Change or die. Adapt to survive. It’s not just a biological imperative, but also a business one – now more than ever. It’s the stark choice facing almost every organisation.
You might think I’m being a little dramatic. Well, more than half of the companies on the 1999 FTSE 100 were no longer there in 2015. Many have been ripped apart by their competitors or become entirely extinct. It seems like every day we’re seeing a stampede of cutbacks, job losses, profit warnings, takeovers, even administrations and bankruptcies.
As consumers, we’re a demanding bunch. We expect personalised, relevant, instantaneous information at our fingertips, and what we expect in our daily lives inevitably filters down to our expectations of workplace learning. Learners know that if they need information, it takes a matter of seconds to find it on Google. The problem is, that information is often far from relevant, and even further from your organisation’s policy or culture. We need to compete with Google by creating point-of-need learning tools that essentially offer learners a better service. No mean feat.
If they’re not getting the right training, that is. If you’re not developing your team properly, they’re 12 times more likely to leave. And if they leave, good luck replacing them, as the chance to learn new skills and grow professionally is the #1 driver for talent to join an organisation.
That 40% is a frightening number. Yet it’s easy for those of us in the learning and development community to become complacent and think it couldn’t possibly apply to our organisation, given how much of our time is taken up by delivering training. However, two out of every five employers have provided no training at all within the last twelve months, and for the three out of the five that have, plenty of it isn’t hitting the mark.
This deficiency in learning provision not only reduces productivity and efficiency, it also disengages employees, leaving them feeling both stranded and uninspired. In the worst cases, they can become a drain on others’ time by requiring frequent guidance, or just stop trying to develop entirely.
How can we, as learning professionals, remedy this disengagement stemming from insufficient or inadequate learning opportunities? The truth is that for learning to be truly effective, you can’t just put your learners through a formal training session and send them off into to the workplace, to be dragged back in in another six months.
The expectation amongst modern employees is that work equals learning. Indeed, learning and development opportunities now rank more highly in graduate employment priorities than salary, according to EY. EY’s head of student recruitment, Julie Stanbridge, stated “we are seeing moves away from structured classroom-based seminars and Powerpoint slides to on-the-job learning in dynamic teams, and through working collaboratively on projects.”
This fits with the prevalent 70:20:10 model, as explained here by Charles Jennings, its biggest proponent, and further explored in his Insight article for us on the subject (coincidentally, I’ve just spotted Charles in our London office). Without getting too hung up on the exact ratio, the idea of the model is that learning and development takes place in three main areas. Only a small proportion (the 10) of this is through structured, prescribed learning. Of greater importance is the 20, representing the time spent learning from others, through mentoring and coaching. Finally, there is the 70, the on-the-job aspect where the learner’s everyday experiences constantly guide their learning.
Our traditional conception of pedagogy presumes that after a certain point, people no longer require instruction. We go to school, then to college, then to university, some do further training in a specialism. After that, we’re thrown out into the world to get on with the rest of our lives. In his talk ‘The Difference between Coaching and Teaching,’ Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande explained that elite athletes flatly reject this model. They believe it’s naïve, and that few people can maintain their best possible performance by themselves. For instance, upon being ranked world number one in 2011, Novak Djokovic didn’t sack his coach. In fact, he probably gave him a raise.