Last updated: June 7, 2013 at 8:39 am
Back to: Index: The Workplace Learning Revolution
For a long time now it has been the function of the Training Department to be responsible for “learning” in the workplace.
The prime role of this function (relatively recently renamed as the Learning & Development Department) has been to package-up and organise learning events – both internally or externally – either in the form of face-to-face classes or workshops, or as e-learning courses – or even blended solutions. Training Departments have also had the responsibility of tracking and managing this “learning” – usually with the help of some form of training or learning management system.
And that is how managers and other parts of the business see the function of training too: simply to create and deliver courses to solve perceived learning problems – because that is the way they have been conditioned to think about “learning” as Harold Jarche points out.
“Since the latter half of the 20th century, we have gone through a period where training departments have been directed to control organizational learning. It was part of the Taylorist, industrial model that also compartmentalized work and ensured that only managers were allowed to make decisions. In this context, only training professionals were allowed to talk about learning. But formal training, usually in the guise of courses, is like a hammer that sees all problems as nails. Unfortunately, these nails only account for 5% of organizational learning.”
The trouble with training
In most cases this training requires participants to take time out of their daily jobs – often going to a separate place or room. Although more recently learners have been able to sit at their own desks and complete online courses, they have still had to stop what they were working on in order to study the course. And more and more people are now beginning to question the validity of this model to address all learning problems, citing its ineffectiveness, the fact that it relies on study and memorisation, as well as the cost and time requirements of developing instructional solutions.
“A recently-published report by the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) estimates that the Civil Service wastes hundreds of millions of pounds every year – some £275m in the last year alone – putting staff through training courses that “do not work”. Less than half of the staff questioned by the NAO felt the training they received in the past 12 months had helped them to do their job better.” (Bob Little, Checkpoint eLearning, November 2011)
“Companies’ spending on training and development accounts for hundreds of billion pounds globally each year. But every year, according to successive empirical studies, only 5 to 20 per cent of what is learnt finds its way back into the workplace. While this failure to transfer and apply new learning in the workplace has long attracted academic interest, practitioners have been slow to change their ways. Despite the imperative that things cannot be managed without being measured, training has been getting off lightly. Surely a training industry that delivers less than 20 per cent cannot be fit for purpose?” Accountability needed for workplace training, Robert Terry, FT, 12 December 2011
Why are these training initiatives seen as ineffective? Probably not because they were poorly designed, but because they were the wrong solution for a performance problem. Here are some more comments on the trouble with training …
1 – The trouble with training is … that it is a solution looking for a problem (Harold Jarche)
2 – The trouble with training is .. that it has very little impact on on-the-job performance (Will Thalheimer, WIll at Work Learning)
3 – The trouble with training is .. that it is inefficient and ineffective since people forget most of what they have been taught very quickly - as the the Ebbinghaus Forgetting curve shows … (Charles Jennings 8 reasons why you should focus on informal and social) .
4 – The trouble with training is .. that most formal learning is content-heavy and interaction-poor, and provides little opportunity for practice in context and for reflection. (Charles Jennings, 8 reasons why you should focus on informal and social)
5 – The trouble with training is … there’s an inherent inertia in formal learning approaches. It takes time and effort to design, develop and deliver learning content. Speed-to-competence is often compromised. (Charles Jennings 8 reasons why you should focus on informal and social)
6 – The trouble with training is .. that it it is often s a cost rather than a benefit. (Charles Jennings, 8 reasons why you should focus on informal and social)
7 – The trouble with training is … that it can’t possibly be used as a way to provide everyone with everything they need to know in the organisation.
8 – The trouble with training/e-learning is … that too much is over-engineered. Everything is turned into a course format – with learning objectives, quizzes – even if this is not the most appropriate format. [Online courses must die]
9 – The trouble with training … is that it over-manages learning; it is often better simply to supportlearning
10 – The trouble with e-learning is … that adult learners are becoming increasingly frustrated at how they are being treated as idiots in how they are expected to use online courses. [Geeta Bose]
11 – The trouble with e-learning is … that Big Brother (aka LMS) tracks and monitors your every move, and only considers “course completion” as evidence of learning.
12 – The trouble with training is … that it means you are required to study a problem, rather than just solve it.
