Last week I talked a bit about the importance of determining the intent of your learning needs (ie: do you just need to make people aware of something, do you need to help build skills, do you just need to remind people of something).
Today, I offer some specific ideas for how to match those learning needs with some different types of ways to deliver the learning. Not everything needs to be a course… although sometimes it really should be a course.
Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I’m your host. I’m also the Co-founder of Endurance Learning. And I’m also coming to you today from the Salt Lake City Airport, so please forgive any announcements you might hear in the background. But as any good facilitator would tell you when they get loud, we get louder, right?
Well, last week we talked a little bit about moving away from the traditional approach of using Bloom’s Taxonomy to outline your learning goals to a method that is simply identifying: what is the intent of your training? And I’m not saying that learning objectives are bad, but what I am saying is that we should start with what is the intent of our training before we go too much further in terms of what kind of training should we deliver and what we want to accomplish with learning objectives. So that’s what I talked about last week. This week I’m going to talk a little bit more about the different types of learning you might want to consider based upon the intent of your learning need. I’ll get into clarifying all of that in just a minute.
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Identifying the Intent Behind Your Learning Need
All right, so let’s review a little bit about what we talked about last week. Last week, I spoke about trying to identify the intent behind your learning need. Let’s assume you’ve done all the analysis and you’ve decided that there is some sort of need for learning. Not all learning is the same. We need to remember that.
You know how sometimes you can be talking with someone and they’ll say, “We need training.” And then you ask, “Okay, what should your training do?” And they say, “We just want people to be familiar with our new policy.” Or they say, “We basically want people to understand our new process.” We still have some digging to do here before we can actually determine what kind of learning need there is. Should it be eLearning? Should it be classroom training? Maybe it doesn’t need to be formal at all. Maybe it can just be a job aid or just a quick announcement. But how do we know which way to go?
Eight Categories of Learning Programs
This is where last week’s podcast comes in. Last week I outlined 8 possible intents behind a learning need, so…
1. You can create initial awareness or share information.
2. You can help people learn a new skill.
3. You can help people build upon a foundation of knowledge and build advanced skills.
4. You can remind or refresh people’s memories on something they’ve already learned but need to keep in mind.
5. You can facilitate some sort of change on the team or across the organization.
6. You can provide just-in-time or on-demand learning.
7. You can use learning to serve as pre-work in advance of a training program.
8. You can use learning to serve as a boost for people’s awareness or knowledge following a training program.
Training Approaches to Consider For Each Type of Learning Need
So each of these should probably be approached a little bit differently. So how do we approach any or all of these? Let’s talk about these one at a time.
1. Creating Initial Awareness or Sharing Information
Let’s start with creating initial awareness or sharing information. This is oftentimes a big need. Sometimes awareness is all we need – we just need to make people aware that we have a new expense reimbursement form. That’s it. We don’t need to train people on filling it out. We don’t need to spend much time or resources here. We just want people to know about this. Perhaps we’ll do something more in-depth for those who travel later down the road, but for the most part, we just want everyone in the organization to know something.
When you’re creating initial awareness, some approaches you might want to take include: one – simply make an announcement to those who are impacted or who need to know – maybe at a team meeting, an all-staff meeting, or even an email. Maybe that’s all you need. Or maybe you need a job aid on what the new information is, where to find more information, and maybe even how to fill out a form if that’s appropriate. Maybe that’s all you need and that would do the trick. Or if you have a little bit more ambition, maybe you want to do a video. Perhaps this could be a recording of an important person making the announcement. It could be an animation using a tool like Powtoon or Vyond, or maybe a short explainer video in the form of a screencast. But when it comes to creating initial awareness or sharing information, sometimes that’s it. That’s all you need.
2. Helping People Learn a New Skill
Let’s move on to number two, helping people learn a new skill. This is a more traditional learning intent. You’ll need some learning objectives for this and some opportunities for practicing that new skill. Those usually happen best in a form, like maybe a job aid if it’s a simple skill or microlearning, but this might require a full-length course, whether it’s instructor-led or eLearning.
3. Helping People Build Upon a Foundation of Knowledge & Building Advanced Skills
The third intent was helping people build upon a foundation of knowledge and building advanced skills. These are instances where you want people to take the next step. Maybe it’s a situation in which you want people to go from managing people to really being able to coach them, or maybe it’s a situation where you want people to go from being a top salesperson to being a sales trainer. I’d say this is definitely an area for a formal course, whether it’s in-person or eLearning, and it can also be accompanied by something like job shadowing or mentoring, job aids, or other resources.
But you do need to give people an opportunity to build upon their skill set and to practice in what I’d call an “environment without consequences.” That’s the training environment. If they screw up in the training environment, there are no real-world consequences. If you just put them out there without practice opportunities in the real world, sometimes those consequences can be really icky. So before people try these advanced skills in the real world, you do need to give them some sort of practice. All right.
