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Design an Effective Learning Strategy

Sarah Thompson
“To have genuine value, learning must also be effectively tied to a company’s specific business goals and objectives.” – Sarah Thompson, director of Brand Development and Content Marketing, Human Capital Services

By Sarah Thompson

Think of the last time you sat in a classroom environment, one of several people sitting in straight rows, listening to an instructor impart some important bit of knowledge.

Got it? Good – now, think of what you actually learned how to do in that classroom.

If you’re like most people, you’re having a tough time remembering much useful information, or a precise skill you attained. Why? Because listening to someone speak on his or her subject of expertise simply isn’t the way people acquire practical knowledge.

Take learning to tie your shoes, for example. What if you were to sit in a classroom, notebook in front of you, listening to an instructor tell you how to tie your shoes? Based on that lecture, would you be able to do it the following morning when you put your shoes on? Probably not. But what if an instructor, — or better yet, a facilitator – was sitting next to you as you put your shoes on? He could coach you, one step at a time, on how to make the perfect bow – and you would master that skill very quickly.

Volumes of research into the human brain reveal what logic already tells us: Real learning takes place not by listening to someone speak on a given topic. Real learning happens on an ongoing basis, with small pieces of knowledge delivered, and actually used, right in the moment when they’re needed.

This is true of all learning, but the organizational training realm adds another vital component: To have genuine value, learning must also be effectively tied to a company’s specific business goals and objectives.

Create an Actionable Learning Strategy

These two critical concepts – that learning must be consistently delivered in small pieces, at the moment of need; and that learning must impact specific business goals – are the reasons why a customized learning strategy is crucial to the success of any corporate training initiative.

If you design a learning strategy yourself, you first must address these vital questions:

  1. What are the key behaviors – ones driving business results — that you’re trying to influence?
  2. Who is the proper audience for the training? Are you teaching the right people?
  3.   What do these employees really need to know, to achieve the business objective underlying your learning strategy?
  4. What is the right approach to deliver the learning to employees? How will they leverage the information in the moment its being taught?
  5. What are the key outcomes you’re seeking, and how do they offer a return on the learning strategy investment?
  6. How will you measure the efficacy of the learning?
  7. How will you analyze the measurement results, to determine the true impact of the learning strategy on business goals?

The importance of effective learning is not lost on most corporations. Fifty-three percent of chief learning officers said their budgets increased by an average of 20 percent in 2015, according to Chief Learning Officer magazine. This is the second consecutive year-over-year increase. Clearly, companies recognize the need for an effective learning strategy; but actually designing one can be a challenge. But, designing one that is fully aligned to corporate business objectives proves even more challenging.

Why a Learning Industry Solutions Provider is a Wise Choice

If you find some of these questions tough to answer with certainty, you’re not alone. These questions, which define such critical components of success, are what make it difficult, or even impossible, for most companies to effectively design their own learning strategy.

For example, a deep familiarity with subject matter can make it hard to determine what a novice needs to know; corporate cultures and politics are often stumbling blocks to creating a strategy that supports specific goals. Further, accurately measuring results to ensure they in fact support those goals is tricky. Of course, simply finding time to design the right learning strategy, while also trying to maintain a focus on core business, is yet another hurdle.

That’s why it makes sense to choose an external provider that has a sole focus and expertise on learning services.

Expect your learning partner to dive deeply into your company’s current situation, needs, and objectives. From there, an experienced partner can then implement your company’s custom learning strategy. Whether you’re tying your shoes or acquiring knowledge that will truly impact your organization’s core goals, be sure your learning strategy supports your goals at the moment (and place) of need.

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