What Does “Good” Look Like? The 3 Elements Necessary for a Successful Learning Environment
The best learning environments are the ones:
- Where learners have access to all courses, on a range of platforms, whenever they want them
- That capture social, formal and experiential learning
- Where there is a culture of supporting learning and a well-publicized organizational aim to identify and nurture innovation and talent
- Where learning is considered a journey, not a single experience, which starts when you join the organization and continues throughout your career
How do you develop this learning environment? Richard Branson’s approach is to “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” There are three elements that are necessary for success.
1. Identifying and Growing Talent
Talent can be found in all sorts of places within your organization, and you should make an effort to identify and grow it, within the boundaries of business units, service lines or job roles. Here are some tools:
- Badging is a trend with many uses, ranging from being a reward mechanism to making colleagues aware of experts. With badges, employees can receive instant recognition for achievements, and organizations can create an evidence-based record and raise peer awareness.
- Communities of interest (COIs) can easily be set up virtually or in person to bring together like-minded staff. COIs are vital in identifying, nurturing and promoting innovation in your workforce without being led at the organizational level.
- Tangible rewards include cash payments, promotion or gifts, while intangible rewards include nominations, awards or even a simple “thank you.” Make sure your rewards are commensurate with the level of training completed. Rewards also assist in helping people want to do training, rather than feeling that they have to.
2. Nurturing Innovation
You may already use “Dragon’s Den” events as innovation awards schemes, but are you also harnessing learning concepts? Develop ideas, predictions, process and product improvements, and thought leadership as part of your organizational culture. Here are some recommendations:
- All staff should have the opportunity to access learning across all subjects, on a platform of their choosing, at a time and location they desire. Whether you use SaaS or an on-premise LMS, make sure your platform can transform content for all devices, with offline learning and collaboration tools as a standard.
- Employees should have unfettered access to self-managed learning. Why shouldn’t someone train to be a project manager when he or she works in HR? It’s a transferrable skill, so it benefits the employee and the organization.
- Invest in technology. What’s shiny is not necessarily what’s best. Your technology investment strategy should consider technology that is social, convergent, and cognitive but, above all, appropriate, engaging, flexible, and disruptive.
3. Being Employee-Centric
Learning events should be captured, monitored and rewarded. They should be employee-centric and targeted, with a view to reduce training overhead through knowledge of delivery methods. It’s not just about saving money but about working smarter to reduce overhead, cut time away from work, engage the employee and ensure work/life balanced. Here are some tools:
- Adaptive learning is not a new concept, but its power is incredible. For the learner and the organization, there is no greater personalization than being able to deliver bespoke training curricula that react in real time to course progression and assessment. The learner acquires the right depth of knowledge in a timeframe that meets their needs. The organization can speed up the time for employees to reach the required level of training and have staff at the same skill level, even if it takes a little longer.
- Whatever the delivery method you use, make it short using microlearning. Three-minute videos, five-minute e-learning modules and 15-minute webinars should be the norm. The ability to dip in and out of training encourages staff to start.
- If the material isn’t engaging, then it’s unlikely learning will take place. Consider gamification instead of training and video instead of e-learning. Think about what would make you want to start, finish and continue to learn about a topic. Staff will get the most out of learning if they want to do it.
It’s reported that an increase in learning effectiveness can lead to a rise in engagement and benefits at a corporate level. According to a 2017 report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development and Towards Maturity, those benefits include “performance, profitability, sustainability and customer satisfaction.”
Whatever your company does, or however many employees you have, consider these tips. If you’re not already using them, reflect what your organization could become if you did.
Toby Barnard, MSc, BEng(Hons), PGCE, is an associate partner in IBM’s Talent and Engagement Team and leads IBM’s Talent Development and Optimization Practice for Europe.