13 – The trouble with training is … that most people see it as something to be endured rather than enjoyed
14 – The trouble with training is .. that often people see a training day as a holiday or day off!
15 – The trouble with training is … that is often seen as a punishment for those who underperform (Bob Litlle, Checkpoint eLearningt)
16 – The trouble with training is … that it is often used to cover up poor systems, unclear procedures or poor management practices. (Harold Jarche)
17 – The trouble with training is .. that is something that happens in a separate place and/or time from working
18 - The trouble with training is … that you have to leave the workflow either to go to another place or to take time out of your working day (Conrad Gottfredson)
19 - The trouble with training is .. that it is not the way to support the real learning that takes place – continuously, informally and frequently socially – in the workflow.
20 – The trouble with training is … that training is not the same as learning.
Why are these training initiatives ineffective? Probably not because they were poorly designed, but because they were the wrong solution for a performance problem.
But despite the fact that these issues with training are well known, developing and delivering training or e-learning, still remains the primary focus of the work of L&D. – there is a place for training, of course, but it is not the solution to every performance problem. But things are changing … as I will show in the next pages.
- The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails - Mike Myatt, Forbes, 19 December 2012Here’s the thing – when it comes to leadership, the training industry has been broken for years. You don’t train leaders you develop them – a subtle yet important distinction lost on many. Leadership training is alive and well, but it should have died long, long ago.
- Training blends to a norm – Development occurs beyond the norm.
- Training focuses on technique/content/curriculum – Development focuses on people.
- Training tests patience – Development tests courage.
- Training focuses on the present – Development focuses on the future.
- Training adheres to standards – Development focuses on maximizing potential.
- Training is transactional – Development is transformational.
- Training focuses on maintenance – Development focuses on growth.
- Training focuses on the role – Development focuses on the person.
- Training indoctrinates – Development educates.
- Training maintains status quo – Development catalyzes innovation.
- Training stifles culture – Development enriches culture.
- Training encourages compliance – Development emphasizes performance.
- Training focuses on efficiency – Development focuses on effectiveness.
- Training focuses on problems - Development focuses on solutions.
- Training focuses on reporting lines – Development expands influence.
- Training places people in a box – Development frees them from the box.
- Training is mechanical – Development is intellectual.
- Training focuses on the knowns – Development explores the unknowns.
- Training places people in a comfort zone – Development moves people beyond their comfort zones.
- Training is finite – Development is infinite.”
- Compliance training: does it really work? – Charles Jennings, 16 August 2012
“Existing evidence points to a situation where most companies would be better off simply ditching their existing compliance training efforts wherever they can, and making mandatory training as fast and simple as possible. Maybe even encouraging the behaviours Jeff Kaplan reports above – getting their children to click through the training to get a tick in the LMS box with as little thought and effort as possible.”
- The game of course – Jay Cross, 13 August 2012
In the past, I’ve sounded a wake-up call that most learning does not take place in courses. If that’s all we’re offering, we aren’t serving our internal customers. When this message fell on deaf ears, I wrote that courses are dead. I think I underplayed the message. Actually, courses are a ticking time bomb. If courses are the only way you enable experienced workers to learn what they need to know in order to excel, you’re not fulfilling your professional responsibilities. Tech-savvy hactivists are replacing the passive and obedient older workforce we’ve been accustomed to. Real soon now, you’ll be confronted with workers who are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any more. If you don’t hack the system, they will.
- Training needs to get plucked – Gary Wise, 11 August 2012
“Our job [Training’s] requires shifting the design paradigm to align more closely to workflows and processes that we now only offer training for our people to execute flawlessly. Keep training if so inclined, but design it in a way that those same objects can be plucked at the moment of need by those who have the need. And that’s NOT plucking from the LMS. We see training on the LMS getting plucked because that is the only place the content exists, not because it was ever intended to support that effort. Workplace needs have changed, and the LMS is NOT aligned with that need, nor is it the technology tool of choice to satisfy it.”
- Adjust or become deadweight, L&D professionals warned - Training Journal, 28 July 2012
“Discussing whether “L&D risks becoming a deadweight”, Jennings said the world was quickly changing but many of the current organisational structures had their roots in the 18th century. “Learning in today’s world is like looking at the sky at night – there are some very bright points but also a lot of dark matter. Also, most of what we see is not happening now – it happened a long, long time ago.”
