Spokane Journal of Business

Strong organizations embrace workplace learning

Education programming can have lasting impact for workers, employers

  • Print Article

Strong, highly functioning organizations understand the importance of investing in quality learning and development opportunities. If you want to improve and grow, it’s critical to understand how to best select, design, and deliver education programming that will have a significant and lasting impact.

There are tremendous benefits to adopting a philosophy of continuous improvement. An understanding of the best processes, practices, and procedures for selecting, developing, and delivering educational programming and training to your employees is critical.

Here are six steps to a successful workplace learning program. 

1. Understand and embrace the value of ongoing and continuous improvement. Success begins with your organizational culture, philosophy, values, and mindset.

Ultimately, organizations have to decide that a dedication to ongoing learning and growth is a priority. There are sound business and financial reasons related to engagement, productivity, and retention for developing and embracing these best practices. These benefits are well-documented and outlined in scholarly works on the subject.

2. Lay the groundwork. Change is never easy, and preparing for it ahead of time will help make transitions much smoother.

Develop programming in a way that reflects your vision, goals, and mission. There is always something to gain from an educational experience, but in order to position yourself for the best possible results, you want to take thoughtful, appropriate steps to prepare.

Begin by fully engaging leadership. Make sure leadership is invested in the programs being on-boarded. Leadership needs to demonstrate its commitment by playing an active role. Observing a demonstration of the importance, and the individuals in leadership roles communicating the value ahead of time, will allow participants to feel supported and better engage and absorb.

Reach out to employees to gather insight and get buy-in. Conduct a formal or informal needs assessment that helps uncover what employees want and what they feel they need to learn. This employee feedback is critical to investing in the right areas for further development. Balance employee needs with the organization’s plans for growth.

3. Understand adult learners. Once you have embraced the value and built a solid foundation, it’s time to make sure you understand the complexities of your staff.

When you take some time to understand the mindset of adult learners, you are better prepared to meet their needs and introduce programs that will resonate with them. This allows for long-term comprehension and productive application.

Workplace training programs, whether they are developed in-house or by an external resource, will be much more effective if the following principles, drawn from the discoveries of David Kolb, Neil Fleming, Malcolm Knowles, and other educational researchers, are incorporated into the training materials and delivery—as applicable—so that training works with, and not against, the basic nature of the adult learner. Adult learners positively respond to the following:

•Respect for the knowledge and experience that participants bring to the table.

•A format or facilitation process that encourages participants to share their knowledge and experience freely.

•Content that focuses on real-life situations, addresses immediate problems, and offers direct applicability to their professional roles.

•A learner-centered approach to program delivery that incorporates active involvement by participants in the learning experience, with instructors serving as facilitators and technological tools functioning as enablers and resources.

•A conscious effort on the part of facilitators and course developers to meet the needs of participants with varying learning styles.

4. Partner with the right resources. When working with outside firms, trainers, and consultants, make sure they understand the working values of your organization.

Implement programs that reflect those values. You want to be sure to properly vet potential partners. The relationship between consultants should be built on mutual respect and common goals. Be leery of outside individuals wanting to jump in and “train” without fully understanding your organization and its values. The best partner understands your organization thoroughly before making recommendations and providing services.

5. Build in flexibility. Flexibility is seen as a sign of health. This is especially true in learning and development.

When developing learning opportunities for staff, examine ways to offer those opportunities in multiple formats. Consider whether the content can be successfully delivered virtually or in a hybrid format. Is it something that would be a successful learning experience if it were self-directed, or is this material best delivered in a live, classroom experience?

Given the tumultuous circumstances in our world and how they filter into the workplace, have contingency plans. A pandemic surge may mean a scheduled in-person training is no longer an option. Have a backup plan so that the learner can still access the development opportunity.

6. Commit to reinforcement. Understand that when the training is complete, the real work begins.

In order to maximize value, the information needs to be consistently reinforced—activities, exercises, discussions. Elements of reinforcement should be built into the learning opportunity. Have a plan in place to measure effectiveness and adjust according to the results. Learning programs are a dynamic force for continuous improvement that need to be altered, amended, and upgraded.

There are many variables in the wider economic and competitive environment that organizations can’t control. However, organizations that are dedicated to the values of continuous improvement and growth show results that are well above the average. When adapted, these values positively permeate every aspect of an organization.

Embracing the value of ongoing learning, preparing for, and embracing change, understanding your employees as learners, partnering with the right resources, and committing to reinforcing the process is the formula for maximizing your training investment.

  • René Johnston

  • Follow RSS feed for René Johnston

Read More

Sign up for our E-mail updates

including the
Morning Edition

Join our list