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.
The thing that makes 70:20:10 really work is the 20. The reality, though, is that this means an extra drain on already time-pressed managers to provide constant support and guidance, with many barely able to assist with 5 of this 20. As well as the inevitable mistakes and time wasted searching for solutions on-the-job in the 70, this can decelerate performance.
It’s clearly beneficial to have interaction between managers and employees, with mentoring one of the best ways to build relationships and even help the manager themselves reflect and develop. Similarly, not all time spent searching for solutions or making mistakes is wasted. That is, after all, part of how we learn.
But what if there was a way that the 20 could be made less burdensome? How could we streamline the self-learning process? The work of the L&D department surely doesn’t stop once the 10 is delivered. They hold a responsibility to continue supporting the learner through the 20 and the 70. Using performance support tools in learning is the answer.
A well-implemented program of performance support tools doesn’t negate the importance of nurture from managers and design of employees’ responsibilities with progression in mind. However, it does smooth the process and reduce required resources whilst increasing productivity, generating a long-term return on investment.
Performance support tools come in many forms, but the most effective are available to the learner at the point-of-need. Either directing their learning progress or providing them with the information to find their way themselves. Essentially, they are embedded within the work process itself to provide continuous learning rather than dumped in one big chunk of learning delivery.
Performance support tools in learning range from the simple to the sophisticated. They could include the provision of searchable resources through a knowledge management system, allowing the individual access to the knowledge of the whole organisation without having to filter it through their manager. Alternatively, they could take the guise of a course or simulation that lets the learner practise tasks immediately before attempting them. But the most sophisticated tools integrate with work systems themselves to provide reactive guidance that changes with the actions of the learner.
Performance support tools in learning represent a vital way that L&D departments can reinforce all stages of the learning journey and, ultimately, provide greater return on investment, due to their immediate use in the workplace.