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The days of “butts-in-seats training" are over. Thankfully. Remember when you were a new manager, and you had to attend a “management training" class where they tried to teach you everything you might ever need to know in one day?

Yes, there still are some of those programs, but they don't work. First, it is overload—way too much information for any one person to absorb. Second, there is no good reason to try to learn it all at once anyways. Instead, organizations today need leaders and employees to think critically, to question how work might be better accomplished and to become self-directed learners. The good news? Technology has opened up the world to a new kind of corporate learning that allows these things to happen. We just have to figure out how to make leaders and employees want to learn. If there's motivation, people can learn virtually anything.

What can organizations do to shift the focus from “teach me" to “send me on a quest and I'll figure it out"? Here are some simple strategies that can help.

Use Learning Sessions to Teach Learning

Instead of pouring every piece of knowledge into a workshop, teach participants where to find credible information and how to use what they find.

In other words, rather than teach new managers everything they may ever want to know about the Americans with Disabilities Act, help them understand the context of the ADA, the consequences of violation of the ADA and the resources available to them.

Instructional designers have a secret weapon—they tease out what the learner really needs to know, not what the subject matter expert wants to tell them (which is usually everything the expert knows.) Use that concept to frame learning material.

If your new manager “training" conveys a) the significance of their role to the organization and to the employees, b) the risks of management actions, and why those risks impact the bottom line of the organization, c) the behaviors expected of an effective manager, and d) where to find technical details, you have a much better chance of building a cadre of self-directed learners.

Invest in an Accessible Knowledge Base

The single most important quality of your company intranet is the search engine, and all too often, it is not intuitive or responsive. Invest in a search engine for “just in time" learning, so employees can access information at the point of need. After all, learning is about knowing how to find credible information when you need it.

Got a technical description to teach? Put it on YouTube. My husband uses YouTube videos for everything from rewiring an outlet to testing the chlorine in the pool. (To continue using YouTube as a great example, the platform has an amazing search engine.)

Make “Teaching" a Leadership Competency

Leaders can make an impact on the shift to a learning organization simply by helping their teams understand what they need to know and guiding them through the process of learning.

Is customer service a new focus for the organization? Make it personal and facilitate a discussion of good and bad customer service experiences. Talk about the importance of consistency. Discuss ways to handle difficult situations.

Before you tackle a dialogue on difficult situations, have the team do a little research about difficult customer situations. (I just googled that, and got 30 million hits.) But don't stop there. Collectively prioritize situations that will be most probable, and agree on how to handle the situation.

A team that has been involved in defining the problem, researching solutions and dialoguing about how possible solutions might work within their context have a sense of ownership that can never be obtained by simply giving the answer.

Yes, learning occurs when we don't even realize it. Harnessing informal learning is powerful, and requires learning critical inquiry rather than myriad facts. Seek, discuss and reflect and you can become a true learning organization.

Photo: Twenty 20