, it at least should be a Kardashian doing the reading.
  4. If you don’t measure outcomes, why are we even doing this?  Any L&D engagement you sponsor should have a playbook related to what people are supposed to be able to do after the training is complete.  Most of you have that, but too often we make no attempt to measure what people actually got out of the training.  Meh – why bother if that’s the case?  You’re just checking off a box when you play it that way.
  5. Experimentation in the field is the responsibility of the employee when it comes to making L&D stick. This just in, the attendee/end user of your training is responsible for putting the new skills in play.  If they don’t do it, that’s on them.  But as preached in #4, it’s on you if you don’t try to measure whether they’ve experimented and made an effort to get better off what you’ve provided.
  6. (Bonus) The people most likely to experiment with new skills don’t even need your training – they’re already using the biggest LMS in the world – it’s called Google. But there has to be a festivus for the rest of us, and that’s why L&D exists.

The bottom 20% will never learn, the top 10% doesn’t need you to learn. It’s all about what you do with the middle 70% that dictates whether your L&D efforts are effective of not.

Put these truths into your plan, be cynical about the human condition and you have a shot.

FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at Meridian, who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our learning and development track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). They’re also up for having fun to the extent that they’re sponsoring the Learning and Development Hangout Series. Check it out!

FOT Background Check

Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.

One Comment

  1. Steve Madsen says:

    Finally, the truth is revealed! I’ve long known this to be very true as have the many leaders and practitioners of L&D/T&D/training. Perhaps the best is Robert Mager whose Six Rules of Training are still relevant today:

    The Six Rules of Training

    Rule #1: Training is appropriate only when two conditions are present:
    *There is something that one or more people don’t know how to do, and
    *They need to be able to do it.

    Rule #2: If they already know how to do it, more training won’t help.

    Rule #3: Skill alone is not enough to guarantee performance.

    Rule #4: You cannot store training.

    Rule #5: Trainers can guarantee skill, but they cannot guarantee on-the-job performance.

    Rule #6: Only managers, not trainers, can be held accountable for on-the-job performance.

    Managers are given so many metric-driven tasks that they cannot possibly have time to do what is most important to the performance of the enterprise – training!

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