During my high school, college, and grad school days, I remember being forced to listen to, read about, and memorize information that didn’t interest me in the least.
All I knew is that I had to do well on the test because I needed a good grade in the class because that would somehow be a factor in whether I would lead a happy life.
Based on this belief, I worked hard. I took a business law course for my MBA program. There were three exams. I had the class’s highest score on all three. I know because the teacher posted the distribution of scores.
In the wake of my great success, I remember two things from this course I aced—the term promissory estoppel and that there were four conditions that had to be met in order for it to exist. Of course, I don’t remember what those four are. What a waste of time and money.
I did well in school, but wouldn’t say I enjoyed learning. These days I would claim that I love learning. So what’s changed?
Back then, someone told me what I had to learn. Now I get to decide what I want to learn.
Back then, someone decided when and how I learned. Now I learn on my terms.
Back then, I had to do a bunch of make-work to fill the time. Now I do just enough to satisfy the need I have.
Back then it seemed that I had no choice. Now I have all the choices in the world.
Employee Training Needs a Change
For more than 20 years I’ve led employee workshops. More times than not these were for employees who were told they must attend. I pushed out the information I was told to deliver. I told them to put this information to good use, knowing that most won’t.
The employee development model is messed up, and I’ve been part of the problem. It’s too closely aligned with the model I didn’t like when I was in school. It’s time to reinvent learning at work.
The Learning Principles
I don’t claim to have all the solutions, but will suggest some principles:
- Need based. Your employees will seek out a solution to a need. If they don’t recognize the need, you will find a way to convince them they have it. Only then will they be open to learning.
- Just in time. Your employees are busy. They would likely claim they don’t have time to fit more information into their heads until right when they need it. At that point, they want access to solutions that will help them get where they need to go.
- No fluff. Your employees want to cut to the chase. Background theories and nice-to-know information might be interesting, but not for busy people. Teach them only what they need to solve their problems. If they are interested in the extras, they’ll pursue that on their own.
- Short. It should not take a minute longer than required to get them what they need.
Be Part of the Solution
So let’s do something about it. For my part, I’m developing a fresh, new employee development approach that I think better meets these principles. If you are interested in talking about my project, your feedback would help me get it right. Send me a note.
Your part is to advocate for more effective employee skill development approaches. Significant organizational change always requires a champion. I vote for you.
Image credit: velcrO