4. Refreshing People’s Memories About Something They’ve Already Learned
Let’s move on to number four, which is refreshing people’s memories about something they’ve already learned. Perhaps this is the result of an annual compliance need. Perhaps people aren’t following a certain policy and they need to be reminded. Perhaps people just don’t use a certain skill or policy very often, so they have too much time to forget what they’re supposed to do between the time they’re taught it and when they actually need to use it. If annual compliance training is regulatory or a funding need, then obviously you’ll need a course. But if someone doesn’t tell you that you need a course, there are some different ways you might want to go here.
One, simply reminding people in a team meeting or an all-staff meeting can be effective. Or create a job aid for people to refer to. Send people follow-up information in sort of a drip campaign. Or maybe you want to create a video or a tutorial that will help people remember what they’re supposed to be doing when they need to do it.
5. Facilitating Change on the Team or Across the Organization
Let’s talk about the next training intent, which is to facilitate some sort of change on the team or across the organization. We all know that most organizations have change and that change can be hard. It’s made harder when the right learning approach to help people understand what the change is, why it’s happening, and how they can best navigate it isn’t put into place.
So some learning approaches in change situations include an intentional communication campaign. Something like this probably needs to be coordinated with people in your communications or your marketing team, whoever’s coming up with the change, and whoever’s supporting that change in terms of communicating what that change is. But communication during change is essential. Perhaps you might also be called upon, or maybe you want to take the initiative, to help people through a change initiative by using microlearning in short spurts or even a full instructor-led or eLearning course can be helpful in navigating what the change is and how its impact on everyone’s daily work can be mitigated.
6. Just-In-Time or On-Demand Learning
All right, let’s talk about the sixth intent for learning, and that’s just-in-time or on-demand information that needs to be provided. Not all learning needs to fall into a neat cycle. Sometimes people are hired, but the organization’s onboarding program doesn’t begin for another three weeks. Sometimes an initiative was kicked off a year ago, and there’s no need to have regularly scheduled trainings for people, but everyone new to the organization needs to know about that initiative when they come on board. Sometimes people just need to know something or need quickly to learn how to do something, and they don’t need a full-on training program. Like when you need to know exactly where to find a field in Salesforce or when you want to know how to create a drop-down menu in an Excel spreadsheet. So just-in-time learning resources might come in the form of something like a job aid on the organization’s intranet or maybe a video, a tutorial, or, if it’s complex, maybe an eLearning course that people can check out at their leisure.
7. Pre-Work in Advance of a Training Program
All right, let’s talk about our penultimate intent, which is training that needs to serve as pre-work in advance of a training program. There are times when you may want to flip the classroom and have people know some things in advance, so you can spend the majority of class time applying their new knowledge. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to cover everything in a course, so you want to move some things to pre-work.
Some options for pre-training include creating a video or having people watch something on YouTube or TikTok or wherever you found appropriate content. Sometimes it’s going to be an eLearning course or a webinar that needs to be completed in advance of the training, so everyone kind of has the same level of knowledge heading into that training. Or maybe it’s even a short microlearning course.
8. Boosting People’s Awareness & Knowledge Following a Training Program
All right, our eighth and final intent here is when training or when learning needs to serve to boost people’s awareness and knowledge following a training program. This is a close cousin of an earlier learning intent, the one about reminding people of something they’ve already learned. Here I’m talking specifically about follow up to a recent training program.
There are lots of ways to do this that include creating a job aid people can use. Maybe it has some details about a model or a process that you introduce people to, and now they can refer back to this job aid to remind them of what they learned when they actually need to use that new process for the first few times in real life. Maybe you want to send a series of follow-up emails or learning boosts via email. Sometimes you might want to send a link to a video or an article related to the topic, or maybe something that goes a little deeper on the topic that people learned about. Maybe you want to do a post-training webinar or maybe even a short microlearning piece.
Learning Solutions Based on the Learning Need: The Summary
So in sum, there are lots of ways we can build learning, but we want to build the right kind of learning based upon the intent. An eLearning course is not a one size fits all thing. Doing microlearning might work in some situations, but not others. So making sure that you’re clear on the intent is really, really important.
Thank you all for listening. If you’re looking for some inspiration on how a variety of elements can combine to form a stellar training program, maybe you’d like to pick up a copy of What’s Your Formula? which is my book about 51 elements of learning that can be found in a neat periodic table. You can find What’s Your Formula? right now at www.amazon.com. If you want to make sure to be notified of a new podcast anytime it’s hot off the press, go ahead and subscribe at Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And until next time, happy training everyone.
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