October 30, 2018

Reinventing learning in your organisation

Learning is central to the human experience and to the very survival of our species. All the life-changing advances we have seen happened because people continued to learn and adapt.

But like humanity and the world we live in, learning is evolving and it’s evolving fast. Traditional learning for generations has involved formal classroom settings with standardised tests to evaluate whether participants have absorbed what was taught. Most educational institutions still rely on this approach, but it’s clear that with the growth of technology, learning has changed.

If we want to stay ahead in this constantly changing world, we must be able to reinvent learning in our organisations. Schools and universities should never be considered the sole providers of knowledge and skills, nor should formal courses and classrooms be seen as the only way to learn. Learning should be continuous and it should be a choice, so organisations also need to play a role in people’s learning.

If you are setting out to reinvent learning in your organisation to ensure it stays relevant, there are a few things to avoid and some pathways you can take in order to be successful.

The first path to avoid is confusing knowledge and studying with learning. We all have our own ways of learning and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Most of us assume that learning is limited to reading a book or article, attending formal training or taking online courses.

While reading and courses are part of learning, they are not enough, and definitely not transformational for the individual or for the organisation seeking to drive change. While training and periodic events are meant to deepen your organisation’s knowledge pool, learning actually involves things we do every single day and it is continuous.

Once we recognise these facts, we can embark on the path toward nurturing transformational learners instead. A transformational learner is someone who has the mindset and tools to acquire new knowledge, behaviours, skills and values, or modify existing ones, and then apply what they have learned through concrete action in real-life situations.

In short, you must have the mindset and drive to act on those things you have learned, whether it was during training courses, from reading or through other activities.

The second path to avoid is the continuous use of traditional learning and development as your primary weapon to address the future. Traditional learning may still be at the core of what most educational institutions offer but it is clearly not enough.

Given the ubiquity of technology and ease of access to information of all kinds, people’s attention spans are getting shorter and ensuring retention is becoming tougher. In this context, one-off or scheduled traditional learning sessions cannot be sustainable.

Instead, you need to build a more dynamic platform and community for all your employees. Learning doesn’t have to be done in one single way anymore, nor should it be. We can’t just read something and expect that we’ve learned everything we need to know. We need to apply it to our work or may even have to return for training to refresh our memories. The point of creating a dynamic platform and community is to support continuous learning.

The last path to avoid is to use traditional evaluation methods to determine the effectiveness of learning in your organisation. Just as methods of learning can no longer rely on traditional ways, evaluating how your people have absorbed knowledge cannot take the traditional route.

Traditional evaluation methods such as pre- and post-training assessments or satisfaction surveys are no longer useful in my experience. They are helpful up to a point but they don’t really give us a deeper understanding of whether the learning was useful for our people.

Instead, track your transformation in more creative ways. Free yourself from the mindset that says “the person with the highest score is the most competent”, as each individual has his or her own strengths and motivations.

Learning is really supposed to be a continuous process of attaining knowledge and applying it. There are so many different ways to approach learning, as each individual has different approaches that work for him or her.

As business leaders, we must be able to nurture continuous learning. But we must also be able to ensure our people have access to the tools to do so, when and how they like. Then we can say that we are truly on the path to transformational learning.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading Executive, Leadership and Innovation Capability Development Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@new.seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa