Over the weekend, I was listening to a podcast about simplifying learning. The feeling was that we (as learning professionals) should be encouraging people to source their own learning, but making it easy for them to do that. Why do we put people on a full day Excel course when they just need to learn how to do two functions?
Of course, encouraging ‘just-in-time’ learning and making it easy to access is a brilliant thing for us to be doing: Agility in the workplace is increasingly important, and enabling people to learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it is a no-brainer.
What when we don’t know what we don’t know?
That’s when a formal workshop or course can be massively helpful.
People may enrol on a workshop or on-line course because there’s something specific they want to learn. However, this might only form 20% of the content. OK, maybe 20% of the rest of the content is irrelevant, and maybe they already know another 30%. That means 30% of the session is extra ‘bonus’ learning. Things they didn’t realise they needed to know, or is just helpful in other ways.
Case in point: A new manager may attend a performance management workshop because they don’t know how to conduct the annual appraisal interview. The workshop covers this (they got what they wanted), plus how to complete the paperwork (which they already knew, but it was good to be reassured they are doing it right). However, they also discover the value of regular one-to-ones, how to have a coaching conversation and how to give negative feedback – all things they were unaware of before the training.
If we’d left learning purely in the hands of the learner – they would have just looked into the performance review conversation. No harm in this of course, but what a missed opportunity!!
It happens all the time with my own IT skills: I generally call a friend when I need help unless it’s something other than a very straightforward matter, but she’s so knowledgeable and enthusiastic she ALWAYS shares more useful tips with me. So I learn more than I would have done otherwise.
Think about the difference between a server in a fast food outlet and the head waiter in smart restaurant: The fast food server can bring you what you want, quickly, efficiently and with a smile; the head waiter can do this too. They can also advise you about the food, take into account your specific requests, and make suggestions based on the season, your other choices, flavour combinations, previous diners, the chef’s recommendation, etc.
As we move away from traditional ways of working, of course learning and development must move with the times. Helping people learn how to learn and take responsibility for their own development is a very important part of our role. We need to offer ‘fast food’/learning on demand and with a smile. But surely, if that’s all we do, what’s the point in having a specialist L&D team? L&D professionals should be acting as the head waiter/chef: ensuring that what’s on offer is the best it can be, educating people about what’s available, making recommendations and broadening their experience, and providing learning people don’t always realise they need, AS WELL AS delivering it efficiently and with a smile.