Performance-Based Learning: The Solution To Ineffective Training
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63% Of Companies Found Their Training Ineffective - And How To Fix It With Performance-Based Learning (PBL)

Last year, Learning and Development finally got the attention it deserves: in 2017, American companies spent $90.6 billion on corporate training. Sadly, only 37% of these companies considered their training to be effective. While many L&D leaders have been very successful at creating content that educates their employees, it still remains challenging to align that content with the overall business strategy that ensures alignment between completion of L&D initiatives and business KPIs. So, what’s going wrong?

Learning is all about understanding and experience. Let’s say you’re trying to learn how to play the guitar. The more you practice it, the better the results will be. Your neural networks become stronger when you do something regularly and continue to improve your skills. The same is true with learning a new language. We need to actually practice what we have learned to remember it and use it effectively. This is also true of anything we learn at work.

In corporate learning, we know that a company really needs each employee to train for their job so that the business can benefit from their work as much as possible. That’s the business side of talent development; when employees learn effectively, businesses gain from it through better customer interactions, increased productivity, and more.

But there is another side of L&D that needs attention. If we are just focused on content production and module completion numbers, we can’t identify our employees’ talents and skills they need to learn or build on, let alone what mechanisms will best help our employees do that. That’s why so many companies have problems with their L&D initiatives. A lot of them have not yet realized that L&D practices are most effective when they are a part of a personalized employee experience. Old fashioned, classroom style training, even if it is replicated via online interface, doesn’t always deliver the best return on your training dollars.

The solution is performance-based learning (PBL). PBL is a new approach to organizing and accelerating employees’ learning by connecting specific learning activities and content to your employees’ performance through data-driven algorithms. On the surface, it’s a mobile or desktop platform that uses machine learning to analyze your employees’ performance and recommend personalized training activities based on that data. In essence, it’s a training approach that puts employees and their performance at the center of the learning process.

Make Your Learning And Development Practice Employee-Centric

Let’s admit it—our brains can be lazy. While we generally agree that there can be many differences in how people learn best, the most common issues with L&D practices result from failing to apply that knowledge. It is too easy to deliver learning modules the old ways we are used to, but sticking to such practice has a high price tag. When we fail to recognize and address our employees’ personal learning traits and preferences, they don’t learn as much and have trouble internalizing it as well. Therefore, they can’t apply it as effectively as they possibly could in their work. That costs companies about $13.5 millions per year per 1000 employees. The following points will help you develop an effective employee-centric approach to learning with the help of performance-based learning.

Don’t Generalize Your Employees’ Experience

Let’s say that your company has a goal to halve the number of calls that Salespeople need to make to close a deal. You have four Salespeople. The worst thing a manager can do is to assume that an “average” number of calls needed to close a sale exists and, when evaluating the employees’ performance, treat them collectively as the “Sales department.” We know that there is no such thing as average customer experience, but when it comes to employees, suddenly you think that your Salespeople are all the same. When you assume that everyone is on the same level, high or low, your training won’t be as efficient as you need it to be.

Teach individuals, not departments. A performance-based approach to training allows you to identify each employee’s strengths and weaknesses and fill their skills gaps. In this case, “Eric,” a Sales assistant, will learn how to communicate with clients more effectively, and “Michelle,” an account manager, will learn how to manage her time better.

Make Your Training Directly Applicable For The Greatest Benefits

Often, training programs remind me of education systems. “I don’t want to learn math, I know I won’t need it in the future,”—you’ve likely heard this phrase at school a lot. If your marketing team watches webinars on new advertising strategies and then passes a quiz indicating they memorized the material well, they still are unlikely to be ready to implement these “sandbox” exercises and theoretical materials in real life. Such training likely won’t have a positive effect on your business. It becomes an expense instead of a profitable investment.

However, if you make your training programs more practical, you are more likely to get great tangible results out of them. In performance-based learning, “practical” means that what you teach is what each employee needs to know, and they can use it right away. This will help them achieve the desired performance outcomes. Give them the just-in-time, need-to-know knowledge. Your company will get the most benefits from such approach when your employees can use their new skills and knowledge right away. And your employees will feel a lot more empowered.