The Higgs boson of Training & Development? - Charles Jennings, 5 July 2012“The idea that learning is best carried out by removing people from the workplace and providing them with structured content and (if they were lucky) opportunities to practice in a simulated environment was blown away with the invention of the Web and the appearance of ubiquitous information sources. Suddenly we had the ability to do a lot of things better, faster, more efficiently and more effectively – and often with higher levels of engagement and enjoyment. It’s taken us a while to realise it, but that’s what happened.”
- I come not to bury training, only to put it in its place – Harold Jarche, 18 July 2012
“The increasing complexity of our workplaces means we have to accept the limitations of training and education as we have practiced them. There is a growing need to help people be more creative and to solve complex problems, on a daily basis and in concert with others. Even the best training programmes cannot help here. Organizations (HR, L&D, OD, KM, etc) need to add significantly more thought and resources to enable people to learn socially, share cooperatively, and work collaboratively. Work is changing, and so must learning support. Making better carriages will not help.”
- Why Corporate Training is Broken And How to Fix It – Jay Cross, 18 July 2012
“Most corporate training is an example of the “Streetlight Effect.”
A police officer asks a man searching for his keys under a streetlight, “Are you sure you lost them here?”
To which the man replies, “No, think I lost them in the park.”
“Why are you searching here instead of in the park?” asks the police officer.
The man replies, “The light is better here.”
- What’s Wrong With Your Sales Training Program, HBR Blogs, 17 July 2012
“Somehow, “successful” sales training has become associated with a thick binder of material the salesperson lugs home from the class (never to open again). The classroom experience is based mainly upon rote memorization of facts. There is little in the way of interaction, practical exercises, or meaningful conversation about the difficult “real-world” obstacles that need to be overcome. The training classes are pre-packaged sessions that are taught the same way over and over again, regardless of the changing competitive landscape.”
- It’s Not Called E-Cheap—It’s Called E-Learning - Tom Graunke, 15 July 2012
“For those of us moving forward, here are some basic principles that will propel a new standard for online learning. WARNING: This won’t be easy. Everything you know about e-learning development must change to embrace E-Learning 2.0, from the technology to how you write content to how it’s delivered.:
- The Higgs boson of Training & Development? - Charles Jennings, 6 July 2012
“”The idea that learning is best carried out by removing people from the workplace and providing them with structured content and (if they were lucky) opportunities to practice in a simulated environment was blown away with the invention of the Web and the appearance of ubiquitous information sources. Suddenly we had the ability to do a lot of things better, faster, more efficiently and more effectively – and often with higher levels of engagement and enjoyment. It’s taken us a while to realise it, but that’s what happened.”
- Students are smarter than your old e-learning design- Brent Schlenker, 6 July 2012
“Want to know what regular people think of eLearning? A simple, and regular, search of the term “eLearning” on Twitter reveals an overwhelming portion of NEGATIVE tweets about eLearning experiences. And even worse, they expose the uselessness of the methods being used to assess the learning that is assumed to have occurred during these digital experiences. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing.”
- Training’s search for future of impact - Gary Wise, 2 July 2012
“Learning @ the point of work does not eliminate upstream formal learning efforts. It changes them. See…it’s not “more”, in fact, it may even be “less” traditional training activity and more post-training performer support…which just so happens to be located @ the point of work.”
- Instruments of Restraint – Harold Jarche, 28 June 2012
“First, the notion of learning technologies as separate from working technologies continues to keep learning separate from work. This makes little sense in a networked workplace. Second, learning technologies become a special class of tools that only learning experts understand or care to learn about. Third, they create a class of vendors focused on the training & development department and not the overall organization. My experience is that the only organizations that benefit from learning technologies are those whose core business is learning with a focus on formal, structured delivery – schools.”
- Learning: blended or blinded – Dave Ferguson, 28 June 2012
“Even conceding that many of the “blended learning” [Google] hits are from formal education (schools, academia), it’s a little depressing that only 3% of them mention job aids. I personally doubt it’s because everyone uses job aids. It’s almost as if developers, yearning to produce ever-more-engrossing courses, are blind to this kind of performance support.”
