By Conrad Gottfredson, Ph.D., RwE
I invested ten years of my life preparing to enter the learning and development profession. I began that work in 1984 and have since been blessed to work closely with many hundreds of remarkable learning professionals across the globe. This work has given me an in-depth view of how organizations are and aren’t learning.
From this aged vantage point, I want to first celebrate how far we’ve come in our capacity to develop, deliver, and maintain stellar training. Never in the history of organizational learning have we been as accomplished in this beginning part of a broader work that we can and should be doing.
Here’s a life experience that illustrates how traditional training is necessary, but not the full scope of our profession’s mission and role:
Four years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic heart failure because of a defective heart valve. With this discovery, I began searching for the surgeon with the most successful experience over time to replace that valve. I wasn’t interested in a rookie. As I evaluated potential surgeons, the medical school where they received their initial training wasn’t even a consideration. I was interested in where they completed their residency, because that is where they gained their supervised experience. But most important to me was their actual real-world experience. I wanted to understand the surgeon’s (and their team’s) track record of success. I found the right surgeon, who was was backed by a highly experienced team, and my heart is now functioning better than any other time of my life.
Here’s the point of sharing this experience. Traditional approaches to training only begin the learning process. For physicians, that’s medical school—and that schooling is vital—but it is just the start of their journey to develop the expertise they need to be successful in the profession of medicine. The following graphic shows this journey, over time.
Developing expertise requires ongoing application of formal training in the workflow. Real learning is a continuous process that develops expertise through ongoing, effective job performance in ever-changing work environments. Please ponder this stunning reality!
I want to be absolutely clear: I am not criticizing the quality and value of traditional training solutions. As I’ve said, the current work in that area of organizational learning is stellar and vital. But the majority of today’s organizations are only scratching the surface when it comes to required experiential learning—within the actual workflow—that develops expertise.
This broader view of our work is what the 5 Moments of Need® framework is all about. The organizations we serve need our solutions to accelerate the development of greater expertise across their workforces. This shift to a broader mission and vision doesn’t require you to abandon the magnificent work you are already doing, and it doesn’t mean adding more hours to your already overburdened workload. It does require you to adopt a broader mindset and to smartly adjust design and development methodology to avoid swamping the ship.
Here’s the good news. There exists today a Workflow Learning & Performance Alliance whose growing members are pursuing this broader work. Here are some results from just one member:
- A global consulting firm transformed its onboarding program into a blended formal and workflow learning solution. Its traditional training approach originally required 30 days of intensive onboarding with significant oversight of new hires. On average, it took 18 months for new hires to become proficient in their work. By implementing a blended training and workflow learning solution, powered by a Digital Coach, classroom training time was reduced to 20 days and time to proficiency was reduced to 5 months. In addition, as new hires continue to demonstrate significantly greater productivity, they require about 30% less oversight.
This example is from just one of many organizations that have had the foresight to intentionally pursue the power and potential of workflow learning to complement their formal training programs. In the last ten years, we have observed a global shift from a training-only approach to one that addresses all that is required to intentionally accelerate the ongoing development of expertise. We are rapidly approaching a tipping point. We have the industry experience and strategic, tactical, and technical know-how to extend learning into the workflow. We can enable and sustain effective job performance in ever-changing work environments in a way that accelerates growth, amplifies productivity, and minimizes interruption of the work employees are hired to do. The future for all of us is bright!
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