Give People Time For Training And Ensure They Own It

This is a huge pain in the hearts of L&D professionals. This year’s LinkedIn report on L&D in the workforce shows that people want to learn, but they feel held back from learning because they don’t have enough time. 42% of learning activities in companies are still done offline: employees must postpone their projects in order to attend training and then end up working extra time in order to catch up. It’s not good for the company’s workflow or for training efficiency.

Most employees prefer learning at their own pace in a comfortable environment, at work or at home, during their preferred flexible time frames. Some people learn best early in the work day, others prefer to learn after lunch. Give your employees enough time to learn and allow them to own their ongoing training paths. Make your training all about your people, their careers, and the positive impact that they can have on the business.

Performance-based learning fits right into the work process. Your employees won’t have to postpone their current task to complete a learning module. A typical PBL program consists of small and practical activities that can be completed quickly and easily and show quick results. This allows managers to set micro and macro goals for their workforces and getting good results fast encourages employees in their training and in their work. Performance-based learning is very efficient in regards to high-level time-management and cost-effective because employees are trained “in the field” without being dragged away from their core job duties.

Create A Personalized Learning Experience

58% of employees prefer learning at their own pace, as the LinkedIn report confirms. People feel frustrated by the lack of control over their learning and not being able to choose their own learning time. Stress occurs when people are forced to learn unnecessary or outdated material. That is counterproductive.

To establish employee-centric training, gather data about your employees’ learning styles, progress, and qualifications. Such data typically exists in various systems of your organization already. Data-driven solutions will be able to offer the right exercises at the right time to improve each employee’s performance, and these solutions work at scale. For instance, if the system discovers that “Michelle” is struggling with an email to a client, she’ll automatically get a brief training on the best practices of communicating with clients in her industry. The type of training will be based on her learning preferences and past experiences.

Get People Engaged In Their Training To Improve Their Performance

As mentioned in the past, in L&D it’s helpful to see your employees as your customers and the training program as your product—and you have to sell it to them! Employees have to understand the importance and value of that L&D product, and they also need to find it desirable and valuable. In a sense, this is still a personalization issue: engagement is only possible when the user experience is personal and the content is targeted.

Engagement occurs automatically in performance-based learning, because PBL is accessible, personalized, and offers an easy way to solve work challenges. In order to engage your employees on a higher level, you may have to make learning competitive, collaborative, or both—involve everyone in it, even your executives. Make it fun and interactive! Don’t force people to learn, make them want to do it by improving your “product” and by letting them discover the impact that the training has on their personal growth and on the company as a whole.

Make Sure Your Online Platform Is User-Friendly (And Mobile)

It may seem obvious, but people don’t like to interact with interfaces that are outdated and not user-friendly. If you’re switching to a new learning platform, make sure that you and your employees enjoy using it. Take some time and play around with it. See how intuitive the user interface is and how friendly the user experience is. First impressions matter, as they will influence your employees and your senior staff when they start to use a new platform. Try to make the transition as smooth as possible through continuous communication and feedback. Depending on your employee demographics and habits, having a mobile app L&D component might be an absolute requirement as well.

Boost The Culture Of Learning By Focusing On Performance

L&D is no longer just about creating content and delivering it to your employees. The best L&D professionals view themselves as the executives’ strategic partners who deliver the most significant business results through Learning and Development practices. The most effective strategy will include creating or enhancing a culture of learning in your organization. Such culture will evolve when your employees continuously learn new skills and information related to their job, apply it right away, and share their new ideas and innovations, helping them to feel they are being listened to and that their feedback is valuable. Employees want to reach their full potential and expand it, so empower them to do it!

On the social level, people are actually willing to learn: based on the previously mentioned LinkedIn report, 94% of workers said that they’d stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. The training tactics should push them to the limits of their skills and ability to improve their job performance and keep them motivated to do better.

PBL does exactly that. It connects learning to performance data, empowering employees, and motivating them to grow. It helps companies seamlessly integrate training in all spheres of their business operations, at the right time for each employee, thus creating helpful and relevant learning experience we all crave.

Note that learning culture cannot live productively in a stressed work environment, and it definitely cannot be cultivated when you force your employees to learn something instead of motivating them through communicating with them and creating options for people-centric learning. So, if your company is among the 63% of businesses who think their training is ineffective, you can join the elite 37% by reviewing your talent development strategy today.

Let your people learn, and let them do it on their terms. Then enjoy seeing the benefits it brings to your business.

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