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Push and Pull Learning

push and pull learning

Learning should be self-directed. L&D departments should provide resources for people to access and then get out of the way. Allow your employees to access the resources they need, whenever they need them. Heck, most people find what they need just by doing a quick Google search.

Pull  Learning

The L&D department of the future is less about an army of instructional designers “pushing” training out to the masses and more about being nimble, responsive to needs, curating resources and putting them where people can find them while providing on-demand performance support.

It makes sense. A McKinsey study I like to cite from time to time says companies spend $100 billion (with a “b”!!!) each year on training initiatives around the world and only 25% of those initiatives actually show measurable results. With numbers like that, pushing training out is definitely wasteful. Professional development is something that should be “pulled” by employees when they need it.

“Learning Zealot” Mark Britz shared his organization’s experience creating more of a “pull” learning culture last week in an article entitled Money Talks, Bullsh*t Walks. Author and all-around learning revolutionary Clark Quinn expanded upon the idea in a short post on his blog.

I like the idea of training and professional development that should be pulled. Mostly.

Why Push and Pull Learning are Needed

On the other hand, training and professional development programs aren’t necessarily all about the return on investment. They’re not always about whether people walk away immediately being able to do something new or differently or better.

Sometimes pushing a training program is necessary. Sometimes supervisors should require their employees to attend certain training programs. While the employees may not do anything right away with what they’ve learned, sometimes a seed is planted. Sometimes a new idea that a self-directed learner may never have thought to expose him or herself to will be presented.

Diversity training is a prime example of this. Sending employees to an industry conference or association’s annual meeting to gain exposure to new trends and technologies is another example. I could go on.

Self-aware, self-directed learners with an enlightened L&D department of the future and an effective manager is great. Maybe it’s even the ideal situation. Yet even the most self-aware, self-directed learner needs to be nudged into new and challenging directions in order to continue to grow. Supporting both push and pull learning may be critical to achieving your organizational goals.

Where does your organization stand on push and pull learning? What does the balance look like?

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