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It’s time to switch from courses to resources

nick shackleton-jones | HR magazine | 20 november 2017

This article was first published in HR Magazine

There is a risk that we continue to apply new technologies to old ways of thinking about L&D.

Corporate education is at a crossroads. We're pushing more content at employees using the latest technology in the hope that this will achieve shifts in performance and engagement. Instead we should rethink the convention – focusing on resources rather than courses, and shifting to performance support and ways we can get people what they need when they need it. 

Eliminate learning and build useful stuff instead. To the average employee ‘learning’ denotes something they have to do for the benefit of the organisation, rather than something the organisation is doing for them. Towards Maturity's annual Learning Benchmark Report found the top reason employees didn’t take advantage of learning opportunities was that they were ‘too busy’ – and yet the top reason they gave for wanting to use them was ‘to help them do the job’. L&D should shift from asking ‘what do you need to learn?’ to ‘how can we help you do your job?’ The secret? Build useful stuff. 

Stop dumping content. The majority of corporate education is the cognitive equivalent of fly-tipping – content scooped up from subject matter experts and pushed out to learners in a misguided attempt to bolster performance or meet regulatory requirements. Instead organisations should look to involve employees in the design process. The 2017 Learning Benchmark Report showed that 77% of high-performing learning organisations involve learners in the design process. 

Resources not courses. People forget most of the information presented in course formats – whether online or in a classroom. This makes courses a costly and ineffective way of spending the L&D budget. Instead organisations should look to mirror the way we now use information in our everyday lives – at the point of need. By developing resources rather than courses organisations can drive performance far more effectively than with traditional educational processes. The 2017 Learning Benchmark Report found that 90% of high-performing learning organisations consider courses as only one option for building performance. 

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Focus on organisational usability not individual capability. In a world where employees expected to spend a lifetime with an employer it made sense to invest in their development. In today’s world it makes more sense to provide resources and guidance that enable people of all levels to perform quickly to a high standard: by eliminating the learning curve. GPS does this for taxi drivers, enabling people with a base level of driving capability to find their way around. So why don’t we build GPS for everything? For example, mobile-first guidance for first time leaders that enables them to perform in the role from day one. Eighty-five per cent of high-performing organisations are already exploring ways of better integrating learning and work. 

There is an opportunity for L&D teams to change direction, and become critical to the success of their organisation. By focusing on employee performance and new ways to support and enable it they can help their organisations succeed in a volatile world. But to do so requires both a new mindset and new capabilities if we are to be ready and willing to change course. 

Nick Shackleton-Jones is a learning and performance expert at PA Consulting Group

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