3 Essential Ingredients for the Perfect L&D Program

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In an age of constant change, in which companies are only as agile as their employees, workers with obsolete skills and outdated knowledge are poorly equipped to adapt.

Yet a mere 11 percent of employers have plans to train or reskill their existing staff within the next year, according to Randstad’s 2018 Talent Trends report. And the models they do use are often ineffective. “The corporate training delivery models associated with tethering learning to sporadic classroom experiences are quickly becoming outdated,” says Heide Abelli, senior vice president of content product management at Skillsoft.

Abelli says the companies that get L&D right are providing on-demand, self-service learning that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and on any device. “The training content must meet the learner where he or she is, instead of the other way around,” she says. “Corporate training providers must evolve their content development approaches to ensure they are targeting the needs of modern learners for the best possible outcomes.”

Here’s what Abelli says you need to create the perfect L&D program.

More Just-in-Time and Less Just-in-Case Learning

In the manufacturing industry, just-in-time (JIT) processes have eliminated waste on the manufacturing floor through flexibility and immediacy. When applied to learning and development, Abelli says, these processes can similarly eliminate inefficiency. “JIT allows learners to better meet their learning demands precisely when they need to use new skills because it is embedded directly into the work day,” she says.

This improves ROI because the newly acquired skills and information can be directly associated with solving an immediate learning need. Compare this to just-in-case learning: There’s no guarantee employers will ever see a return on that investment, because there’s a good chance that courses delivered in a classroom don’t come at the right time for employees — which means that information probably won’t be immediately applicable, Abelli says.

Another advantage of JIT learning is better retention rates. “When learners don’t immediately grasp the importance of new material, they tune out, but learners pay attention to new information that’s required to resolve an immediate work issue, problem or challenge.”

So, what classifies learning as JIT? “The learning needs to be available at the touch of a fingertip, 24/7, anywhere in the world a learner happens to be,” Abelli says. “It can’t be tethered to a brick-and-mortar classroom with limited scheduling flexibility.”

Visual, Short and Relevant Content

The second ingredient is content that is visual, short and relevant. Humans tend to learn faster from images than words, and Abelli says our brains are actually designed to process information visually. “It’s called the ‘picture superiority effect’: When provided with information composed of both a picture and text, the vast majority of us will remember 65 percent of the information presented, whereas when presented with an image alone, our recall drops to 35 percent.” When the information consists solely of text, recall drops to 10 percent.

“In addition, a visual representation typically explains information in about half the time it takes to communicate the same information using only text,” she says. Since time is in short supply for most employees, it makes sense to use the most efficient method of presenting information.

Content should also be relevant so it isn’t ignored, and concise so that it’s easily digested. “This means that content assets should be designed for microlearning, as short as possible, while still ensuring that the content is being responsibly covered.”

Self-Directed and Specialized Learning

The third ingredient for the perfect L&D program will largely depend on the desire, willpower and initiative of employees. “The increasingly competitive nature of our global economy, along with rapid changes in technology, have made self-directed learning essential,” Abelli says. In other words, workers have to take personal responsibility for their professional development and embrace self-directed learning. “Employees must have their finger on the pulse of their individual learning needs, and they also must continually evaluate their work environment to adapt to changing skill and capability demands.”

However, it’s up to employers to provide content and delivery platforms that enable self-direction. “We need to allow them to decide what best suits their individual learning needs and preferences, but also let them tailor learning more precisely to their pre-existing knowledge, skills and professional interests.”

This type of learning not only allows your employees to be in control of what they learn, but when they learn it. And providing this freedom is likely to produce favorable results. “Humans have a deep psychological need to self-direct and be in control — and learning is no exception,” Abelli says.

Continuous learning and skill development have evolved from an optional offering to an essential requirement for companies that plan to remain competitive in a global economy that changes rapidly. But to be effective, that training must be relevant and flexible, concise and engaging, and both employers and workers have to realize its value.

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