One of the most intelligent individuals, Albert Einstein, once defined insanity as, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Are we guilty of doing this when we turn to training as the means to boost workforce capability? In reality, training does contribute to this competitive necessity, but the contribution is shrinking when held up against sustained human performance and workforce agility in the workplace. Let’s face it, the rules of engagement for effectively driving performance in our businesses have shifted to a large field of play; classroom and/or training on-line are only the first of many steps toward workforce competency. If we do not integrate new business strategies to ensure competency in the workplace – @ the point of work, why would we ever anticipate different results?
Dramatically increased urgency to remain competitive, regardless of business specialty, has come upon us in the form of continuous velocity – of continuous demands for flawless performance – of continuous demands for agility to adapt to an ever-changing competitive and regulatory work environment. These pressures beg the question, “Why would we not provide a learning environment that supports our workforce that is any less continuous?” Clearly, the rules of engagement for training have changed. We are facing a tipping point. We need different results. That means doing things differently.
Take a closer look at these business attributes – velocity, flawless performance, and change. They do not manifest in the classroom, do they? Exactly, they do not. They are constant companions found in a larger environment that includes the work context – downstream, post-training – @ the point of work. The point of work represents an evolutionary requirement to support learning continuously. Why? Because of the convergence of opportunities to learn and moments of learning need @ the point of work. [See Figure #1]
When you consider our workforce receives on average 100+/- hours of formal training per work year; that represents only 5% of their total time at work. Of the five moments of learning need, the first two are satisfied perfectly – that is what we have always done – and we have done it well. During training, we learn new things for the first time, or maybe more of something. In a safe, structured, controlled environment we learn, practice, fail, rinse, and repeat. Nobody dies. No sales are lost. No material waste is created. No lawsuits are triggered. Businesses are not sustained in that 5% slice of the learning environment and yet studies show up to 80% of our training resources are spent there.
Different results require a different approach, or we fulfill Einstein’s statement. The tipping point involves evolving beyond the formal training venues and expanding our solutions into the downstream, post-training work context where three additional moments of learning need that are manifested – @ the point of work. This new “ground zero” is where traditional training solutions no longer meet the needs of immediacy. Learning @ the point of work may not include training at all. The needs are better handled by targeted, role-specific performer support and designed with task-level granularity in mind. No one has time to take an Excel class when all they need is support on the use of a pivot table.
Certainly, knowledge transfer, the objective of effective training, is important, and it always will be. The problem we face is simply put – workforce agility does not come from knowledge transfer; rather, it comes from the effective application of it. The new ground zero is where the application of knowledge takes place. The new ground zero is where tangible business outcomes generate real value – or it is where loss is incurred. Competitive advantage demands different results, and to achieve this advantage our learning solutions must be designed differently to holistically encompass the entire learning environment.
Satchel Paige said, “It’s not what you don’t know that can hurt you, it’s what you think you know that just ain’t so.” When our workforce is @ the point of work – in the middle of a workflow – in the heat of the moment – and business results are hanging on flawless performance, will our training solutions be there to support their moments of need? Unless training has been designed with the same agility as those who need to consume it @ the point of work, how can we ever expect different results?
Learning & Performance Solutions Strategist