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Are you making learning easy?

When you're at home. How do you learn how to do something? YouTube? Google? A good old fashioned Haynes Manual?

However you do it, it's the quickest way for you, right? And you probably find it quite easy to find the information you need.

So why does that change as soon as you get to work? It's mind-boggling.

Let me clarify that I know there are some critical elements that add a layer of complexity in the workplace. Things like compliance and certification recording. Physical and technology infrastructure requirements. And logistics too.

But this doesn't mean you need to make learning more difficult than it has to be.

Think of it like this...

If I'm a 'frontline' worker. I have limited time to access learning. I tend to do what I need to do, when I'm told to do it. Because I'm expected to be at my desk.

And let's say I need to complete some digital learning for compliance reasons - not the most engaging topic, but let's focus on simple reaching the learning here - and I need to log into three different systems, jump through five more screens and then run the digital learning. And before all of this I need to go to the 'Training Room' because I don't use a computer in my day-to-day.

And the learning only takes 10 minutes. But I spend half of that time just finding the learning.

What about Facilitated Learning? Maybe today we have a first-aid trainer in to do some basic First-Aid Training. An essential course that I really want to to attend. All of these hurdles before I even reach the room are just a frustration.

Aside from access to a computer/laptop, even middle-management level has this same shoddy experience - multiple barriers which serve to simplify things for the Learning Administrators and wider L&D team.

What about personal and career development?

With 'optional' learning that you offer to support your employees personal and career development the desire is different. They want to learn. But now they're faced with a plethora of barriers to finding the learning they want. And they might well give up before even finding it. Or they may ask for you to fund externally sourced development because they can't find the things you already have.

Why do you do it?

I'll be frank when I say that I'm more than familiar with organisations in various industries, of various sizes paying lip-service to learning. And I get it. Some organisations don't value learning - they're wrong, but I get it.

But even those who genuinely believe in the value of learning and aspire to create a world-class learning culture fall into this trap of presenting hurdle-after-hurdle for employees who want to learn.

And why is this? It's because they're not focusing their services on the right thing.

Too many times a Learning function implements a way of working, a process or a technology that may bring some new bells and whistles, or aesthetic improvement to learning. But the core benefits are to the Learning team. It makes it easier for them. It makes it simpler to track. Because they put these checks and balances in place that provide the data they need.

Another reason could be that they haven't built the right relationship with their IT function. So they're 'best-in-class' aspiration is watered down by technology policies and restrictions set by the IT function.

Again - I understand why this happens. But I'm still going to challenge it. Because it's wrong. And I'm feeling bold today, so I'll even call it downright stupid!

Here's my informed suggestion on how you could make it infinitely easier for people to learn at work, so that it's just as easy as when you're at home.

It will even encourage people who have a natural desire to improve, to go for it. And you might even find your learning services are oversubscribed because you're doing awesome work. And now people can get to it easily.

Here's how:

1 - Start focusing on the most effective way of transferring knowledge. Or developing a skill.

I can promise you a £10k video or £30k piece of E-learning is unsuitable for most things organisations use it for. If you need to roll out a new process that is wildly different from what's gone before, then yes, it might be appropriate. But if you're making a minor change, tell people face-to-face. Go to them. Show them the process. And tell them how and why things have changed. And why it matters to them. It will probably take about 10 minutes.

If it's better to bring people together for a day and do some skills development, do it. Because whatever you spend on down-time, logistics and facilitation is always going to provide a better return than a one-dimensional 'training-video' with no practical experience.

2 - Make things easy for learners, not learning administrators.

Yes, your amazing system might mean your administrator saves 1-day per month in collating and reporting on data, or sending emails to people. But compare this cost to the additional time you have to allocate to you frontline production team because they have to jump through all of those hoops to complete even the simplest of learning modules.

Add to this the lost benefits of an engaged workforce, a more engaging learning culture and a growth in the desire to learn and the numbers will speak for themselves. A tunnel-vision on L&D efficiencies too often focused on the administrators and not enough on the people who are actually impacted by the decisions.

3 - Speak to your learners

Find out what will make it easier for them to learn. And ask this pro-actively. Don't just collate data on a post-learning happy-sheet. It's relatively useless in any meaningful analysis. So get out there and ask people. Ask yourself. And be limitless.

When you gather this insight you'd be surprised at home many simple things you could change to transform how learning is accessed, perceived and valued in your business.

4 - (And finally) Get over your own self-importance

Yeah... WOW! I told you I was feeling bold.

And I admit, that was a cheap-shot intended to keep you reading. But that's because this last bit is vital.

As a learning expert, you're awesome! You know lots of things. And you genuinely are amazing at what you do. But you don't know everything. You might already accept that and if you do, great. You can skip the rest of this.

But if my telling you to 'Get over your own self-importance' upset or offended you, I'd argue that you might need to. And it's not because there's anything wrong with you. It's simply because you might be blind to the needs of your key audience - learners. Again - I could be wrong. And even if I am, will it hurt to remind yourself that there's lots you don't know?

Maybe you should take the rest of today to just check over the decisions you've made and test whether you've focussed on making things easier for learners, or easier for Learning Adminsitrators, or someone else.

If you do that and find you're nailing it, well done! And you can be really confident you're going the right way. But even if you find one thing you could have improved, my provocation has proved beneficial. Because now you can do even better!

In Summary

If you're involved in learning in any way - an administrator, facilitator, design specialist, leader or even a supplier like me who works with all levels of organisational leadership, then you're probably really passionate about learning. (Those who aren't don't last very long).

So if you take anything away from this post - other than the fact that this chippy little northerner was feeling rather provocative when writing this post ;) - then take this.

Always. Every day make it as easy as possible for people to learn. Remove the barriers, make it natural and make it desirable!

About the Author

Andy Appleby is a Learning Expert who has worked at all levels of organisational learning across Learning, Telecoms, Energy and Finance sectors since 2004. He supports a global client base with a clear vision make learning easy, always.

Questions about this article or want to chat?: Leave a comment, Call me (+44)7984920360 or E-mail me

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