- How Trainers are Holding Themselves Back - David Kelly, 25 May 2012
“Training professionals need to recognize that by being business-focused in every aspect of their work. Our work needs to provide value to all of our stakeholders, whether their investment is financial support or time via participation. We need to get away from the widget-based metrics of the past and focus on the impact and value our efforts have on critical business performance.”
- Shouldn’t We Just Best Buy Corporate Learning – Dan Pontefract, 14 May 2012
“Why doesn’t the corporate learning sector think like this? Why can’t it introduce the concept of bite-sized learning chunks? Why can’t it grasp the notion that we all would like to learn at the speed of need? Couldn’t it introduce a concept like Best Buy Express kiosks (metaphorically of course) into the corporate learning space? Isn’t this a nice informal option?”
- Do you want fries with that? – Harold Jarche, 11 May 2012
“Too many training departments have become mere “order takers,” responding to requests for training by harried but ill-informed managers who believe that training is the solution to every kind of performance problem. (Managers probably don’t really believe that, but ordering training is easier than tackling the real issues.) I call this the “McDonald’s Clerk” approach to training; take the order and, at most, see if they want fries with it.”
- The rise and fall of elearning – Kris Rockwell and Reuben Tozman, 7 May 2012
“We are the bearers of bad news. After much discussion and consideration we have come to the conclusion that eLearning has failed and that mLearning is moving towards a similar fate. Once a field of interesting new learning concepts and technology poised to replace the misuse of video in the classroom with the promise of providing a more engaging way for students to access content has become a wasteland of glorified PowerPoint presentations, TV game shows and pseudo-science.”
- We need a course, 4 May 2012
- Save Training For Those Who Need Training – Bill Cushard, 3 May 2012
“Sending people to training they don’t need devalues the training and demotivates your highest performers. We ought to be able to exempt some people from certain training. If people don’t need it, they shouldn’t have to attend.”
- It’s not about knowledge transfer – Harold Jarche, 30 April 2012
“Knowledge cannot be transferred. This is the big conceit of knowledge management. This “loss of knowledge” when older workers retire is a symptom of a structural problem. It shows that the company never gave any thought to organizational learning.”
- The True Cost of One Hour of E-Learning (infographic) - Lean Forward, April 2012
- HRD 2012: Social media ‘replacing e-learning’ for L&D professionals - Clare Churchill, People Management, 28 April 2012
“Social media is driving a major shift in workplace learning as L&D professionals become ‘curators’ of training content than ‘creators’, delegates at HRD 2012 heard yesterday.”
- Learning is not something to get – Harold Jarche, 27 April 2012
“In too many cases we view learning as something that is done to people. It’s almost as if we are goin’ to get some learnin’! We think we can “get” an education or “get people trained”. This is absurd.”
- ’Learning Bursts’: A Different Way to Deliver Training by Dave Basarab, CLO Magazine, 6 April 2012
“A learning burst is a combination of an eight- to 10-minute audio cast similar to a talk show, which can be played on any compatible player or device. It also includes a document, or “workbook,” of supporting material, with thr ee to five pages per chapter or topic of simulations and case studies to augment the learning burst, as well as a short quiz and a prompting exercise to get participants to think about how they would apply what they have learned. Each burst is a self-contained discussion of a particular topic or subject.”
- A workscape perspective, Harold Jarche, 26 March 2012
“There are few best practices for the network era workplace, but definitely many next practices to be developed. A good place to start is with an integrative performance framework that puts formal training and education where they belong: focused on the appropriate 5%.
- Why blended learning is really blended training, Dave Kelly, March 2012
“The blended learning model doesn’t exactly extend training beyond an event — it simply extends the event. There’s an important difference there.”
- When training is not the answer, Marc Rosenberg, Learning Solutions Magazine, 11 July 2011
- The other 90 percent of learning – Jay Cross, CLO Magazine, 31 July 2012
“Learning is no longer separable from work. People need to learn on the job, not apart from it, and they need to learn in real time, not a month before. What’s important is tacit knowledge — the know-how that’s taught by experience as opposed to the know-what that is written in books or a syllabus.”
- Learning is Business (PDF) – Jay Cross
“Working smarter is the key to sustainability and continuous improvement. Knowledge work and learning to work smarter are becoming indistinguishable. The accelerating rate of change in business forces everyone in every organisation to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete.”
© Jane Hart, The Workplace Learning Revolution, 2013