When I was a student at University in a class on psychology I was taught State Dependent Learning. This says that whatever state a person learns in is the state where they will have the best memory recall. The example given: “If you study drunk then take the test drunk”. Yet in learning we often take the person out of their normal environment, place them in a classroom away from their work station, give them a bounty of information and expect them to execute on what we tell them back on the front lines. There are two fundamental issues with this strategy:
1) Most people that are required to attend training often walk into class with the perception that it has very little relation to their jobs. It’s an environment where these trainers “have never done it”. Many managers promulgate this negative perception through their comments and by not actively reinforcing the training.
2) People do not learn effectively when provided with too large a volume of information. Couple that with training departments that are rarely given ample time to train employees effectively. What you often find are trainers forced to present a lot of information in a very short period of time.
What is the solution to this training dilemma? The answer is that we need to change the way in which we deliver training, and the value that it has among the worker. Trainers know that when training you first tell them what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told them. We do this to place the emphasis on the key concepts and highlight the takeaways.
Bob Mosher in his blog post, The Tie That Binds states:
“The topics move from simple to complex throughout the experience.“
Meaning that in a formal training situation we build from small concepts to larger ones, the same way that they teach in elementary school. Schools have years to teach this way, trainers normally only have a few hours. But that is not how adults learn and if we want to maximize memory recall and achieve increased performance we need to provide training that mimics the environment in which they work. This is not to say that we can, or should do away with formal training, quite the contrary. What trainers can do is to follow up their formal learning with more informal learning.
Bob Mosher goes on to say:
“…we need to reconsider the positioning and design of our solutions outside of formal instruction.”
Informal learning has one distinct advantage over the formal. It takes place each day, in the work environment. It happens when a co-worker shows another how to do something or when a manager corrects an action of an employee.
The real question is how do we leverage these interactions?
The answer comes from technology and what seems like a natural forum for people to interact: The enterprise social network. Integrating training with an enterprise social network allows an organization to continue and to reinforce the training. The training department can continue learning with additional information through the use of blogs, wikis, and through the use of external links to pertinent information. They can pose questions to the participants and monitor the responses to check for learning and understanding. They can monitor the communications and comments from users to make certain that they are implementing the material correctly. An enterprise social network fosters communication throughout the organization increasing collaboration and learning.
Yesterday’s training strategies are being supplemented in most organizations by social learning, thanks to the availability and low cost of a social networking platform. Placing the learning squarely where employees feel most comfortable learning and where they learn at their own pace and from each other. Here, they can ask questions and can immediately and easily apply the new knowledge to their job. If you’re not making use of this technology at your organization, what are you waiting for- your competitors to go first?