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Seeing Training as a Learning Lifecycle

Imagine this: It’s the first week of January, and you’ve joined a new gym after months of laziness. Now you’re face-to-face with the high-intensity trainer, who’s got you lifting and running and planking. It’s so grueling that you get home numb and tired, and you’re ready to swear off exercise forever.

It doesn’t take a degree in sports medicine to know that one hardcore session at the gym won’t transform you from a couch potato to an Adonis. Regular gym attendance, focusing on core muscle groups, continually upping your cardio workout, all of these are part of the network of exercises needed to make that physical transformation.

But what about training outside of the gym?

Taking the Gym Routine to the Workplace

In my previous blog post, I discussed how learning should not be treated as a one-time event but as a continual process of readiness, discovery and reinforcement. Like entering into a gym routine, we need to make learning a continual training of skills and competencies and not just a one-and-done.

For too many companies, workplace training strategies are more like the one-time gym trainer experience: training feels painfully long, the workload too intense and the skill development non-existent. Trying to cram a single training experience into one afternoon may seem an efficient and time-saving strategy, but your learners are going to be worn thin and they likely won’t retain what they’ve learned.

In Anna Sargsyan’s blog about human performance, she describes a “big block” model of training as a stumbling hazard for learners:

“When […] information is lumped in a big block of traditional training with no reinforcement you are overwhelming learners, increasing their time to mastery and hurting your [labor] performance.”

When we slam our learners with a heavy training session, with no plan to reinforce what’s been learned, we set them up to fail. Instead, training needs to be like going to the gym: a pathway towards continual skill improvement, fostered by reinforcement, practice and application to our everyday work.

Creating the Learning Ecosystem

You could agree that, yes, an ongoing training strategy makes more sense than a single training session, and learners will retain better through regular reinforcement. But good training cannot exist in a vacuum.

Like a gym with weight machines, treadmills and barbells, your training environment needs to be equipped with the tools and microlearning resources to foster that continual skill improvement. Sargsyan calls this the “learning ecosystem,” with targeted instruction and reinforcement for each behavior to be learned and a “web of information” available to sustain those behaviors in the workplace.

Learners don’t wish to be stuffed into a room and forced to sit through a slideshow. Some employees may have time to complete a web-based gamified course, others may only have time to refer to a job aid for when they need help for a specific task. What’s critical is that you establish this ecosystem where learning glides along effortlessly with workloads, and learners feel they have the means to pace themselves and learn what’s most relevant to them.

When you create that learning ecosystem in your workplace, the learning lifecycle can thrive, and learners (and your business) will reap the benefits.