Knowledge, skills and motivation can be acquired and discouraged in many ways in an organization. In most instances, this occurs outside the L&D function. All three must work in concert for learning to occur. For example, micro-learning is 2016's buzz word. We are motivated to use micro-learning ourselves, quickly looking things up in the moment on Google. Just-Enough and Just-In-Time are good solutions for knowledge, but less useful for skill and minimally influential for motivation. Clearly, micro-learning cannot be the only tool in the box for performance change. For example, you might be looking up how to change a tire on YouTube or Google. If you don't have the skills to change a tire (for example, enough upper body strength to get the lug nuts off) or you're afraid of putting your car up on a jack (motivation), the micro-learning won't create performance improvement. Skills and motivation are missing. A five-module online e-learning program on changing a tire would have the same barrier to success. Best solution? Your parent helps you practice in the garage, teaching you to loosen the lug nuts when they are too tight. This is basically instructor led training (ILT) or coaching. It might even be more effective if one of those videos was watched first. Skills, knowledge and motivation combined create learning.
I love learning new things and most of them don't change my behavior much. In business, we must not stop at learning. To be clear: Training (any mode) does not guarantee learning, and learning does not guarantee performance.
Skills and knowledge are required to drive performance change but motivation is the hardest and largest influence. This is where metrics are extremely appropriate. Understanding the context of a learning intervention (the why?) helps, but the biggest motivator is a leader who prioritizes and models the time to learn; and aligns the expected performance with the need of the business through coaching, mentoring and specific feedback. This is hard and rare.
In the recent excellent e-book Report: The State of Learning and Development in 2016, by Jennifer Hofmann,Insync Training, and Brad Thurber, Mimeo, their well-written research shows that companies are not following through to drive performance. I have marked their research in yellow throughout this newsletter. Here is some of what they found in their research of 500+ companies earlier this year:
- Face to face classroom learning is still the most popular mode of training, with 94% of L&D teams using it. Virtual training (instructor and self-led) is on the rise.
- The most overrated learning modalities are online games and face-to-face learning. (note: 94% are using these methods).
- Only 3% of L&D use solely virtual training methods.
- Only 9% of the successful L&D programs use standardized methods for measuring their success.
In a meeting similar to this, I was putting my tools away and was privy to a side conversation between two of my more engaged learners. The discussion was work related and within minutes, both were screaming at each other with various words not printable here. Excuse me!? What just happened? We get what we accept. Clearly, this was not the first time these two had spoken like this to each other. The next morning (another session, same team), I explained what I saw and asked them to write letters to every other person in the group with what they valued and needed. It was a tough morning, but the deep discussion influenced future performance. Notice that this moved deeply into motivation; knowledge and skills were not big parts of this problem.
The biggest influence, though, had little to do with me. In this case, the leader of this team was in the sessions and reinforced the promises made going forward. The team agreed to hold each other accountable for behaviors, and they self-regulated well. Here lies the dirty secret of training- performance will not change unless bosses and peers recognize, encourage, and demand the performance.
If this does not occur, you’ve acquired another pile of skills and knowledge without purpose. There's the highest cost- the people in this team now know all too well that no one is serious at this company about performance change. They're all going to keep going through the motions, pretending that training helps and knowing that nothing will ever change. Guess what they'll put on their engagement survey? Successful learning that drives performance, supported by leadership, drives engagement. One-off training, disconnected from real problems and accountability kills engagement.
In our Project Management, Leadership, and Team learning interventions, we are careful to tell the terrible truth to our learners. We emphasize that it's likely that no one will ask them what they've learned or expect them to use any of the skills and knowledge they've practiced and acquired. In fact, often their leaders tell them "You know what, could you wait on doing that new leadership thing? We're just too busy now…" Our hope is that if we prepare our learners for this reality, they will still use the tools and processes all by themselves to make their life easier. Team adoption is awesome, but I want our learners to go alone if they must.